Educated: University of Lwow
Served: United Synagogues of Greater Hartford
Isaac C. Avigdor was the son of Rabbi Jacob Avigdor, the distinguished chief rabbi of Drohobycz – Boryslaw, Poland during the 1920’s and 1930’s. The younger Avigdor attended the University of Lwow and received rabbinic ordination from Rabbi Sholom Czernik, author of Mishmeret Sholom, and Rabbi Nahum Babad, rabbi of Tarnopol. He then assisted his father.
Rabbi Avigdor was imprisoned by the Nazis in 1939 and spent the next six years in labor and concentration camps including Auschwitz and Mauthausen. Liberated by the American army in May 1945, he became active in the rescue and rehabilitation of Jewish refugee children in Europe and was attached to the Jewish Brigade of the British army. Rabbi Avigdor emigrated to the United States in 1948, where he first served as a yeshiva administrator and then as executive vice president of Hapoel Hamizrachi (one of the national organizations of religious Zionists) in New York City.
In 1957, Ateres Knesseth Israel purchased a lot on the corner of Mohawk Drive and North Main Street, prime real estate in West Hartford. To help support this venture, Ateres Knesseth Israel merged with Beth Hamedrash Hagodol (generally known as the Garden Street Synagogue) to form the United Synagogues of Greater Hartford in 1962. The congregation remained active throughout the tenure of Rabbi Avigdor, who retired in 1993. Rabbi Avigdor’s higher secular education and his pedigree as the son of a renowned decisor (posek) of Jewish law made him especially attractive to the European immigrants and their children who were members of his new synagogue. Nevertheless, when he sought to describe his experiences during the Holocaust, he was cautioned against such a step. Further, when the congregation reached West Hartford, the synagogue board asked him to dispense with bi-weekly Yiddish sermons in order to be “modern.”
Avigdor was an active communal leader, but outside of Hartford, he became best known for his publications. He authored hundreds of articles in Hebrew, Yiddish, and English that appeared regularly in the popular Yiddish and Anglo-Jewish press as well as two autobiographical books of reminiscences and sermons describing his concentration camp experience and a volume of Yiddish poetry written during his incarceration.
Born: Kherson, Russia
Served: Agudas Achim
When Rabbi Abraham AvRutick took to the pulpit of Agudas Achim, the largest Orthodox synagogue in Connecticut, a new era in the evolution of Orthodox synagogue life and leadership in Hartford would truly begin. AvRutick received his undergraduate education at Yeshiva University and his rabbinic ordination from its Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, the flagship institution of what was then coming to be known as Modern Orthodox Judaism in America. Serving 39 years as the rabbi at Agudas Achim, from 1946 until his death in 1982, Rabbi AvRutick was also elected to the presidency of the Rabbinic Council of America, Orthodox Judaism’s largest and most influential rabbinical organization. He is still the only Connecticut rabbi to have served in this position.
Rabbi AvRutick preached primarily in English with an occasional Yiddish sermon, to appease the fervent Yiddishists who remained within the congregation. Shortly after his arrival in Hartford in 1947, AvRutick was instrumental in founding the Va’ad Hakashruth, a communal rabbinic body established to supervise the sale of kosher food in Hartford. He was also instrumental in organizing a highly successful adult education program within Hartford’s Orthodox community.
1930 – 1999
Born: Bad Nauheim, Germany
Educated: Seminary in Cologne, Yeshiva in Frankfurt-an-Main
Served: Tikvoh Chadoshoh
Rabbi Hans S. Bodenheimer was born in Bad Nauheim Germany and emigrated to the United States in 1939. In 1942, he and a group of German immigrants founded Congregation Tikvoh Chadoshoh (“New Hope”) in Hartford, where he served as Rabbi until his retirement.
Rabbi Bodenheimer and his future wife, Alma, barely survived Kristallnacht in 1938. He was arrested and imprisoned in Buchenwald where he was held for five weeks and then released. Prior to the Wansee Convention of 1942 that led to the “Final Solution,” Jewish detainees were often held in custody for a period of time and then released. Although Bodenheimer’s captivity predated the advent of the extermination camps, his experiences at Buchenwald were both horrific and traumatic. In 1939 he was granted a visa and came to the United States.
