Congregants testify that financial straits prompted plan to sell bells at oldest US synagogue

Congregants from Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island — the nation's oldest synagogue — say they were in financial straits when they decided in 2012 to sell a set of ceremonial bells worth millions of dollars.

They testified in federal court Wednesday that they had no reason to believe a New York congregation had a claim on the bells.

New York's Congregation Shearith Israel, the nation's first Jewish congregation, says it owns the bells.

The two groups are suing each other.

Amid the dispute, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston rescinded its $7.4 million offer to buy the bells.