STAMFORD

STAMFORD, corporate and finance center in Connecticut; population (2004) 111,000; Jewish population (2004) est. 14,000. The earliest Jewish merchants were Nehemiah Marks (1720), and Jacob Hart (1728), who by 1738 was the fifth highest taxpayer in town. He owned property also in Greenwich and Darien but as a Jew was not eligible to vote or serve on the grand jury. Hart's children were the first of the Jewish faith   born in Stamford. Jewish families came from New York during the American Revolution, among them were Isaac Pinto who translated the first English High Holy Day prayer book in America (1761) and the daily English prayer book in 1766 but did not remain afterwards. Sporadic Jewish settlers continued to come until 1856 when Wolff Cohen advertised his clothing store in The Advocate. In 1868 there were five Jewish-owned businesses but no community or congregation. Through the 1870s Jewish owned saloons as well as clothing and fancy and dry goods establishments. The first Jewish marriage with a full minyan was held in 1805, but it was not until 1871, when Rabbi Henry Vidaver of New York married Henry Bernhard and Rachel Cohen, that a description of the ceremony and reception were printed in full detail in The Advocate. Samuel H. Cohen, Stamford's first Jewish attorney, was appointed probate judge in 1876. In 1881 Jacob Rosenblum arrived in Stamford; he is considered the first Eastern-European Jew from Lithuania to reach there, coming via Sharon, Pennsylvania. Young, single peddlers, Isadore Alexander and Solomon Osmansky, followed. The first worship services were held in an attic on Cedar St. In 1887 David Cohen, a new arrival, reports that the first High Holy Day services were held in Stamford in Jacob Rosenblum's tenement flat on Stillwater Ave. The same year Pacific St. began to develop as the retail hub for the new arrivals who opened a variety of retail stores and small manufacturing. By World War I, this street had become Stamford's version of New York's Lower East Side. Mainstream Jewish stores were also on Main St. and Atlantic Street. In 1889 a congregation was chartered as Agudath Sholom with 22 signers. In 1891 a cemetery association was chartered with the name of Agoodat Solima and purchased land on West Hill Rd. The congregation during this decade was dormant and by 1901, it was simply reported as "The Hebrew Society" with no building of its own. In 1904 a second charter for a Cong. Agudath Sholom was issued and ground was broken for the first synagogue, completed 1908. There were secular Jewish organizational chapters, such as L'Maan Zion that began in 1902, and the Independent Lodge started in 1903, which also established its own cemetery on Hoyt St. in Darien in 1904. B'nai B'rith was chartered in 1910, and the National Council for Jewish Women in 1911; a Stamford Hebrew Political & Social Club was chartered in 1907. Of all the aforementioned groups, only the Independent Lodge survives. In 1911 attorney Alfred Phillips was elected to the state legislature, and in 1913 he became the first Jewish secretary of state in Connecticut. In 1916 The Hebrew Institute was founded as the meeting place for social and later also some worship activities of the community. It dissolved in 1927 and was succeeded by The Stamford Jewish Community Center which dedicated its building on Prospect St. in 1930. Roosevelt Lodge of the Masonic Order was founded 1922, because Jews were refused membership in Stamford's Union Lodge F.\&A.M. The JCC moved to its present location on Newfield Avenue in 1982. Temple Beth El, a Conservative congregation, was founded in 1920 and met in the Hebrew Institute until 1927, when its first synagogue was dedicated on Prospect St. The congregation moved to its newer structure on Roxbury Rd. in 1974. Temple Sinai, a Reform congregation founded in 1954, has a synagogue complex on Lakeside Drive. The Orthodox Congregation Agudath Sholom has worshiped since 1965 in its current building, which also has a mikveh, on Colonial Road. Young Israel is an Orthodox congregation with a synagogue on Oaklawn Avenue. Chabad is constructing a school complex on High Ridge Rd., and The Fellowship of Jewish Learning, founded 1973, is a liberal congregation sharing a meeting house on Roxbury Rd. All congregations have religious schools. The Bi-Cultural Day School founded in 1956 is renowned for its full curriculum from kindergarten through grade eight. Jewish Family Services has offices to serve all in need of assistance. Offices of The United Jewish Federation, and The Jewish Endowment are located in the JCC. The Jewish Historical Society of Lower Fairfield County was founded in 1983 in Stamford. Julius Wilensky was elected and served as the first and only mayor of the Jewish faith of The City of Stamford, 1969–73. Stamford is the birthplace and boyhood home of United States Senator Joseph Lieberman who was the first candidate of the Jewish faith to be nominated and run for vice president of the United States. (Irwin Miller (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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