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





Rabbi David B. Swiren



Beth Israel Synagogue, Kingsbury Street, 1965
(Collection of the Waterbury Republican-American)


Waterbury Hebrew Institute, Kingsbury Street
(Collection of Gary Broder)



Temple Israel on Willow St.
(Collection of the Waterbury Republican-American)


Jewish Community Center, Murray Street


Past Presidents of Beth El at Beth David Groundbreaking Ceremony, 1959
(Collection of Don Garber)


Waterbury's first Jewish congregation, Temple Israel, is organized, renting various halls for services.

1873 Melchizedek Lodge of the Independent Order of B’Nai Brith is organized.

1875 Melchizedek Burial Association purchases land on Plank Road for cemetery.

1876 Hebrew Ladies’ Benevolent Society (Temple Israel) is formed.
First interment at Melchizedek Cemetery (Temple Israel).

1880 The first Temple Israel Sunday School opens.

1888 The Waterbury City Lodge of the Order of B’nai Abraham is established; they purchase land for a cemetery on Plank Road.


Agudas Achim is incorporated and begins holding religious services at the Grand Army Hall on East Main Street.


A Talmud Torah is opened at 231 Bank Street.

  The Jewish community of Waterbury was getting somewhat organized around the turn of the century and the first large groups of Eastern European Jews from Russia, from Poland, etc., were arriving and the first orthodox synagogue was in the process of formation and the first thing that they felt they needed very badly was a Talmud Torah, or in other words a Hebrew school for the children.
-Beryl Weinstein

1898 Talmud Torah stops holding classes.

1900 Agudas Achim buys a house on Canal Street, converting it for use as a synagogue, with a mikva in the basement and a school on the second floor.

1902 Agudas Achim reopens the Talmud Torah and charters the Waterbury Hebrew School, Inc., which becomes the owner of the school and the synagogue.

Waterbury Hebrew Ladies' Aid Association is formed.

1903 Workmen’s Circle organized, with a school on Spencer Avenue.

1905 Waterbury Hebrew School acquires property on Kingsbury Street to build Beth Israel Synagogue

1906 Groundbreaking ceremony for Beth Israel, the first synagogue to be built in Waterbury (26 Kingsbury Street).

1907 Beth Israel Synagogue dedicated.

1909 Sharis Israel Synagogue founded (49 Kingsbury Street).

1910 Friendship Social and Benevolent Association is organized (28 Park Place).

1911 Rabbi David B. Swiren (Beth Israel) is Waterbury’s first Orthodox rabbi.

1913 Construction begins on the Hebrew Institute (Beth Israel).

1914 The Hebrew Institute opens (24 Kingsbury Street). It was both a religious school and a social center, with a gymnasium and an auditorium. The school attracted 200 students in its first year.

  The old Hebrew Institute was downtown. That is where the girls used to meet at night, ...we were ten, eleven, twelve, we would walk down the hill at night and go to a meeting, come back. It was a big part of our lives, it was all Jewish kids
-Paul Freedman

1917 Waterbury's first Boy Scout Troop is formed.

1918 The Waterbury chapter of Hadassah is founded.

1921 Temple Israel moves to 100 Willow Street.

Waterbury Modern Orthodox Congregation is formed.

1924 The Waterbury Modern Orthodox Congregation becomes Beth El (28 Park Place).

Harry E. Schwartz is Beth El’s first full-time rabbi and starts their Sunday School.

Beth El joins the United Synagogues of America and becomes Conservative.

1927 Beth El purchases property for new Synagogue on Cooke Street.

1929 Construction of Beth El Synagogue on Cooke St. begins (first Byzantine-style
synagogue in Connecticut).

1930 Beth El begins holding ceremonies in unfinished Synagogue.

1937 The Waterbury chapter of Farband, a branch of the Jewish National Workers’ Alliance of the Labor Zionist Workers Order, was registered.

1947 Rabbi Seymour Gewirtz (Beth Israel) founds the Beth David Academy, 24 Kingsbury St. (shared space with Hebrew Institute).

1949 Waterbury Jewish Federation organized.

1951 Construction of Beth El Synagogue is completed.

Camp Shalom (Federation) opens near Lakewood Park.

1956 Temple Israel begins construction of a new synagogue on Williamson Drive.

1957 Beth Israel purchases land in the Overlook neighborhood for Beth David Academy and a new synagogue (not built).

1958 Temple Israel moves to 100 Williamson Drive.

1959 Groundbreaking ceremonies for construction of Beth David Academy.

1960 Beth El begins construction of a new school.

Jewish Community Center established at 34 Murray Street. It was moved to Country Club Road in the 1970s.

1961 Beth El purchases land for cemetery in Bucks Hill.

Beth David Academy (Beth Israel) opens on Bidwell Street.

1969 Sharis Israel and Beth Israel merge to form Beth-Israel-Sharis-Israel and begin construction for a new synagogue on Roseland Avenue.

Beth David Academy closes.

1970 Beth-Israel-Sharis-Israel is renamed B'nai Shalom Synagogue .

1971 Dedication of B’nai Shalom, made up of the former members of the Orthodox congregations on Kingsbury Street, Beth Israel and Sharis Israel, and the remaining members of Naugatuck’s Congregation Beth Israel (Roseland Avenue).

The new temple incorporated cornerstones of the earlier Kingsbury Street synagogues, as well as a cornerstone from the Hebrew Institute on Kingsbury Street, when the older landmarks were demolished along with the Kingsbury neighborhood during the Urban Renewal clearance projects.

1993 The Jewish Federation moved their offices to Woodbury.

1997 B'Nai Israel congregation and school moves to Woodbury, composed of former members of Temple Israel in Waterbury and B'Nai Chaim in Southbury.

2001 The Beth El Synagogue and Religious School on Cooke Street is sold to the Waterbury's newest Jewish immigrants, the members of Torah Umesorah.

© 2002 The Mattatuck Historical Society