Besides his rabbinical duties, Rabbi Bodenheimer had many other interests and talents. He served as chaplain to the Bloomfield Fire Department, and was qualified to repair Torah scrolls. Rabbi Bodenheimer received both the Humanitarian of the Year Award in 1981 from B’nai Brith, and the Shofar Award from the Boy Scouts of America in 1981.
Born: New York, NY
Educated: Yeshiva College
Served: Beth David Synagogue
Rabbi William Cohen was the son of the late Shlomo and Dvora Cohen. He graduated from Yeshiva College of Yeshiva University and its affiliated Rabbinical School, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in New York City in 1943. In 1976, they awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. He served as President of the Rabbinical Council of Connecticut and on the Executive Board of the Rabbinical Council of America, as well as Chairman of the West Hartford Rabbinical Council. Rabbi Cohen served for 50 years as Rabbi of Beth David Synagogue, the first Orthodox Synagogue in West Hartford. He was an ardent Zionist and Israel was always dear to his heart. For many years, he would spend half of the year in Israel and maintained a home in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Cohen served with the late Rabbi Haskel Lindenthal and Rabbi Abraham AvRutick on the first Hartford Kashrut Commission. He was one of the earliest supporters of the then named Yeshiva of Hartford and taught classes there. He was the founder of the Midrasha, the local after school Hebrew High School where he also taught. He was additionally active in the creation of the Hebrew High School of New England. Rabbi Cohen traveled to the Soviet Union in 1976, where he met with leading Refuseniks such as Natan Sharansky and Ida Nudel, and he visited Jewish communities in Hungary, Romania and Czechoslovakia.
Educated: Hebrew Union College
Served: Congregation Beth Israel
Abraham Jehiel Feldman, born in 1893 in Kiev, was one of the leading Reform rabbis in the country. He came to New York in 1906 and received his ordination in 1918 from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. He was invited to return to New York, where he served for almost two years under Rabbi Stephen S. Wise. Following that, Feldman served for five years as Joseph Krauskopf’s assistant in Philadelphia.
In 1925, Rabbi Feldman was selected to lead Congregation Beth Israel in Hartford. From his boyhood, Rabbi Feldman was an ardent Zionist, and he spoke out on the matter from the Beth Israel pulpit to his decidedly non-Zionist congregation. During the next few decades, Feldman was unable to convert many of his congregants to Zionism, but he did neutralize opinion and prevent them from joining anti-Zionist groups. He also played a leading role in changing the general attitude among Reform leaders nationally.
Rabbi Feldman acquired a national reputation as a major leader of Reform Judaism and served on the Board of the Hebrew Union College, the Executive Council of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and as President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. He retired in 1968 but continued serving as Rabbi Emeritus until his death in 1977. Rabbi Feldman was also very active in the local secular community. He served as Chaplain to the Connecticut State Guard, the Connecticut State Police, and the Veterans’ Hospital. Rabbi Feldman was involved with various other governmental agencies including the local Selective Service Re-employment Board, the National Recovery Administration in Connecticut, and Department of Defense post-war missions to the Pacific Rim. He was active in inter-faith activities that included the Connecticut Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, lectures at the Hartford Seminary, and the founding of the Hartford Inter-Faith Committee.
Rabbi Feldman was also a prolific writer of numerous books and articles. He co-founded the Jewish Ledger in 1929 and edited the newspaper for 48 years. In addition, Feldman was a member of the Publications Committee of the Jewish Publication Society, on the Executive Board of the Jewish Book Council of America, and a contributing editor to several Jewish encyclopedias.
1863 – 1938
Served: Ados Israel
Cemach Hoffenberg was born in Lithuania in 1863, son of Pesah and Zippa Hoffenberg. He came to the U.S. in 1897, after his ordination. He served for a short time in Springfield, and then was called to Hartford in 1899 to become the rabbi of Ados Israel Synagogue which he served for 39 years.
