Rabbi Meyer Zywica

Rabbi Meyer Zywica

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.

Rabbi Abraham J. Feldman

Rabbi Abraham J. Feldman

Born: Kiev
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.

Rabbi Philip Lazowski

Rabbi Philip Lazowski

1930 –
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.

Rabbi Hans Bodenheimer

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.


Rabbi Leon Wind

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.

Rabbi Stanley Kessler

1923 –
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.

Cantor Arthur Koret

Cantor Arthur Koret

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.

Click here to listen to Cantor Arthur Koret sing Kol Nidre.

Rabbi William Cohen

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.