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Congregation Beth Israel

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Congregation Beth Israel

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Basic Information

Location 701 Farmington Ave, West Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Phone number (860) 233-8215
Country United States
City West Hartford
Address 701 Farmington Ave., West Hartford, Connecticut

General Information

Open to visitors yes
Need appointment no
Handicap accessibility no
Geographical Coordinates 41.76484,-72.71947

Summary

Congregation Beth Israel is a synagogue located in West Hartford, Connecticut. The synagogue is one of the two the oldest Jewish congregations in Connecticut and one of the largest Reform Jewish congregations in New England, with about 900 member families and about 2,000 individual members.

Beth Israel serves as a center for worship, education, and social programs.


History and time period

Beth Israel, which means "House of Israel" in Hebrew, was founded in 1843, the year the Connecticut legislature first permitted public worship by Jews in the state. Congregation Beth Israel began as an Orthodox congregation, however, in part influenced by the immigration of German Jews to Hartford, the congregation quickly adopted Reform practices. In 1877, it joined with other American Reform Jewish congregations to form the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (which is now known as the Union for Reform Judaism), an umbrella support organization for American Reform Jewish congregations. Beth Israel continues to be a member of the Union for Reform Judaism.

Congregation Beth Israel's first synagogue was built at 21 Charter Oak Ave in Hartford in 1876. Though Beth Israel left the building in 1936, the building still stands and is presently occupied by the Charter Oak Cultural Center. It is among the oldest synagogue buildings still standing in the United States.

During the 1990's, Congregation Beth Israel became instrumental in the absorption of hundreds of Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Early on, the New American Committee was formed to provide education assistance, license help, clothing acquisition assistance and help with the home needs of the new Americans. The New American Committee also continues to provide educational opportunities including lectures and weekly language classes. Congregation Beth Israel now has a large Russian speaking population and immigrants make up a significant demographic of the congregation.

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