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.
As a community, Hartford was affected by the flight to the suburbs that has characterized the entire American landscape following World War II. The synagogues in the Hartford downtown area felt the transition deeply. In answer to this national problem of migration, two synagogue communities, the Kneset Israel and the Ateres Israel merged in 1954 to form what was to be known as the Congregation Ateres-Kneset Israel. Rabbi Isaac C. Avigdor was invited to become the spiritual leader of the joint congregations in 1955.
Meanwhile, another Orthodox congregation of reputable origin in the community, also a merger of two congregations, the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol and Ohav Zedek of Wooster Street, known as the Garden Street Synagogue had been experiencing similar dificulties as the Ateres-Kneset Israel. On March 5, 1962, the Garden Street congregation voted unaminously to merge with the Ateres-Kneset Israel and form the United Synagogues of Greater Hartford.
Inspired in architectural design by the Star of David, this edifice was officially dedicated in 1967 and was later placed on the market in 1994 when the congregation sought a new location to better suit the community. In 1995, the congregation moved to a new building on Mohawk Drive in West Hartford.