Rabbi Hoffenberg was a renowned scholar, an authority on the Talmud commentaries and the codes. Before his death he had completed a manuscript, “Commentary on the Talmud”. He was a board member of all the Jewish charitable and educational institutions of Hartford and a charter board member of Mt. Sinai Hospital.
Hoffenberg died on Nov. 28, 1938, and was survived by his widow, Kayle Fishel Hoffenberg; his sons, Atty. Joseph (in the state attorney general’s office), Samuel, Abraham, and Gabriel; and his daughters, Mrs. Max Hollinger (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Mrs. Meyer Goldsmith ( New Britain), and Mrs. Alvin Fien ( Watkins Glen, N.Y.). His widow, Kayle Fishel Hoffenberg, who was active in religious and charitable organizations, died on Feb. 26, 1954 at the age of 80. His first wife, Sarah Zivia Schine Hoffenberg, died in 1896.
1868 – 1935
Born: Kovno, Russia
Served: Adas Israel, Agudas Achim, and Beth Hamedrash Hagadol
Rabbi Isaac Hurewitz was born in Kovno, Russia on Oct. 9, 1868, the son of Joseph Dov and Beila Hurewitz, and studied at the Yeshivot of Volozin and Slabotka. In 1892, he received his s’miha(rabbinical ordination) from the world renowned scholar, Yitzhok Elhanan Spector of Kovno. He came to Hartford in 1893 and, in his long ministry of over 40 years, served the following congregations: Adas Israel, Agudas Achim, and Beth Hamedrash Hagodol (Garden Street Synagogue). In 1905, he was the editor of the biweekly, Yiddishe Shtimme (the Jewish Voice), which became a monthly publication in 1908.
A recognized Talmudic scholar, Rabbi Hurewitz was the author of the book Sefer Ha-mitzvot which was published in Jerusalem in 1926. Rabbi Hurewitz was the first Eastern European Orthodox rabbi in Hartford and was instrumental in establishing its Jewish charitable and educational institutions. He was a charter board member of the United Jewish Charities in 1912 and of Mt. Sinai Hospital in 1923.
Hurewitz died Dec. 30, 1935 and was survived by his widow, Chana Hurewitz; sons, Dr. Herman M., Atty. Joseph, Aaron, Jacob (professor at Columbia Univ.), and Samuel M.; and daughters, Bessie Sheketov, Rebecca Feldman, Anna Goldstein, Rae Ganz, Freda Jacobson, and Rose Zelzer. His first wife, Ida Aaronson Hurewitz, died in March 1932.
1923 – 2019
Born: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Educated: Jewish Theological Seminary, Trinity College
Served: Beth El Temple
Born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and raised in Philadelphia, Rabbi Kessler served in the Air Force for nearly three years, flying 18 missions over Europe with a crew of the 15th Air Force during World War II. He responded to a “higher calling” and was ordained in 1951 at the Jewish Theological Seminary where he also earned a Masters of Hebrew Literature (MHL) and Doctor of Divinity (D.D.).
Rabbi Kessler arrived in West Hartford in 1954 to lead a brand new synagogue, Beth El. He was awarded life tenure ten years later and in 1992 became Rabbi Emeritus. In retirement, Rabbi Kessler continues to participate in life at Beth El when he is not traveling around the world or to Israel (he’s been there more than 30 times since 1949) – or called to serve another synagogue’s spiritual needs.
Rabbi Kessler was past national chair of the Rabbinic Cabinet of the United Jewish Appeal. He has served on the National Rabbinical Assembly, as a member of the Executive Council, the Committee of Law and Standards, the Placement Commission, and as Chairman of a National Rabbinical Assembly Convention and the Bio-Ethics Committee. At the Jewish Theological Seminary, he has been on the Board of Overseers, the Chancellor’s Rabbinic Cabinet, and has served as the Director of “Gateways,” a Seminary-sponsored national outreach program to the inter-married. For more than 25 years he was on the Board of Governors of the Synagogue Council of America.
