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A walk into New Haven’s Jewish Past

Special to the Ledger

NEW HAVEN – About 15 people walked through the streets north of the Green one recent Sunday, looking for traces of Jewish life in New Haven during the late 19th Century.

Sponsored by Temple Emanuel of Greater New Haven, the tour was conducted by the Ethnic Heritage Center and the Jewish Historical Society of Greater New Haven.

The tour began with an overview of New Haven’s religious history and a stop at the home of William Pinto, one of the sons of the original New Haven Jewish settlers, who arrived in 1758. Pinto was the second owner of the plain green house on Orange Street that was built around 1810. A Yale grad, William Pinto was a Revolutionary War soldier and a merchant. He was chosen to copy the Declaration of Independence for distribution. And his friend Eli Whitney died in the house in 1825 while awaiting the completion of his own home nearby.

Other stops on the tour relevant to the area’s Jewish history included visits to: 

• The site of the United Workers Building, which was torn down and replaced by the Hall of Records. The building was home to the YMHA which evolved to become the Jewish Community Center, today housed in Woodbridge.  

• The site of the original home of Congregation Mishkin Israel. Now located in Hamden, it was the first synagogue in New Haven. 

• The home of Lafayette Mendel, one of the first Jewish tenured Yale professors and the man who laid the groundwork for today’s food science and dietary studies. 

Besides Jewish sites, the group walked across the Farmington Canal, learning about the first wave of Irish immigration. They visited the home of Dr. Stephen J. Maher, who helped fight the tuberculosis epidemic and founded Saint Raphael’s Hospital; and learned about Father Michael McGivney who, in 1882, founded the Knights of Columbus.

“It was very enlightening,” said Mark Weber of Milford. “I’ve been in the New Haven area since the 1970s, but I didn’t know about our rich Jewish history here. And being with others as we learned about our heritage made it more enjoyable.”

Main Photo: Participants gather in Orange for a walk through New Haven’s Jewish history.

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