HARTFORD – Three members of the Connecticut’s Jewish community were among 19 immigrants to the state who were honored for their achievements recently, at a ceremony held at the State Capitol marking Immigrant Day. The event held on Wednesday, April 17, was hosted by the Connecticut Immigrant and Refugee Coalition.
Peter Barzach and Andrei Brel were in attendance at the ceremony that featured guest speakers U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Secretary of State Denise Merrill and Attorney General William Tong. Abby Wiener, who died earlier this year, was honored posthumously.
Peter Barzach and his family fled antisemitic persecution in his native Ukraine, and arrived in Connecticut in January 1975. He has lived in West Hartford every since, graduating from the Bess and Paul Hebrew Academy of Greater Hartford and Willliam Hall High School.
A graduate of Trinity College, he received an M.S. in Engineering and an MBA from RPI Hartford. He was employed at several aerospace firms, including United Technologies. In 1997, he joined Data Mail and currently serves as Vice President of Operations.
Barzach is a board member of Jewish Family Services and the Hebrew Academy, both of which provide assistance to the refugee Russian Jewish community. Together with his wife, Amy, he co-founded West Hartford’s popular handicapped accessible playground, Jonathan’s Dream.
A native of Belarus, Andrei Brel was in his 30s and living in the capital city of Minsk after the fall of communism when he became concerned over the newly destabilized Eastern Bloc and decided to emigrate to Connecticut. Along with his wife, Zhanna, and their children, he arrived in West Hartford in 1993.
Brel worked for Connecticut’s Department of Social Services while earning a master’s degree in social work at the University of Connecticut and working for Jewish Family Service as a part-time youth counselor.
In 1998, he founded Juniper Homecare, a social service agency providing healthcare services for older adults and families throughout the state. Recently, Juniper launched Family Caregiving, a program that educates, trains, monitors, and financially supports Connecticut families caring for loved ones.
As a volunteer, Brell also helps refugees from the former Soviet Union acclimate to their new life in America, and he employs many immigrants and offers services to the immigrant community. He also serves on the board of directors of West Hartford Community TV, Playhouse on Park, and is a past president of the CT Association of Adult Day Services.
Abby Weiner z”l was born in Sighet, Hungary and survived the Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz/Birkenau and Buchenwald. Following the war, he spent time in London before making his way to New York. Soon thereafter, he served in the U.S. Army during the Korean Conflict.
Weiner and his wife Bonnie raised two children in New York where he was a window dresser for New York department stores and ultimately owned two men’s clothing stores in Manhattan.
Over the years, he shared his story of strength and survival with numerous local groups, including many schools. Because of his dedication to educating young people about the Holocaust, in 2017 Weiner was awarded an honorary high school diploma by Avon High School – something he never had the opportunity to achieve.
CAP: Bonnie Weiner and daughter Gayle Temkin accept a citation from Sen. Derek Slap on behalf of their late husband and father Abby Weiner.