This driving tour includes numerous historically significant synagogues and other sites of significance across Connecticut--if you're short on time, you may want to focus only on the synagogues clustered in and around Hartford. Jewish communities have existed in Connecticut for centuries, but very little is known about their early days. Beginning in the 19th century, however, the state's Jewish population expanded significantly and became more prominent. Jewish immigrants from Germany, Eastern Europe, and Russia moved to the United States and established congregations. Furthermore, in 1843, Jewish congregations were finally permitted the freedom to organize and incorporate within the state.
Judaism in Connecticut displays considerable variety, including Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform congregations, some of which transitioned from one form to another over the decades. Historic congregations' founding members originated both from Germany and Eastern Europe. Hartford, New Haven, and other cities attracted substantial Jewish populations, though synagogues emerged in rural communities as well. These historic synagogues are architecturally varied. Some were converted churches (Temple Beth Torah), one was a converted Masonic Hall (Temple B'Nai Israel), while others were specifically designed by Jewish congregations (Charter Oak, Temple Beth Israel).
The current status of all of these synagogues is also variable. While some remain in use, others have been converted into churches or cultural centers.
Tour highlights include:
*** Charter Oak Cultural Center, the first purpose-built synagogue in Connecticut (Hartford).
*** Temple Beth Israel, a suburban synagogue with an impressive Byzantine-style dome (West Hartford).
*** Adath Israel Synagogue, home to a Judaica Museum that may be viewed by appointment (Middletown).
*** Anshei Israel and Knesseth Israel Synagogues, fine examples of rural Jewish architecture (Lisbon and Ellington).
*** Ahavas Sholem Synagogue, a striking Classical Revival buliding (New Haven).