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Two West Hartford residents to be honored on Immigrants Day

HARTFORD – Cary Lakenbach and Ruth Lazowski, both of West Hartford, are among eight Connecticut residents who will be honored at the 21st Annual lmmigrant Day Ceremony to be held at the State Capitol in Hartford on April 4, 2 -4 p.m. The public is invited to attend the ceremony, which is sponsored by the Connecticut Immigrant and Refugee Coalition. Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and Sec. of State Denise Merrill will present the honorees with citations. Chris George, executive director of IRIS, will serve as master of ceremonies.

Cary Lakenbach is the current chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford and former treasurer of the Jewish Federations Association of Connecticut (JFACT). He and his wife Beth are members of The Emanuel Synagogue in West Hartford.

Lakenbach was born in Rome, Italy, after his parents fled Zagreb, Croatia following that country’s invasion by the Nazis. The family left Italy for the United States in 1949, where he graduated from the Bronx High School of Science. He received his Bachelors degree from the City College of New York (CCNY) and a Masters degree in math from Syracuse University. After teaching for five years, he served as an actuary with Connecticut Mutual Life before founding in 1991 his own firm, Actuarial Strategies.

“Cary is one of the most devoted and brilliant leaders of the Jewish community of Greater Hartford and JFACT,” said Bob Fishman, executive director of the Connecticut Immigrant and Refugee Coalition (CIRC). “He brings a sense of justice and fairness and a deep caring for Israel and the Jewish people. When he speaks, people listen. He gives many hours of service not only to the Jewish community but he volunteers as well to the Society of Actuaries.”

Ruth Lazowski was born in Belarus in the town of Zhetel, which was then part of Poland. When Soviet forces invaded in 1939, both her parents’ businesses – her mother owned a drugstore, her father was in the lumber business – were nataionalized by the communist government.

Lazowski and her family then moved in with family in Novogrudek where a ghetto was established in 1942 after the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Her grandfather, Berl, who was a member of the Jewish council, was murdered. On April 30, 1942 during the round-up of Jews, Lazowski, her younger sister, Toby, and their mother, Miriam, were separated from their father. Her mother, who possessed papers as a pharmacist and skilled laborer, was able to save the life of a young man named Philip Lazowski, who was separated from his own family, by claiming the boy was her son.

The ghetto in Zhetel was destroyed and only a small number of Jews survived, hiding in a forest for two years before being liberated by Red Army soldiers. Ruth Lazowski and her family remained in Poland for six months before crossing the Alps and arriving at a Displaced Persons camp in Italy.

They eventually emigrated to America, settling in Hartford where, miraculously, Philip and Ruth were reunited and were married in 1955.

Ruth Lazowski became the mother of three sons and was a Hebrew school teacher in Hartford and then Bloomfield for many years. She served in many volunteer capacities, including teaching Yiddish to non-Jewish staff at the Hebrew Home in West Hartford, thus enabling them to communicate with residents. For many years, she spoke to students in the Hartford area about her Holocaust experience.

Describing Ruth Lazowski as a “woman of grace, fortitude and good cheer,” Fishman said, “Ruth is very deserving of this award which was given to her husband, Rabbi Lazowski in 1999. She has inspired students for years with her words of kindness and optimism, despite living through much tragedy and resilience.”

In addition to the awards ceremony, which will take place in the Capitol’s Judiciary Room, will feature for the swearing-in of 15 brand new immigrants.

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