A major part of Rabbi Kessler’s life has been devoted to civil rights. He was among the Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights movement and participated in demonstrations in Birmingham in 1963 and Selma in 1965. Over the years he has served on the Human Rights Commission of Hartford, the Human Experimentation Committee of the University of Connecticut Medical School, the Martin Luther King Commemoration Committee, and the United World Federalists of Greater Hartford where he was chair. Rabbi Kessler has been a member of the Boards of Directors of the Community Renewal Team (CRT), the Urban League, the Urban Coalition of Greater Hartford and the Connecticut Interfaith Housing and Human Services Commission. He was also on the faculty of Trinity College Department of Religion from 1967-1973 and the Philosophy Department at the University of Hartford. In 1992, Trinity College honored him with an honorary Doctorate.
Born: Hartford, CT
Educated: Trinity College
Served: The Emanuel Synagogue
Cantor Arthur S. Koret sang for The Emanuel Synagogue for thirty eight years. He was also a member of the voice faculty of the Hartt College of Music at the University of Hartford where he taught music and singing for over thirty years. Cantor Koret is Hartford’s first native-born cantor and for 19 years he produced and narrated a weekly radio program, “Hartford Jewish Life”. During his career he received the Herman P. Koppleman Award and an Alumni Citation from Trinity College.
In addition to his local community service, Cantor Koret became prominently known throughout the United States and Israel. Cantor Koret was featured on nationally televised programs, appearing with the Cleveland Symphony, the Symphony of the Air, the Hartford Symphony and the New Haven Symphony. He also served as president of the Cantor’s Assembly of America for which the Connecticut Legislature congratulated him by Special Resolution.
In 1968, he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Cantor’s Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary, Cantor Koret raised thousands of dollars for the Cantor’s Assembly Scholarship fund and for the Ramah Camps scholarship funds. His encouragement of young people to go into Jewish music, particularly the cantorate, was outstanding.
Born: Belitza, Poland
Educated: Yeshiva University
Served: Beth Sholom >> Beth Hillel
Born in Poland, Philip Lazowski was caught in the maelstrom of World War II in 1941 at age 11. Until 1945 he was in the underground resistance movement. Following liberation, he attended and graduated from Hebrew High School in Austria, and left for the United States in 1948. He continued his education in New York City graduating from Yeshiva University. He was ordained in 1962 and earned his doctorate in Jewish Studies eight years later. Brought to Hartford as Education Director for Beth Sholom Synagogue, Rabbi Lazowski became its rabbi several years later. When Beth Sholom later merged with Beth Hillel in 1969 he remained as rabbi for the following forty years.
Rabbi Lazowski is the author of several books including, Faith and Destiny, an intense book describing his Holocaust experience. He has been active in the Jewish and non-Jewish communities. He has served as a Hartford Police Chaplain, a member of the Board of Commissions on Aging, and was a past president of both the Educators’ Council of Connecticut and the Jewish Education Council of Hartford. He is a member of the Rabbinical Assembly of Connecticut and serves as Rabbi Emeritus of The Emanuel Synagogue.
Born: Wyzan, Poland
Served: Teferes Israel
Education: Grodno Yeshiva, Hebron Yeshiva
Haskel Lindenthal was born in 1916 in Wyzan, a small town in northeast Poland and attended some of the leading yeshivot of Eastern Europe. At the age of ten and a half, he left his family to go for his early training to Suwalky Talmud Torah, returning every other year on Passover. Later, he studied at the Grodno Yeshiva, at the Reb Miles Yeshiva (Netsakh Yisrael) in Vilna, and at the Yeshiva of Mir, three renowned rabbinical academies in Europe, now lost. He received smichah (rabbinical ordination) separately from two of the leading lights of Orthodox Jewry, Rabbis Shimon Shkop the head (Rosh Yeshiva) of Grodno, and later from Rabbi Yehezkel Sarna, the head of the Hebron Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
In 1936, Rabbi Lindenthal went to Palestine, where he continued his studies at the Hebron Yeshiva. There he learned the practical skills of the shochetand mohel, receiving kabbala (licensure as a ritual slaughterer) from the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Tsvi Pesach Frank. Shortly after his arrival, he joined the Haganah, the Jewish underground military organization in Palestine. Trained in the use of small arms and hand grenades as well as military strategy, he assisted with Aliyah Bet, the immigration of Jews to Palestine outlawed by the British Mandate government. Rabbi Lindenthal’s decision to pursue learning in Palestine saved his life, but his father, a brother, four sisters, three brothers-in-law, their children, and other family members were murdered in the Holocaust.
