Although a synagogue structure is not necessary for Jewish prayer, the building of a synagogue represents the creation of a center for both worship and community. In a synagogue, Jews join together not only to pray, but to study, socialize, educate their children, and to care for the needs of their own members as well as the larger community. There were once thirteen synagogues in Hartford, CT. There are no longer any active congregations remaining in the city, although a number of the buildings are still in existence. Some are abandoned and have fallen into disrepair, and others have been repurposed, often as churches. This web exhibit utilizes the archive of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford to offer images and information on the synagogues that once existed in Hartford.
In 1925, The Emanuel Synagogue could no longer accommodate the number of families who wanted to become affiliated, it sold its building on Windsor Street to the Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion Society. In 1926 it purchased a tract of land on Greenfield and Woodland Streets where it erected a new building which was completed in time for the High Holidays of 1927. During the new building's construction, the community's Sabbath services were conducted at the Beth Hamedrash Hagodol on Garden Street. Religious school classes were held at Beth Hamedrash Hagodol, at the Zionist Center on Albany Avenue, and at the Northwest Public School.
In time, as the Jewish population of Hartford continued to move west and northwest to the suburbs, younger members of the congregation advocated for the synagogue to be moved as well. Older members who had worked so hard to establish the old building wanted to remain on Woodland Street. This issue became a major controversy that divided the group. To meet the needs of suburban parents who were increasingly unhappy about driving their children into Hartford for religious school, the congregation began planning for a school and auditorium in West Hartford. In 1956 a new school and auditorium were built at 160 Mohegan Drive in West Hartford. Religious services were held in the old building on Woodland Avenue until 1967 when the building was leased to the Hartford Board of Education. A new sanctuary was dedicated in 1972 on the Mohegan Drive property. This sanctuary was destroyed by arson in 1983 but rebuilt in 1984.
The Emanuel Synagogue stands out for other reasons. In 1949, the congregation hired Cantor Arthur Koret, who became a national figure in Jewish liturgical music. In 1962 The Emanuel was the first Conservative congregation in the nation to alter its constitution to allow the election of women to its Board of Trustees.