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CONNECTICUT IN THE NEWS 2015

JANUARY

The Jewish Federation of Greater Danbury, CT and Putnam County, N.Y., shuts its doors.

A judge sentences Menachem Yosef “Yossi” Levitin, a leader of one of New Haven’s largest-ever mortgage-fraud rings, to 22 months behind bars, after he spent four years helping the government find, then prosecute, his former allies.

holocaust torah man2The congregants of Gishrei Shalom Jewish Congregation in Southington, who in 2012 became shomrim (guardians) of a 17th-century Torah scroll recovered after World War II from the destroyed Jewish communities of southeast Prague, send the damaged scroll to the Florida-based organization “Sofer on Site” for repairs.

Alan Stein of Natick, Mass, formerly of Connecticut, is named Letter-Writer of the Year by CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

After serving six months as its interim president and CEO, Howard Sovronsky takes over as the permanent head of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford.

Beth Hillel Synagogue in Bloomfield announces plans to sell its building to a local church, signing a document of sale with the associated right to use the building for all services and programming until a future course of action is determined.

The final steel beam is placed atop the new Jewish Senior Services building on the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg campus at 4200 Park Ave. in Bridgeport.

Selah, Fairfield County’s Reconstructionist congregation, closes its doors.

 

FEBRUARY

“Bad Jews,” a dark comedy centering around questions of identity and legacy, packs the house for its month-long run at New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre.

Sydney Perry, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, and Connecticut Jewish communal leaders Caryl Kligfeld and Linda Russ, participate in various missions to Paris to express solidarity with the city’s local Jewish community.

Marji Lipshez-Shapiro is named interim regional director of the ADL CT regional office, following the departure of Gary Jones.

The Commission on Independent Schools of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges grants accreditation to the Hebrew High School of New England.

State Senator Joseph Crisco, Jr. (D-Woodbridge) presents Rachel and Yuval Hamenachem of Bethany with a legislative citation recognizing their 30 years of service to the Jewish community as owners of Westville Kosher Market in New Haven.

kasssowSamuel Kassow, a history professor at Trinity College, is honored in Warsaw, Poland for his service to Polish culture. Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage Malgorzata Omilanowka presents the medal to Kassow in a ceremony on Feb. 16.

Linda Ciszkowski of Milford, vice president and chief administrative officer of Jewish Senior Services in Fairfield, receives the 2015 Association of Jewish Aging Services Professional of the Year Award at the organization’s annual conference in San Diego.

 

MARCH

David Bezmozgis receives the Edward Lewis Wallant Award, presented by the University of Hartford’s Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies, for his novel The Betrayers.

Congregation Mishkan Israel begins its celebration of its 175th anniversary. The Hamden synagogue is the oldest Jewish congregation in Connecticut and the 14th oldest continuously operating synagogue in America.

waltman and great-grandsonDr. Irving Waltman, who was the first Jewish surgeon at Hartford Hospital, celebrates his 100th birthday on March 23. In 1963, Waltman and his wife, Fran, established the Edward Lewis Wallant Award, a prestigious literary award now presented by the University of Hartford’s Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies.

 

APRIL

Rabbi Dr. Philip Lazowski of West Hartford, retired spiritual leader of Bloomfield’s

Beth Hillel Synagogue and chaplain at the Institute of Living, the Hartford Police and the Connecticut State Senate, receives the 2015 Jim Calhoun Spirit of Achievement Award from Junior Achievement Southwest New England.

Lee whitnumThe Town of Greenwich rejects an offer by Lee Whitnum to settle for $11,000 a federal lawsuit that the Greenwich resident filed against the town for allowing the Town Hall to be used by UJA/Federation Greenwich for its annual Israel Independence Day celebration. Whitnum, who tends to infuse her runs for various elected offices with anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rhetoric, claims the Town has violated her First Amendment rights.

