Who Owns the Touro Synagogue?

There is a joke about a Jew marooned on a desert island. He is stranded for years but is eventually rescued. Before departing the island, he shows his rescuers what he has been doing for the last several years.

He shows them an impressive collection of small buildings. One is his house. Another is a storage hut. Then there are two other buildings. He points to one of them and says, this is my synagogue.

His rescuers notice that the other building looks very similar and ask him what it is. He responds, “That’s the synagogue that I never go to!”

The moral of the story is simple. Even a castaway can find synagogue politics to be inescapable.

Touro Synagogue

The following story in the Jewish Chronicle Online highlights an interest aspect of inter-synagogue politics. The Tourl synagogue is the oldest synagogue building in the United States. It has a special relationship to the oldest congregation in the United States, Congregation Shearith Israel.

Both of these communities were originally founded by Spanish and Portuguese Jews. Who owns the building and its assets is now a matter of contention.

Who Owns the Touro Synagogue?

Subsequent to this story coming out, another update is available.

Congregation Shearith Israel appeals court case over Touro Synagogue.


Posted  Rabbi Juan Bejarano-Gutierrez the director of the B’nei Anusim Center for Education and author of What is Kosher?

About rambam442013 108 Articles

Rabbi Juan Bejarano-Gutierrez is a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas where he earned a bachelor of science in electrical engineering. He studied at the Siegal College of Judaic Studies in Cleveland and received a Master of Arts Degree with Distinction in Judaic Studies.

He completed his doctoral studies at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago in 2015. His doctoral dissertation is titled “Complex Identities: Christian and Jewish Attitudes Towards Conversos” and was accepted in September 2015. He also studied at the American Seminary for Contemporary Judaism and received rabbinic ordination in 2011 from Yeshiva Mesilat Yesharim.