the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
One of the six New England States, and one of the thirteen original states of theUnion. The first mention of a Jew in Connecticut is apparently that of a certain "David the Jew" in the Colonial Records, under date of Nov. 9, 1659 (1:343); the records further show that a Jacob Lucena was fined £20 in 1670, probably for Sabbathbreaking, since the court, "considering he was a Jew," reduced his fine to £10, and later, upon petition of Asser Levy, to £5 (Hühner, in "Pub. Am. Jew. Hist. Soc." No. 8, pp. 21 et seq.).
In a short history of the New Haven congregation, deposited in the corner-stone of the new temple, and published in the local press of March, 1896, it is stated that about six Jewish families settled in New Haven as early as 1770. According to the recently (1901) published diary of Ezra Stiles, this statement is inaccurate. Stiles was born in New Haven in 1727, continuing his residence there till his removal to Newport in 1755. In an account of his visit to New Haven in 1772 he makes this assertion: "The summer past a family of Jews settled here, the first real Jews (except the two brothers Pintos, who renounced Judaism and all religion) that settled in New Haven." He adds that they were" 10 or 8 Souls Jews, with six or 8 Negroes. Last Saturday they kept holy . . . the Family were worshipping by themselves in a Room in which were Lights and a suspended Lamp. This is the first Jewish Worship in New Haven" ("Diary of Ezra Stiles," 1:283). It is quite probable that of the Jews who came to Connecticut up to the year 1840 the greater number left the state, the others amalgamating with the families of other faiths. There are a few Christian families of Connecticut—notably those of an ex-president of Yale College, a former governor of the state, and an ex-minister to Russia—that trace their lineage to these early settlers, claiming relationship with Ralph Isaacs.
Considerable interest attaches to the brothers Pinto. They were doubtless the first Jewish settlers of Connecticut. A building known as the "Pinto Place," in State street near the railroad bridge in New Haven, is still in existence (see see PINTO). In the "Roll of the Citizens of New Haven, Feb. 5, 1784, at their first incorporation," are found the names of the Pinto brothers—Jacob and Solomon. The latter was a student at Yale College, graduating there in 1777. He took part in the defense of New Haven against the British July 5 and 6, 1779, and was taken prisoner in that engagement ("Diary of Ezra Stiles," ).
New Haven is the most important city of Connecticut, having a population of 108,027 (1900). The number of its Jewish inhabitants is about 5,500. All records having been destroyed by fire, there exist no available data regarding the Jewish congregations of New Haven. The first synagogue, Mishkan Israel, had its origin between 1840 and 1843, as in the latter year a parcel of land in Westville (1¼ acres) was purchased for $50 for a cemetery. The first congregation consisted of twenty Bavarian families, among which were the Adlers, Bretzfelders, Lehmans, Lauterbachs, Milanders, Ullmans, Watermans, and Rothschilds. Milander was the first reader of the synagogue. The congregation worshiped from time to time in the Armstrong Building (at the corner of Fleet street and Custom House square), in the Brewster Building (at the corner of State and Chapel streets), and in Todd's Hall (in State street, near Court street), Meininger, Sternheimer, and Samuel Zunder being the successive readers. In 1854, by the will of Judah Touro, the congregation came into possession of $5,000, which enabled it to purchase the property of the Third Congregational Church in Court street. The new synagogue was dedicated in the following year, the Rev. B. E. Jacobs being minister. In 1855 a mere handful of people formed an Orthodox congregation, under the name "B'nai Sholom." They worshiped from time to time in West Water street, William street, and in Olive street; their present synagogue was built in 1894.
During 1862-64 the Court street congregation introduced a choir and an organ in the services, under the direction of Morris Steinert the Rev. Jonas Gabriel being minister. In 1873 the "Minhag America" was adopted as the ritual, and the first Sabbath-school established, with the Rev. Judah Wechsler as minister. He was succeeded in 1878 by the Rev. Dr. Kleeberg. Regular weekly sermons in German were introduced, the temple was enlarged, and a new organ installed. In 1893 Rabbi David Levy was elected minister. Various changes were made in the ritual, the sermon and a large part of the services being given in English, and the congregation decided to move to a more convenient quarter of the city. In 1896 the corner-stone of the new temple at Orange and Audubon streets was laid, and in March of the following year the new structure was dedicated. Since the Russian and Rumanian immigration there have been established a number of other congregations, among which are Bnai Israel, Bikur Cholim, Bnay Abraham, B'nai Jacob, and Shewath Achim, each having a large membership and being in a thriving condition. Daily religious schools are connected with these congregations.
While the Jewish community of New Haven consists mainly of merchants with large business and manufacturing establishments, it has had distinguished representatives in the legal and medical professions also. Some have been specially prominent, as Max Adler, president of the chamber of commerce; I. M. Ullman, officer on the staff of the governor; Morris Spier, commissioner of charities; Isaac Wolf, member of the legislature; H. W. Asher, president of the board of education; and J. B. Ullman, assistant corporation counsel. A considerable number have held important positions as teachers in the public schools. Maier Zunder (d. 1901) was for twenty years a member of the board of education. In recognition of his services in the cause of public-school education, a prominent school building bears his name. He was for many years, and up to the time of his death, treasurer of the Congregation Mishkan Israel, trustee of' the B'nai B'rith Home, member of the board of the Masonic Home, and president of the Savings Bank of New Haven.
During the past twenty years there has been a considerable increase in the Jewish populations of other towns and cities of the state, especially in Bridgeport, Ansonia, Derby, Waterbury, and NewLondon. Though without a resident minister, they each maintain a cemetery and a Sabbath-school, and hold religious services during the important holidays of the year. The combined population of Jews outside of Hartford and New Haven is estimated to be one thousand. Since 1891 a number of Jewish farmers have settled in various parts of the state (AGRICULTURAL COLONIES IN THE UNITED STATES).
The capital city of the state is Hartford, with a population of 79,850 (1900), the Jewish inhabitants numbering about 2,000. The first congregation established there was Beth Israel (1843). Among its rabbis have been Deutsch, Mayer, Rundbaken, and the present incumbent, Meyer Elkin. The congregation numbers about 100 members, and is in a flourishing condition. There are two or three other congregations, established by the Russian community within the past ten years, notably Adas Israel and B'nai Israel. Many Hartford Jews have held positions of honor in civic affairs, while not a few have held distinguished places in the medical and legal professions.
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Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Hartford'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​h/hartford.html. 1901.