This year’s top stories from Connecticut’s Jewish communities.
Alexandra Schwartz, 13, of Stamford, was named a winner of the “One Moon, One Wall, One People,” contest, devised by Moving Traditions, a national organization that advocates for a more expansive view of gender in Jewish learning and practice. As part of the contest, Schwartz traveled to Israel to celebrate Rosh Chodesh with Women of the Wall.
Hebrew High School of New England (HHNE) in West Hartford was one of four pilot schools in North America that was selected to be part of a unique science partnership with Pearson, the world’s education Company, World ORT, and Israel’s Ministry of Education.
Pinny Spira opened Waterbury Kosher World Pizza and Grocery, the Brass City’s first kosher supermarket, supervised by the Va’ads HaKashrus of Greater Waterbury.
The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) in West Hartford joined the list of U.S. academic institutions creating partnerships with counterparts in Israel when Dr. Ariela Lowenstein, renowned Israeli gerontologist, author, and president of Max Stern Academic College of Emek Yezreel in Afula and USJ president Dr. Pamela Trotman Reid signed a partnership agreement between their two institutions.
A group of 25 investors led by Henry M. Zachs, founder and CEO of Message Center Management; Alan Lazowski, chief executive of LAZ Parking; and Brian Newman, a partner at CohnReznick and past president of the Mandell Jewish Community Center – purchased the Crown Supermarket, the 74-year-old kosher food market, which had been slated to close due to economic challenges.
On Feb. 24, Jewish Senior Services (The Jewish Home) in Fairfield (JSS) completed the purchase of the property at 4200 Park Ave. in Bridgeport. The site had been home to the Jewish Center for Community Services (JCCS) – the JCC and UJA/Federation of Eastern Fairfield County – for five decades. In partnership with JCCS, JSS will develop The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Campus at Park Avenue, expected to be completed by spring 2016.
Author Kenneth Bonert was named winner of the 2013 Edward Lewis Wallant Award for his debut novel, The Lion Seeker by the University of Hartford’s Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies.
In March, ownership of the Jewish Ledger passed from NRG Connecticut LLC, headed by long-time publisher N. Richard Greenfield z”l, to JHL Ledger Publications, a company owned by Hartford area philanthropist and businessman Henry M. Zachs. Included in the sale is the Connecticut paper’s sister publication, the Massachusetts Jewish Ledger, covering Western and Central Massachusetts, as well as the annual reference magazine All Things Jewish.
A group of 24 cadets and five faculty and staff members from the United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) visited Israel during a Spring break trip, led by Jerry Fischer, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Eastern Connecticut. Highlights included religious sites and the naval base and Naval Academy in Haifa.
Connecticut’s 36th Annual Holocaust Remembrance ceremony was held Friday, April 25th at the State Capitol in Hartford. The theme of this year’s event was “Confronting the Holocaust: American Responses” and featured keynote speaker Al Linder sharing his story of surviving the Holocaust.
The number of documented anti-Semitic incidents in Connecticut increased in 2013, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents. While the number of anti-Semitic incidents rose in Connecticut, the audit revealed a 19 percent decline in the total number of reported anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 2013.
Rabbi Jeremy Bruce of London, England was named head of school of Hebrew High School of New England (HHNE) in West Hartford. He succeeded Rabbi Daniel Loew, who led the school for a decade.
On Sunday, April 27, members and friends of the Jewish community gathered on the New London campus of Connecticut College for the dedication ceremony of the Zachs Hillel House, the brand new 6,700-square-foot facility made possible by a $1 million grant from Zachs and his family – who have also funded Hillel Houses at Trinity College and the University of Connecticut.
Cathrine Fischer Schwartz, the longtime president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford (JFGH), announced on May 6 that she was resigning from her post and would depart in July to direct the Jacobson Jewish Community Foundation located in Boca Raton, Fla. Howard Sovronsky was named interim executive director.
In May, the historic Orchard Street Shul in New Haven marked the 100th anniversary of Congregation Beth Israel.
As Israelis celebrated the Jewish state’s 66th birthday the Israeli flag was hoisted up the Connecticut Capitol flagpole in Hartford.