Connecticut hosts its first Connecticut-Israel Innovations Showcase at UConn Health Center in Farmington. Organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford and MetroHartford Alliance, the event is the latest in a collaboration created to grow business opportunities between Connecticut and Israel.

 

MAY

Israel Bonds opens a satellite office at the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven in Woodbridge.

One hundred Jewish women experience terrifying moments when two anti-Israel protesters force their way into a Friends of Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) luncheon at Temple Israel in Westport, shouting slogans and refusing to leave. The men are arrested.

Judith kallmanHolocaust survivor Judith Alter Kallman of Greenwich, author of A Candle in the Heart, is honored on Capitol Hill at a bipartisan celebration of American Jewish Heritage Month. Kallman is presented with the Jewish Heritage Award by Homeland Security Chairman Senator Ron Johnson.

After a year-long search, the Jewish High School of Connecticut (JHSC) appoints Rabbi Elisha Paul as its new head of school.

Nathaniel Pinkes of West Hartford is awarded the United Technologies/YMCA Wesley A. Kurt Youth Citizenship Award for Community Service.

Michal Smart, director of Jewish studies at Bi-Cultural Day School in Stamford, is among 33 Jewish educators from throughout North America to receive the 2015 Excellence in Jewish Education Award from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.

Temple Shearith Israel in Ridgefield and Jewish Family Congregation in South Salem, N.Y. approve plans to merge their congregations, pending approval by the New York State Supreme Court.

Sydney Perry, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven and the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven, receives the Anti-Defamation League’s 2015 Greater New Haven Torch of Liberty Award.

 

JUNE

Three members of Hartford’s Jewish community — Jonas Steiner of West Hartford, Vitor Bernstein of Windsor, and Robert B. Fishman z”l of West Hartford — receive the Henry M. Zachs Spirit of Judaism Award presented by the Jewish Federation of Jewish Hartford.

Prof. Avinoam Patt, Philip D. Feltman Professor of Modern Jewish History at the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford, is one of five Jewish studies scholars selected to make up the first cohort of JTS Fellows, a new initiative of the Jewish Theological Seminary.

The Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford announces the launch of its new Center for Innovative Philanthropy, a cutting-edge incubator of philanthropic ideas and best practices.

Beth Hillel Synagogue in Bloomfield establishes an interfaith burial section in its cemetery.

After 35 years as spiritual leader of Temple Emanu-El in Waterford, Rabbi Aaron Rosenberg retires.

Prof. Richard Freund, director of the University of Hartford’s Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies, travels to the city of Vilnius in Lithuania to examine the massive campus upon which sat the Great Synagogue, where the Vilna Gaon began what became known as the “Lithuanian Jerusalem.”

GRSAfter 40 years without a permanent home, Greenwich Reform Synagogue clears the final legal hurdle to constructing a new building in the town’s neighborhood of Cos Cob. A judge approves the “Stipulation of Settlement,“ resolving all outstanding lawsuits between the town and a group of adjacent property owners concerned about the impact of the project on their neighborhood.

 

JULY

New London police apprehend a 29-year-old man for verbally harassing congregants over the course of several weeks, as he passed them on his motorcycle as they walked along Ocean Ave. on their way to Shabbat services at Congregation Beth El.

jcc new havenThe Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven cuts the ribbon on its new solar car port — the largest in the region — at the JCC’s building in Woodbridge.

Bloomfield native Adam Greenberg wins a bronze medal at the 14th European Maccabi Games – the first-ever Maccabi Games to be held in Germany at Olympic Park, the same location where Hitler banned German Jewish athletes from participating in the 1936 Olympic Games.

 

AUGUST

The University of Hartford plays host to the NewCAJE 6 three-day conference, the largest forum and incubator for Jewish education in the United States.

The Mandell JCC in West Hartford receives a $500,000 grant from the State of CT as funding for the rebuilding of Jonathan’s Dream Reimagined. The original Jonathan’s Dream playground was built in 1996 as a playground that was accessible to children of all abilities.

