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Touro Synagogue Case

Touro Synagogue Case

As proud members of Touro Synagogue, we write in response to “Profaning History At Touro Synagogue” (Opinion, July 8) by Louis Solomon.

Mr. Solomon does not disclose that he was the lawyer for Shearith Israel in its litigation against the congregation that has prayed at Touro for 130 years — Jeshuat Israel. Nor does he disclose that at trial, Shearith Israel lost on every issue.

Statements in his essay are not accurate. But you do not need to take our word for it. A federal judge presided over a two-week trial following years of litigation, reviewed thousands of pages of documents stretching over a 250-year period, and issued a thorough, 106-page decision, ruling against Shearith Israel on every legal and factual issue.

In the decision, the judge said he removed Shearith Israel as trustee and owner of the synagogue because Shearith Israel had “committed a serious breach of trust” and  “has shown itself unfit to serve” in that capacity. The court cited Shearith Israel’s efforts to evict the congregation from Touro, which would have meant the end of organized worship at the synagogue. The Court also held that Shearith Israel had little to do with Touro for nearly 100 years and “for at least the past 20 years, Shearith Israel has not taken any meaningful action in its capacity as trustee for the Touro Synagogue.” 

Mr. Solomon writes that “CJI operates Touro Synagogue at a profit (other than for significant amounts it paid its lawyers to sue Shearith Israel).” In fact, the lead lawyers represented Touro pro bono to save Touro and the congregation. Far from operating at a profit, the Court cited evidence that “Jeshuat Israel was struggling” with serious financial issues and had cut expenses to the bone.

The Court’s decision also makes clear that Jeshuat Israel has acted as a worthy steward of Touro consistent with the wishes of the Synagogue’s colonial founders — exactly why the Court appointed Jeshuat Israel as the new trustee of Touro in place of Shearith Israel.

Jay Schottenstein


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