On Sunday, May 18, the Hebrew High School of New England (HHNE) welcomed its first sefer Torah at a ceremony at the Mandell JCC, followed by a Torah procession across the street to HHNE.
Blaming an aging congregation and dwindling membership, Kol Ami in Cheshire closed its doors in June. Members of the congregation came together one last time to celebrate Shabbat on June 7. At its peak, Kol Ami numbered some 100 member households.
The Temple Beth Israel Preservation Society of Danielson received a Special Projects Grant from the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) for repairs to its 53-year-old building.
The Koopman Library at the Mandell JCC of Greater Hartford closed in June. The library, managed by the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford’s Commission on Jewish Education & Leadership (CJEL), had served as a center for Jewish learning, information, and entertainment since 1990.
Eighty-six-year old Gisela M. Adamski was among the graduates of the Hartford Public High School Law & Government Academy in June. Gisela’s education was cut short at age 14, when the Nazis banned Jewish children from attending German public schools.
Andrea Kasper was appointed new head of school at Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Hartford on July 1.
Beth El Synagogue relocated from the Walzer Family Jewish Community Campus to its new home at 124 South Pomperaug Road in Woodbury.
On Wednesday, July 9, dignitaries and community leaders from across Connecticut gathered at the State Capitol to mark the 20th yahrtzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.
Two Connecticut colleges welcomed new Hillel directors in August: Rabbi Susan Schein at Connecticut College and Jason Oruch at the University of Hartford.
The Jewish High School of Connecticut (JHSC) relocated from the JCC of Greater New Haven in Woodbridge, where it had operated since 2012, to the Stamford Technology Center in Stamford.
In August, Edge of the Woods opened a satellite location in the JCC of Greater New Haven in Woodbridge, the first expansion for the popular vegetarian and vegan food outlet in downtown New Haven.
Professor Vijay Prashad returned to Trinity College in Hartford, after a two-year sabbatical. The scholar, who supports the academic boycott of Israel, had been at the center of a debate pitting pro-Israel colleagues and activists against the college administration.
Ari Shavit, author of Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, and one of the most influential journalists writing about the Middle East today, stopped in Connecticut for several speaking engagements while on a North American book tour.
In September, Connecticut welcomed a new group of Israeli Young Emissaries who began work strengthening the living bridge between Israel and the communities to which they had been assigned.
When students noticed a swastika etched in a locker at Wilton High School on Sept. 8, a rapid response by school administration, police and the Anti-Defamation League Connecticut Region resulted in the identification of the offending student, the replacement of the locker and discussions about intolerance and proactive solutions to prevent future episodes.
Jill Tarlov, 59, of Fairfield, a member of Congregation B’nai Israel in Bridgeport, died on Sept. 21, four days after being struck by a speeding bicyclist in Central Park and sustaining a severe head injury.
The Stamford JCC welcomed Or Berger, who joined the community as part of JAFI’s Community Shlichim program, which places young Israeli adults in Jewish communities throughout the world.
The First Annual N. Richard Greenfield Jewish Ledger Lecture Series was held, featuring guest speaker Professor Laurel Leff, author of Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper. The event was co-sponsored by the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies and was held at the University of Hartford.
Former Miss Connecticut USA Michelle LaFrance was part of a group of fellow former and current American beauty queens who traveled to Israel to get a real taste of the country beyond the headlines.
The Hartford-Laurel Post of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America was renamed Sgt. John L. Levitow Post 45, to honor the late Levitow, who was the first and lowest ranking member of the U.S. Air Force ever to receive the Medal of Honor.
The Connecticut Jewish Ledger introduced several additions and improvements to its operation – highlighted by the establishment of an Editorial Advisory Board, as well as the unveiling of a revamped website and the addition of the services of the nationally-recognized Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) as the paper’s primary news service.
On Nov. 9, 21 Hillel students and four Hillel professionals representing five colleges in Connecticut convened at Trinity College in Hartford for the inaugural Connecticut Hillel Student Leader Conference.
After four-and-a-half years as regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Connecticut office, Gary Jones stepped down in December.
Michael Price, who headed the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam for 46 years, announced earlier this year that he would retire in December.
Howard Sovronsky was named permanent executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford.