They Found Their Way: Generations of Jewish Life in Waterbury, CT

Keeping Faith


Charitable and Service Organizations

If you want to have a decent community, you better give back to it or you won't have one. I'm very proud of the fact that both of my kids are also extremely involved.
-Burton Albert.

David Fannick Post, 1949
Honor Guard Firing Squad for returning war dead
(Collection of Irving Silverman)

Charity has been a hallmark of the Jewish community, in Waterbury, as elsewhere. Helping those in need is an obligation of the Jewish faith. With an impressive record of charitable assistance within the Jewish community during the early immigrant years, many Jewish charities also turned their attention to modern social issues in the 20th century. These have included the needs of Israel through the middle decades of the 20th century as well as the struggle for worker rights and for Civil Rights.

The Ladies' Aid was a Jewish organization that helped poor people. I'll never forget, my bedroom was in the back near the back steps. I once heard somebody coming up the steps.... I went to the back door and there I saw a big crate with all kinds of food, and I found out later that it was from the Ladies' Aid because really, we were destitute, especially when my father was in the hospital for so long and my mother didn't work. So I saw the food. I brought it in, and I woke everybody up, and we started eating.... I had to become a member, because I remember what they did for us.
-Ida Bisnovich Epstein

ORT [was for] young women. They raised money for the schools that they set up in Israel. When we were first married, that was a big one. It was your social life.... It was to teach people trades [in Israel], so they could support themselves and not be dependent. Hadassah was mainly [supporting] the hospital.... And then there was a Council of Jewish Women which was very active here... these were all women who had college degrees.
-Elinor Fishman Freedman

ORT Exhibit at CT Light & Power (detail)
(Collection of Milton Kadish)

There were Jews in Waterbury who felt that we did not have the moral right to retain money at home for our own pleasure when the needs in Israel were so great. And so there was disagreement on how local money should be used. It took a very long time for people to realize that unless you support Jews on the home front, you lose the involvement of a lot of people who will later on provide funds for the Jewish activities outside of the community that are necessary.
-Leo Goldberg

My father loved to say he was a Zionist before it was fashionable. He was always very dedicated to Israel and made a few trips there. I think that he just wanted a place, to know there was a homeland. I imagine because [he had been persecuted] in Russia... he probably felt [Israel] was a great answer [for the Jewish people].
-Terry Solomon Pfau

Robert and William Kosersky in Israel
(Collection of Gail Kosersky Sachs)

The Waterbury chapter [of Hadassah] was founded in 1918.... [At one time], Hadassah had five hundred [members] here.... [We] supplied Hadassah with a national president, Rose Matzkin.... Mary Blank, formerly of Waterbury, is still on the national board.
-Estelle Ganezer

Phi Beta Fraternity, 1940s
(Collection of Laurence Shapiro)
I joined the Knights of Pythias, a Jewish lodge, the Theodore Roosevelt Lodge, in 1935. [There was] a nice group of Jewish boys there.... The Palmore was a Jewish young men's club. Their rooms were on Bank Street. Like a young YMHA (Young Men’s Hebrew Association)... they had a big group, maybe a hundred in there.
-Harry Levin


© 2002 The Mattatuck Historical Society