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CONNECTICUT NEWS | 2018 | THE YEAR IN REVIEW

JANUARY

Margot Singer is selected winner of the 2017 Edward Lewis Wallant Award for her novel Underground Fugue. Rachel Hall is named runner-up for her debut story collection, Heirlooms. The Wallant Award is presented by the Maurice Greenberg Center or Judaic Studies of the University of Hartford.

 

Congregation Sinai of West Haven and Milford closes its doors after nearly 90 years and merges with Beth El-Keser Israel (BEKI) of New Haven.

 

Michael Johnston, who served as CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford since 2012, steps down from his position to launch a new, philanthropic enterprise for billionaire entrepreneur Daniel Lubetzsky.

 

Close to 400 Jewish teens from BBYO’s Connecticut Valley and New England Regions gather in Hartford for the organization’s Winter Kallah. Inspired by the theme “Being Jewish in America,” the teens spend the weekend exploring their Jewish identities.

 

Dr. Mark Israel, a pediatric oncologist, translational scientist and nationally recognized leader in cancer research, is appointed national executive director of the Israel Cancer Research Fund, located in several cities, including Stamford.

 

UJA Federation Greenwich and JCC Greenwich announce the merger of the two organizations.

 

The Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford moves out of its cramped quarters and into a sprawling $1.2 million space on a prime piece of campus real estate.

 

Lisa Kassow, director of Hillel at Triity College, is one of five Hillel professionals awarded the Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence Award at Hillel’s fourth annual Global Assembly.

 

B’nai Tikvoh Shalom of Bloomfield and the Mandell JCC in West Hartford team up to create The Neshama Center for Lifelong Learning, with programming planned in the areas of Jewish text study, social justice, interfaith learning, meditation & mindfulness, and the arts.

 

Connecticut blogger Liora Rez is one of 30 women — all so-called “media magnets” — to take part in a trip to Israel as part of the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project.

 

Farmington Valley Jewish Congregation-Emek Shalom in Simsbury begins restoration of “The Czech Holocaust Torah,” a mid-1700s Torah that belonged to the Klaus Synagogue in Prague for nearly 200 years and was stored at the Central Synagogue in Prague during World War II. The Simsbury synagogue acquired the Torah in 1973 from the Memorial Scrolls Trust in London.

 

 

 

FEBRUARY

Former U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) is among the dignitaries in attendance at the inaugural Israeli Congress on Judaism, held in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

 

Sydney Perry, who retired from her post as executive director of the Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven in June 2016, is named interim executive director of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts.

 

West Hartford mayor and UConn graduate Shari Cantor (’81) is inducted into the University of Connecticut School of Business Hall of Fame. Cantor and her husband, Michael Cantor (’79), are only the second husband and wife team in UConn Hall of Fame history.

 

 

 

MARCH

Diane Sloyer, a longtime member of the Stamford Jewish Community, is named UFJ’s full-time chief executive officer.

 

More than 1,000 people celebrate the completed renovation of the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven at a fun-filled day-long event at the Amity Road facility. The official reopening comes one year and three months after a fire did devastating damage to the facility, rendering its future uncertain.

 

Several New Haven area synagogues take part in “Abraham’s Tent” — an interfaith program to house homeless men during the winter months.

 

Ari Lieberman (back row, far right), advisor to the Jewish High School of Connecticut Israel Advocacy Club, receives the 2018 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Early Engagement Exemplar Award at an event held in Washington, D.C.

 

Congregation Beth El-Norwalk in Norwalk announces its decision to allow non-Jewish persons to become recognized voting members of the synagogue. Previously, non-Jews could be members of the Conservative congregation if their spouses were Jewish, but they had no voting rights.

 

 

 

APRIL

Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, a longtime ally of the LGBTQ community, is honored by GLBTQ Legal Advocate and Defenders at its annual Justice for All event in Hartford.

 

After six years – and some controversy – Chabad of Westport gets set to host the grand opening of its new home, located on an historic site.

 

Michal Fox Smart will step down as associate principal of Judaic Studies at Bi-Cultural Day School (now Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy) in Stamford, to become first director of North American operations for Ayeka: The Center for Soulful Education.

 

Ruth Sloate, a resident of SummerWood, a senior living community in West Hartford, receives the Outstanding Resident Accomplishment Award from the Connecticut Assisted Living Association (CALA).

 

Ramah Sports Academy, billed as a “premier Jewish sports camp” aimed at “empowering Jewish athletes to achieve their greatest potential,” announces plans to open on the campus of Fairfield University in June.

 

More than 100 people honor the memory of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis at the 40th Annual State of Connecticut Holocaust Commemoration held at the State Capitol.

