Looking back, looking forward
Two leading Connecticut rabbis among those honored in Bloomfield
By Judie Jacobson
Two beloved rabbis who led Hartford area congregations for many decades are among five now-deceased Jewish community leaders who will be honored by the Bess and Paul Sigel Hebrew Academy at its 70th annual dinner on Wednesday, June 2.
“The dinner’s theme is about continuity,” says Ilana Bernstein, event chair and parent of a Hebrew Academy preschooler. “We want to honor those who have passed in order to celebrate our future.”
Honorees, all of blessed memory, include Rabbi William Cohen and Rabbi Haskel Lindenthal, Samuel and Sylvia Gelles, and Lenny Seaman. Each was an early and dedicated supporter of the school.
Rabbi Cohen z”l served for 50 years as spiritual leader of Beth David Synagogue in West Hartford. He was one of the earliest supporters of the Academy, then known as the Yeshiva of Hartford, where he also taught classes. A founder of Midrasha, the local after school Hebrew High School which later morphed into Yachad, he was active in the creation of the Hebrew High School of New England. He died in November 2009.
Rabbi Haskel Lindenthal z”l received smicha – rabbinic ordination – from Reb Shimon Shkop z”l of the Grodno Yeshiva in Lithuania, as well as from Reb Yehezkel Sarna z”l of the Hevron Yeshiva in Jerusalem. He settled in the Hartford area with his wife Bracha and their three children in 1956, where he served as spiritual leader of Bloomfield’s Teferes Israel Synagogue for 37 years. Widely recognized as a Talmudic scholar and community leader, Rabbi Lindenthal also served as the greater Hartford Jewish community’s primary mohel for many years, performing more than 9,000 brit milot – ritual circumcisions. He died in February 2008.
“Every one embodied the values of Jewish education and/or Jewish community leadership, which is clear from what others have told us about them,” Bernstein says. “So while the dinner’s theme of continuity is about passing on the value of Jewish education to the next generation, the theme of continuity is taken to a different level for me. It’s about underscoring the importance of the value of Jewish community leadership, and passing on that value to our children.”
Hebrew Academy’s 70th annual dinner will be held on Wednesday, June 2 at 5:30 p.m. at The Emanuel Synagogue in West Hartford. For more information: www.sigelacademy.org / (860) 243-8333