Rabbi Lindenthal came to the United States after the outbreak of the war in Europe because his wife, Naomi Weinberg, the daughter of a Jerusalem family, possessed American citizenship. Her father, a meshulakh (a traveling fund raiser for yeshivot), had gained citizenship and was able to bestow it on Naomi, her siblings, and her mother. For Naomi, American citizenship was her father’s legacy since he died before she was born. Naomi’s American citizenship required that she come to the United States before the age of twenty-two. In January 1939, she embarked for the homeland she had never known. She settled in Hartford, where older siblings had come a decade earlier.
Her husband, Rabbi Lindenthal, was able to join her in April 1940. Shortly after his arrival, he received an offer to serve as a rabbi in Roanoke, Virginia, a community he served until 1944, when he returned to Connecticut and settled in Middletown. There he served as a shochet and led the Hebrew school at Congregation Adath Israel, where a newly ordained, American trained rabbi, William Cohen, led the congregation for two years. Rabbi Lindenthal’s roles in Middletown helped him to improve his fluency in English, a language he eventually spoke with particular eloquence. His budding linguistic facility made him more attractive as a potential American spiritual leader and, with the endorsement of Eva Stoltz, Naomi’s half-sister, he received an offer to lead Chevre Kadishe Teferes Israel, a congregation developed from the merger of immigrant synagogues founded at the turn of the century. In 1956, its leaders asked Rabbi Lindenthal to serve as their rabbi for the salary of $35 per week. Under his leadership, the synagogue grew to over 300 members and Rabbi Lindenthal served as its spiritual leader for over 40 years. The synagogue followed Hartford’s Jewish community to the suburbs, establishing new quarters at 27 Brown Street in Bloomfield in 1970. In addition to his rabbinic duties, Rabbi Lindenthal was a popular mohel for the Hartford community and published four books: Pages of My Life, an autobiography; A Taste of Talmud, a selection of Talmudic wisdom; and two books on Hebrew poetry.
Rabbi Isaac Mayer
1809 – 1897
Born: Alsace Lorraine
Served: Congregation Beth Israel
Rabbi Isaac Mayer became the first rabbi of the then Orthodox Congregation Beth Israel in Hartford on April 1, 1856 and served in that capacity for 11 years, until 1867. His obituary in the Meriden Journal described him as a scholarly man with a strong personality. Rabbi Mayer taught Hebrew and was active in the Ararat Lodge of B’nai B’rith, where he was secretary from 1863 to 1867. He was also the author of a German translation of a book of Hebrew proverbs and a widely-circulated Hebrew grammar book that was used for instruction in many institutions throughout country.
During the Civil War, one of Isaac Mayer’s sons, Dr. Nathan Mayer, was a surgeon with the Union forces. He became well known for his professional work at St. Francis Hospital (later, Mt. Sinai Hospital), and as a writer, poet, and music and critic for the Hartford Times for over 40 years.
Born: New York City
Served: Congregation B’nai Israel
Education: Jewish Theological Seminary, Columbia University
Rabbi Abraham Nowak accepted the call from Hartford’s B’nai Israel to be its spiritual leader in 1919. He had previously served as rabbi of Congregation Adath Jeshurun in Louisville, Ky., and Congregation Ohabel Shalom in Boston. While in Boston he was actively involved in the Bureau of Jewish Education and the Federated Jewish Charities.