 

Members of the Connecticut State Senate unanimously approve legislation to require Holocaust and genocide education in Connecticut high schools starting in the 2018-1019 academic year. The bill now moves to the House for approval.

 

The artwork of Bloomfield resident Beth Goldberg is chosen to appear in the 2018-19 calendar of the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism.

 

Jessica and Eric Zachs and family are honored by the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Hartford at the school’s annual New Tamid fundraising gala which also featured a performance by Jewish rapper Matisyahu.

 

Eileen & Bernie Weinberg of West Hartford and Elana & Ofer Doron of SImsbury are honored by the Bess and Paul Sigel Hebrew Academy Kindness Gala Fundraising Dinner held in West Hartford.

 

Cary Lakenach and Ruth Lazowski, both of West Hartford, are among eight Connecticut residents honored at the 21st Annual Immigrant Day Ceremony held at the State Capitol.

 

 

 

MAY

After a decade-long effort, Governor Dannell Malloy signs into law a bill requiring Holocaust and genocide education as part of the state’s social studies public school curriculum.

 

Rabbi Greg Wall, spiritual leader of Beit Chaverim in Westport, received the Rabbinic Leadership Award at the Partners in Torah banquet in Manhattan. Partners in Torah is a worldwide Jewish study program.

 

The spate of antisemitic incidents that has plagued Ridgefield for two years continues with the discovery of swastikas in Ballard Park. This, despite educational programs provided by the local ADL.

 

Antisemitic chants mar a boy’s lacrosse game between Staples High School, a Westport public school whose lacrosse team is one-third Jewish, and Fairfield Prep, an all-boys Jesuit preparatory school on the campus of Fairfield University.

 

More than 450 guests attend the Bi-Cultural Day School (now the Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy) Celebration Dinner honoring Linda and Len Russ of Westport and several other Jewish community leaders.

 

Ezra Academy in Woodbridge introduces a new grant-funded social curriculum to its program that is the product of a unique collaboration between four Jewish day schools located across the country.

 

Six hundred people turn out to hear former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy discuss the issue of mental health at a forum hosted by Tara’s Closet of Jewish Family Services of Greater Hartford.

 

In the aftermath of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 high school students and teachers were killed, Governor Malloy requests that the legislature bond an additional $10 million to allow schools to increase the security in their buildings — with $1 million set aside for non-public schools.

 

Rabbi Debra Cantor of B’nai Tikvoh Sholom in Bloomfield, the first Connecticut woman to become a rabbi, receives the Jewish Heritage Award from Charter Oak Cultural Center at it annual Vision Awards Gala in Hartford.

 

 

 

JUNE

State Senator Beth Bye and State Representative Andy Fleischmann, both of West Hartford, are among 12 legislators selected as 2018 “Children’s Champions” by the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance.

 

Temple Beth El in Stamford honors Rabbi Joshua Hammerman for more than 30 years of service as the congregation’s spiritual leader.

 

Hazzan Sandy Bernstein is welcomed as the new cantor of Temple Sholom in Greenwich.

 

Lisa Vaeth, director of the association of Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Hartford,, is elected co-chair of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Cemetery Association of North America, sharing the post with Jamie H. Cotel of New York.

 

Judy Alperin, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, and Lisa Stanger, executive director of the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven, are honored by the Jewish Historical Society of Greater New Haven.

 

The family of Alex Schachter (on right, with his brother Ryan and UConn superstar Ray Allen), one of the victims of the shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school, creates a UConn scholarship in his memory. The young man, who dreamed of attending his late mother’s alma mater.

 

Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford celebrates its 175th anniversary — along with the 175th anniversary of the special act that extended religious freedom to Connecticut Jews.

 

Logan Barer signs on as baseball coach of the new Ramah Sports Academy (RSA), to be held on the campus of Fairfield University this summer.

 

Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford wins a Orthodox Union (OU) Women’s Initiative Challenge Grant for “Transmitting Torah: By Women…For Women,” a program designed to support the spiritual, religious and communal growth of Orthodox women.

 

Westport businessman Scott Sharkey opens “Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids Therapeutic Kids Salon in Hadera, Israel, a vocational school/children’s hair salon designed to train high-risk youth in a useful trade and to provide therapeutic services to children and families.

 

Congregation Beth Ahm in Windsor closes its doors after 70 years of service to the community, and merges with Beth Hillel Temple in South WIndsor.

 

Daniel Klau, an active member of West Hartford’s Jewish community, is sworn in as a judge of the Connecticut Superior Court.

 

 

 

JULY

The Mandell JCC’s Camp Shalom, located on 75 wooded acres in Windsor, celebrates 40 years of providing summers of fun for kids throughout Greater Hartford.

 

Dalia Bruce of Hebrew High School of New England, and Maddy Pliskin of Hall High School are among the class of 2018 West Hartford high school graduates to be named “Terrific Teens” by West Hartford Magazine and WeHa.com.

