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Representatives for Congregation Shearith Israel declined to comment on the record about the lawsuit, but in court papers, they say they learned about the proposed sale in June and had hoped to settle before Touro sued. The New York congregation asks the congregation at Newport be removed from practicing at Touro because, it says, they are violating the terms of the $1-per-year lease. It says Touro is bound to follow its religious traditions, and such a sale violates them.

It suggests a long-term lease of the bells to the museum, something Bazarsky said Touro is open to and has discussed with the MFA but which they can’t pursue until they resolve the question of who owns the bells. Still, he said, he is hopeful the two sides can work out an agreement.