Rabbi Nowak served B’nai Israel from 1919 to 1922, when he left to assume the pulpit of B’nai Jeshurun in Cleveland. He later went on to become the chaplain of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. During his tenure at B’nai Israel, Rabbi Nowak also briefly served as President of the Hartford Zionist District.
Born: Newburgh, NY
Served: The Emanuel Synagogue, 1922-1961
Education: Ohio State University, Columbia University, Jewish Theological Seminary
During his leadership at The Emanuel Synagogue, Rabbi Morris Silverman gained renown as an author and editor of prayer books, many of which are still being used in Conservative synagogues throughout the world. After becoming Rabbi Emeritus in 1961, Rabbi Silverman continued his research, writing and travels, and published the important work, Hartford Jews, 1659-1970, documenting Jewish life in Hartford.
After earning an M.A. in American History from Columbia University, Rabbi Silverman was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1922. As a student rabbi at a congregation in Washington Heights, New York, Silverman had been highly successful in tripling the size of the congregation, starting a Hebrew school, and moving the congregation into a new home. In 1923, Silverman took over the pulpit of the four-year-old Emanuel congregation and continued to serve it for thirty-eight years, until his retirement in 1961.
In addition to serving his congregation, Rabbi Silverman became well known throughout the entire greater Hartford community for his inter-faith and civil rights support. He was Chairman of the Connecticut State Commission on Civil Rights, a founder and leader of the Hartford Association of Ministers and Rabbis, a member of the Hartford Citizens Committee on Redevelopment, and was honored by several groups for his activities in these areas. In addition to his local work, Rabbi Silverman also served the Conservative movement nationally by editing numerous prayer books and other publications. His Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book became the official siddur of the movement, and his edition of the High Holiday Prayer Book (machzor) is still in common use today. Rabbi Silverman put his degree in history to good use by writing a series of newspaper articles on the history of Hartford Jews that became the basis of his book Hartford Jews 1659-1970.
Rabbi Silverman’s wife, Althea, was also active in the synagogue and community. The many pageant scripts she wrote, her book, The Jewish Home Beautiful, which arose from her Sisterhood programs on holiday and Shabbat entertaining, and her books on Jewish themes for children demonstrated her own love of writing.
The Silvermans’ son Hillel also became a Rabbi. Hillel Silverman’s son, actor Jonathan Silverman, is the grandson of Rabbi Morris and Mrs. Silverman.
Born: Ponwez, Luthuania
Education: Trinity College, Columbia University
Served: The Emanuel Synagogue
The death of Rabbi Leon Spitz evoked not only sympathy for the bereaved and a sense of loss over the departure of a dedicated and loyal servant of God, but also memories of distinguised service which he rendered to Jewish life for more than two-score years . . . (The Jewish Ledger)
Rabbi Leon Spitz was notable for his work in establishing Conservative congregations. He was born in Lithuania in 1891 and came to Hartford in 1904. He was a graduate of Trinity College (1915), had a master’s degree from Columbia University, and was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary (1918). While on a one-month leave from the Army, where he served as a chaplain, he was asked to come home to organize what became the The Emanuel Synagogue, the first Conservative synagogue in Connecticut. He was subsequently asked to set up Conservative congregations in a number of other eastern communities. Rabbi Spitz was an ardent Zionist and officer of the Zionist Organization of America, the American Jewish Congress, and the Connecticut/Rhode Island division of United Palestine Appeal.
Rabbi Spitz was also a prolific author of historical fiction for children and adults. His books included: Jews and Judaism in American Poetry, Memoirs of a Camp Rabbi, and What the Liberty Bell Proclaimed. He was the editor of the Connecticut Jewish Year Book, the editor and manager of the Connecticut edition of the Jewish Advocate (1908) and contributed to British and American religious publications. Rabbi Spitz died in 1959.
