04 April 2008

Connecticut: Fairfield's Jewish history

The Fairfield Museum is presenting a special exhibit - Celebrating Our Cultural Legacies: Fairfield’s Jewish Community - from April 6-May 11, according to this article.

Jewish settlement in the area began in the early 1700s, and continued with immigration and settlement in Bridgeport and Fairfield. The exhibit includes Judaica representing holiday traditions, home observance and synagogue worship, and demonstrates

the fascinating story of Jewish settlement in our area, including the arrival of German Jewish immigrants in the early 1850s and those from Eastern European countries who came in the late 19th century, fleeing persecution. Reaching back further, the exhibit highlights the story of Andris Trubee, a merchant believed to be Fairfield's first Jewish resident, who settled here around 1716–1718.

The founding of local synagogues and social service organizations is also explored. After World War II many of Bridgeport’s Jewish residents migrated from the city to suburban areas, including Fairfield’s east side and neighborhoods along the Fairfield-Bridgeport border. Today, Park Avenue, Stratfield Road and Fairfield Woods Road are home to several synagogues, as well as the Jewish Community Center and Jewish Family Service. Congregation B’nai Israel is the oldest, tracing its roots to 1855 when a plot of land was purchased in Fairfield for a Jewish cemetery. Ahavath Achim, founded by Hungarian Jews in 1905, built a new synagogue in Fairfield in 1963, the same year Congregation Beth El, Fairfield ’s conservative synagogue, also dedicated their new building.

The exhibit will feature objects loaned by local families, organizations and synagogues. The earliest objects - two Shabbat candlesticks - most likely date to the late 1700s. A hand-carved box, used to hold the lemon-like citron or etrog at Sukkot (the harvest festival), is the newest object, made by Fairfield resident Harvey Paris in 2007.

Among the antiques from Russia, Poland, Holland, Morocco and Germany with contemporary items from Israel, highlights are a Russian silver Tzedakah box (1860); a German Seder towel (1853); silver yads or pointers for reading the Hebrew text of Torahs, and a Torah crown; Moroccan brass Passover Seder plate; a Megillah Esther scroll; Hanukkah menorahs and dreidels from different countries; a hand-decorated linen wimpel or swaddling cloth (1929); and an elaborate ceremonial wedding ring.

Readers in the area may attend a free and open-to-the public reception from 6-7.30pm Thursday, April 10, followed by a special presentation - "Scroll Survivor: The Kladno Torah Research and Restoration Project" - by Ellin Yassky, Ph.D., a exhibit consultant, and members of Congregation Beth El which holds the scroll from the Czech Republic.

For more information, click here.

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