Daniel Levenson arrives in Storrs to serve as the new executive director of UConn Hillel. Levenson previously served as executive director of the Jewish Federation of New Hampshire.

andrew pessinFive months after a Facebook post about Hamas by Connecticut College Professor Andrew Pessin embroiled the school in a debate over racism, free speech, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the tenured philosophy professor says he will not be back on campus in the fall. The post at the heart of the brouhaha was one of 11 written during the August 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict by Pessin, published on his personal Facebook page, about Hamas and its behavior, describing the terrorist group as “a rabid pit bull chained in a cage, regularly making mass efforts to escape.” In response to a complaint by a student, Pessin apologized and removed the post. But students circulated a screenshot of the post without the context of the 10 previous posts or the comments thread, which made it clear that Pessin was referring to the terrorist group Hamas, and not the Palestinian people as a whole. Pessin also published a letter of apology in The Campus Voice, the student-run newspaper. But he was compelled to depart campus mid-semester on medical leave, in the wake of death threats to himself and his family for his pro-Israel stance. At the time, his intention was to return to full-time teaching in the fall.

 

SEPTEMBER

daniel fischerDaniel Fischer, 25, of New Haven, one of two men who terrorized a group of Jewish women attending a luncheon at a Westport synagogue last spring, is granted accelerated rehabilitation (AR) by a Superior Court judge in Norwalk. His co-defendant Gregory Williams, 25, also of New Haven, was not eligible for AR owing to a previous record. Williams pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Dr. Donald G. Ellis, a professor of communications at the University of Hartford and author of the recently published book, Fierce Entanglements: Communication and Ethnopolitical Conflict, which focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, delivers the Second Annual N. Richard Greenfield Jewish Ledger Lecture, co-hosted by the Ledger and the Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford.

The Anti-Defamation League appoints Steve Ginsburg as director of its Connecticut Regional Office.

The Jewish state makes its high-tech hydroponics debut in the U.S. when Growponics, an Israeli company specializing in automated factory greenhouses, sets up shop in Guilford.

Jerry Blum of Colchester is elected and installed as national commander of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA at the organization’s convention in Tampa, Fla.

 

OCTOBER

Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman receives the 2015 Greater Hartford Torch of Liberty Award from the Anti-Defamation League at a reception held in West Hartford.

Spectators at a soccer game at South Windsor High School are accused of using “The Dreidel Song” as an antisemitic taunt directed at the opposing team from West Hartford’s Hall High School – a school with a significant number of Jewish students.

SimonKonoverPhilanthropist Simon Konover, who endured the horrors of the Holocaust to emigrate to America, and settled in West Hartford, where he eventually built one of the most successful real estate businesses in the U.S., died in Delray Beach, Fla., at the age of 93.

Rabbi James Prosnit of Congregation B’nai Israel in Bridgeport is presented with the Anti-Defamation League’s 2015 Distinguished Community Leadership Award.

 

NOVEMBER

The Hebrew High School of New England in West Hartford is one of a handful of schools throughout North America selected to participate in the Generations National, a groundbreaking, three-year endowment-building program sponsored by the partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE).

Rabbi Howard Herman, the first full-time spiritual leader of Farmington Valley Jewish Congregation-Emek Shalom in Simsbury, announces his retirement after 36 years in the pulpit.

 

DECEMBER

The appearance of two women acting suspiciously at a West Hartford synagogue and later at a Chanukah celebration, puts the West Hartford Jewish community on edge — and opens up a conversation about security at Connecticut’s Jewish institutions.

Former U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, currently senior counsel with the law firm of Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman, is named the inaugural recipient of the 2015 Winston Churchill National Leadership Award.

Bloomfield native Jessica Hecht opens on Broadway in the starring role of Golda, in the 50th anniversary revival of the masterpiece of musical theater, “Fiddler on the Roof.”

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