Friday, January 15, 2010

Historic Connecticut Synagogues

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz


Bikur Cholim Synagogue
Photograph courtesy of Connecticut Historical Commission


The Internet provides many resources for historic research of Jewish community resources. One of these is the submission of an application to the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Multiple Property Documentation Form, for Historic Synagogues of Connecticut, 1995.


The historic synagogues of Connecticut in this document were taken from 48 identified properties which were the result of a 1991 Architectural and Historical Survey of Historic Connecticut Synagogues. Of the 48 original synagogues listed, 14 were put on the National Register of Historic Places and 15 did not have sufficient significance to be included. The balance of the 48 synagogues listed were the 19 synagogues in this document.


The application provides a discussion of the history of the Jewish community in Connecticut, 1876-1945 and a description of the three types of buildings to be considered for historic designation and then a listing of nineteen of these buildings:

  • Urban buildings constructed as synagogues – Achavath Achim, Bridgeport, 1926; B’nai Israel Synagogue, Bridgeport, 1911; Rodeph Sholom Synagogue, Bridgeport, 1947; Chevre Lomdai Mishnayes Synagogue, Hartford, c. 1926; Beth Hamedrash Hagodol, Hartford, 1922; Tephereth Israel Synagogue, New Britain, 1928; Beth Israel Synagogue, New Haven, 1926; Ahavas Sholem Synagogue, New Haven, 1928; Ohev Sholem Synagogue, New London, 1917; Agudath Sholom Synagogue, Stamford, 1933-1938; Beth El Synagogue, Waterbury, 1929; Temple Beth Israel, West Hartford, 1933-1936.
  • Non-urban country and resort synagogues – Knesseth Israel Synagogue, Ellington, 1913; Anshei Israel Synagogue, Lisbon, 1936; Hebrew Congregation of Woodmont, Milford, 1926.
  • Buildings adapted as synagogues – Ein Jacob Synagogue, Bridgeport, 1918; Bikur Cholim Synagogue, Bridgeport, c. 1894; Agudas Achim Synagogue, Bridgeport, 1907; Temple B’Nai Israel, New Britain, 1927.
There follows a discussion of each synagogues which includes their history, an architectural description and the derivation of the design, and, in some cases, how the design was copied from other larger edifices in other locales. It has a helpful bibliography and a glossary of terms. In addition, the National Register of Historic Places has a wonderful site and it includes Historic Synagogues many of which are mentioned above.

Another resource, this one a photographic one, can be utilized in tandem with the listing. It is the book by Julian H. Preisler entitled “American Synagogues: A Photographic Journey”, Volume One, 2008 which has photographs of a number of the Connecticut synagogues as well as those from around the United States. The book which contains over 3,200 images is also on a CD which can be quite useful. A second volume is expected in late 2009 or thereafter.


Of further interest is the IAJGS Cemetery Project database for Connecticut. This can provide information on particular cemeteries associated with synagogues such as those in Bridgeport, CT. Here, several synagogues are listed and much is written about the history of the cemeteries.


A fascinating resource which is also available on-line is Archiplanet. Testing out their huge database which is comprised of over 100,000 buildings and 25,000 architects and firms, you can enter the name a Connecticut synagogue. I chose to use that of the Bikur Cholim Synagogue in Bridgeport, CT. A description of the structure taken from the National Register of Historic Places will appear. Not only that, a street map will pop up with the location of the structure and also an aerial map too with the location.

As can be seen, there are many resources to be utilized if you wish to know more about your Connecticut religious heritage.

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