 

The Jewish Children’s Service Organization (JCSO), an all-volunteer group dedicated to providing aid to Jewish children in need in the Hartford area, kicks off its centennial celebration at the organization’s annual meeting.

 

The University of Hartford plays host to 500 Jewish educators from more than 40 states gathered for the ninth annual NewCAJE conference. The four-day conference brings together clergy, principals, educators, lay leaders, artists and youth directors for four days of educational workshops, entertainment, and networking opportunities.

 

 

 

AUGUST

Uriel Cohen is appointed executive director fo the Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale.

 

Rabbi Vicki Axe announces her intention to step down as spiritual leader of Congregation Shir Ami of Greenwich.But Rabbi Axe, says the congregation’s president, will remain an integral part of the congregation family.

 

By hiring Jenna Englender as its director of outreach, Beth David Synagogue in West Hartford becomes Connecticut’s first Orthodox shul to welcome a scholar from the controversial women’s yeshiva, Yeshivat Maharat.

 

Howard Sovronsky, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, announces his retired, effective May 1, 2019.

 

The Mandell JCC in West Hartford announced the creation of the Interfaith Family Connection, a new initiative designed to provide programs for interfaith couples and families in the Hartford area.

 

 

 

SEPTEMBER

Bi-Cultural Day School and the Jewish High School of Connecticut, both of Stamford, merge to form Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy – the first pre k- through 12th grade Jewish school in the state.

 

Leaders of the Bess & Paul Sigel Hebrew Academy in Bloomfield, and the Hebrew High School of New England in West Harford, announce that the two schools plan to merge in time for the start of the 2019 school year.

 

Leigh Newman is named a recipient of the Jewish Federations of North America 2019 Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award. Newman is chair of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford.

 

Jewish Family Service of Greater New Haven (JFSGNH) opens “Ken’s Closet,” a new program that, through donated clothing, helps job-seekers in need acquire employment by providing them with interview-appropriate business attire.

 

The Upper Fairfield County Jewish Federation launches “Common Threads: Connecting Ancestry to Community,” a year-long celebration of the commonalities that bind together America’s diverse Jewish communities.

 

 

 

OCTOBER

Ed Charamut, a Republican candidate to become state representative, releases a campaign flier showing his Jewish Democratic opponent, Rep. Matthew Lessser, clutching $100 bills and sporting a maniacal grin. The ad was condemned for its antisemitic overtones by many, including the ADL.

 

The Temple Beth Israel Preservation Society in Danielson is awarded a grant from The Last Green Valley, Inc. to help honor the Temple’s founders and preserve its historic past.

 

The Jewish Association for Community Living marks its 36th anniversary with many of the residents of its group homes on hand to join the celebration.

 

Temple Beth Torah  in Old Wethersfield honors Rabbi Seth Riemer for a deacde of service to the congregation.

 

 

 

NOVEMBER

Eva Schloss, Anne Frank’s stepsister and author of Eva’s Story: A Survivor’s Tale, packs the Bushnell Theater in Hartford, for a talk hosted by Chabad House of Greater Hartford.

 

One hundred and forty-five people gather at the University of Hartford for the first-ever Descendants of the Shoah Conference, hosted by Voices of Hope. The goal of the conference is to raise consciousness about the Holocaust.

 

In response to antisemitic incidents at Amity High School in Woodbridge, Jewish teens band together and raise their concerns (and voices) at a meeting of the town’s Board of Education.

 

The University of Hartford appoints Lisa Langsner of West Hartford as Hillel director to oversee Jewish life on campus.

 

University of Connecticut Hillel honors six Jewish leaders at its 85th anniversary event held in Hartford.

 

Holocaust survivor Libby Glucksman of New Haven prepares to close the tailor shop she operated with her late husband, Sidney, that was a fixture in New Haven’s West River for five decades.

 

Hanna Perlstein Marcus of Vernon, author of Sidonia’s Thread: The Secrets of a Mother and Daughter Sewing a New Life in America, is selected as the 2018 Gold Medal winner in the category of memoirs in the Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest.

 

Andrew H. Banoff, president and CEO of Jewish Senior Services in Bridgeport, is named recipient of the LeadingAge Connecticut Spirit of Innovation award.

 

The Israel Cancer Research Fund, Connecticut Chapter (ICRF), pays tribute to three Connecticut oncologists at the Third Annual Heroes for Hope evening in Stamford. The event raised more than $150,000 to support cancer research in Israel.

 

More than 400 people attend the first-ever New England Jewish Collegiate A Cappella Competition and Showcase, hosted by Temple Sholom in Greenwich. “Shir Appeal” from Tufts University was awarded first place.

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