RELIGION

Oldest US synagogue to remain in hands of congregants

  • FILE - In this Thursday, May 28, 2015 file photo, an interior view of the Touro Synagogue, the nation's oldest, is seen from the "ladies gallery" in Newport, R.I. A federal judge on Monday, May 16, 2016, awarded control of Touro and a pair of ceremonial bells valued at more than $7 million to the congregation that worships there. A lawsuit pitted the congregants against the nation's oldest Jewish congregation in New York City which became trustee of Touro in the 1820s after Jews left, Newport. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)

    FILE - In this Thursday, May 28, 2015 file photo, an interior view of the Touro Synagogue, the nation's oldest, is seen from the "ladies gallery" in Newport, R.I. A federal judge on Monday, May 16, 2016, awarded control of Touro and a pair of ceremonial bells valued at more than $7 million to the congregation that worships there. A lawsuit pitted the congregants against the nation's oldest Jewish congregation in New York City which became trustee of Touro in the 1820s after Jews left, Newport. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this June 1, 2015 file photo, ceremonial bells worth more than $7 million and belonging to the 250-year-old Touro Synagogue in Newport, R.I., are displayed at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. A federal judge on Monday, May 16, 2016, awarded control of Touro and the bells to the congregation that worships there. A lawsuit pitted the congregants against the nation's oldest Jewish congregation in New York City which became trustee of Touro in the 1820s after Jews left, Newport. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)

    FILE - In this June 1, 2015 file photo, ceremonial bells worth more than $7 million and belonging to the 250-year-old Touro Synagogue in Newport, R.I., are displayed at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. A federal judge on Monday, May 16, 2016, awarded control of Touro and the bells to the congregation that worships there. A lawsuit pitted the congregants against the nation's oldest Jewish congregation in New York City which became trustee of Touro in the 1820s after Jews left, Newport. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Thursday, May 28, 2015 file photo, the Touro Synagogue, the nation's oldest, stands in Newport, R.I. A federal judge on Monday, May 16, 2016, awarded control of Touro and a pair of ceremonial bells valued at more than $7 million to the congregation that worships there. A lawsuit pitted the congregants against the nation's oldest Jewish congregation in New York City which became trustee of Touro in the 1820s after Jews left, Newport. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)

    FILE - In this Thursday, May 28, 2015 file photo, the Touro Synagogue, the nation's oldest, stands in Newport, R.I. A federal judge on Monday, May 16, 2016, awarded control of Touro and a pair of ceremonial bells valued at more than $7 million to the congregation that worships there. A lawsuit pitted the congregants against the nation's oldest Jewish congregation in New York City which became trustee of Touro in the 1820s after Jews left, Newport. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)  (The Associated Press)

The congregation that worships at the nation's oldest synagogue has prevailed in a bitter legal fight that threatened its existence.

The lawsuit pitted congregants at the 250-year-old Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, against the nation's oldest Jewish congregation, Shearith Israel in New York City.

U.S. District Judge Jack McConnell on Monday awarded the Newport congregants control over Touro as well as over a pair of ceremonial bells valued at $7.4 million.

The synagogue was dedicated in 1763. George Washington once sent congregants a letter laying out the fledgling government's commitment to religious liberty.

The New York congregation became trustee of Touro in the 1820s after Jews left Newport.

Its leaders fought the Newport congregation's plan to sell the bells to raise money for an endowment, and sought to evict them.