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.
Kneset Israel, an Orthodox congregation was originally (1898) known as Congregation Israel of Koretz (or Anshe Koretz) because its members came from the city of Koretz in Russia. It became popularly known as the 'Koretzer synagogue.' Beginning in 1913, the congregation worshiped in a building on Suffield Street acquired from a Baptist church. A new synagogue, the last to be constructed in the North End of Hartford, was built in 1946.
In 1955 the congregation merged with Ateres Israel under the name Ateres Kneset Israel. A further merger, with Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, followed in 1962. The new synagogue adopted the name United Synagogues of Hartford and erected a new sanctuary and school on North Main Street in West Hartford in 1967.
Kneset Israel Synagogue is significant architecturally because it is an example of a vernacular building outside the tradition of Connecticut synagogue architecture. Kneset Israel is thus more like a contemporary "Yellow Brick" apartment design in materials and mass. However, decided effort was made to give the structure architectural features suitable for a house of worship, notably the tall arched windows of colored glass and the Judaic iconography.