Fight over control of oldest US synagogue at appeals court

A federal appeals court is wading into the battle over control of the nation's oldest synagogue and ownership of a set of ceremonial bells worth millions.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston will hear arguments Wednesday.

The fight pits the nation's oldest Jewish congregation, Shearith Israel in New York, against the congregation that worships at the 250-year-old Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island.

A federal judge last year ruled that the Rhode Island congregation may now control its own destiny and decide what to do with the bells, valued at $7.4 million. He rejected the New York congregation's arguments that it was the rightful owner of the bells and the synagogue.

In 1790, George Washington sent a letter to the Touro congregation pledging America's commitment to religious liberty.