1914 – 2004
Born: Turka, Poland
Educated:Jewish Theological Seminary
Served: Beth Sholom, Manchester, CT
Rabbi Leon Wind, born in Turka, Poland on March 1, 1914, was the son of the late Yehoshua and Chanah Wind. He emigrated in 1938 and was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1943. He served as Rabbi of Temple Beth Sholom in Manchester from 1945 to 1979. Rabbi Wind oversaw the growth of the Congregation and the construction of its present building in 1963. He set high standards in the synagogue’s Religious School and, upon his retirement, the Congregation named it the Rabbi Leon Wind Religious School.
Rabbi Wind also served as a member of the Executive Council of the Rabbinical Assembly and as President of its Connecticut Valley Chapter, as well as several civic organizations including the Citizens Advisory Council of the Manchester Community College, the Board of Directors of the Civic Music Association of Manchester, the Board of Directors of the Greater Hartford Chapter of the American Red Cross, and the Mental Health Clinic of Manchester. Having witnessed the effects of ethnic hatred that cost the lives of his immediate family during the Holocaust, Rabbi Wind built bridges to other religious communities and was president of the Manchester Ministerial Association, dean of the Manchester Clergy, and received the first Community Service Award for Spiritual Leadership in Manchester.
Born: Bialystok, Poland
Educated: Kletzk Yeshiva
Served: Chevry Lomday Mishnayes
Rabbi Meyer Zywica was born in Yablinka, Poland in 1919. When he was 8 years old he was sent by his parents to Bialystok to obtain a superior and more intense Talmudic education. By age 17, his Rebbe recommended that he study at the Kletzk Yeshiva which was then lead by Rabbi Aharon Kotler ZT”L, a distinguished and great dedicated scholar. When World War II broke out, he was able to secure a visa from a Japanese diplomat and took a train and then a boat to Japan. When the Japanese would not let him enter the country he was able to escape to Shanghai, China and there joined the Mirrer Yeshiva. He continued to study Torah while enduring hunger, heat, and oppressive living conditions.
At the end of the war, Rabbi Zywica found out that his entire family including parents, grandparents and numerous siblings – 70 relatives in all – had perished in the Holocaust. Only one uncle, Rabbi Jonah Weisbord remained and was living in America. Rabbi Zywica came to the United States in February 1947, was ordained by Rabbi Kotler and proceeded to rebuild his life with his notable strength and determination. He stood staunchly for the Orthodox way of life, but was accepting of Jews whatever their level of observance or commitment.
His first congregation was Ahavath Achim in Colchester. He arrived there in the spring of 1947 and served this rural farming community in all rabbinic duties for three years. In 1950 he married Frances Miriam Friedlander, daughter of Rabbi and Mrs. Elozer Friedlander, a distinguished rabbi in Baltimore and one of the founders of the Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore, Maryland.
Rabbi Zywica became the spiritual leader of the Orthodox Chevry Lomday Mishnayes in Hartford in June of 1950. Here he performed all the rabbinic duties – rabbi, mentor, leader of services on Shabbos and holidays – teaching daily study groups, and attending and ensuring services were held three times a day. He conducted all the life cycle duties there into the second generation of his congregants. In addition to his work with Chevry Lomday Mishnayes, which relocated to Westbourne Parkway in 1963, Rabbi Zywica served on the Board of Education of the Yeshiva of Hartford (now the Hebrew Academy of Greater Hartford) and the Jewish Community Federation. He was also instrumental in moving the Mikvah from Magnolia Street to Blue Hills Avenue and eventually to West Hartford.
In 1974, Rabbi Zywica retired from his congregation and assumed the position of Chaplain at the Hebrew Home for the Aged, diligently conducting services in the Shul, leading study groups, overseeing the Kashrus of the facility, as well as tending to and visiting the residents at the Home and in the hospital. Rabbi and Mrs. Zywica moved to Baltimore in 1984 to care for her mother. For the next 22 years until his death in 2006, Rabbi Zywica considered himself blessed to be able to fulfill his lifelong dream of once again learning Talmud full time. During his life, Rabbi Zywica was an important link to the Torah scholars of Europe.