Jun 25, 2013
Rebuilding Burnt Historic Shul

150 people attended a groundbreaking that was held for a historic synagogue in Connecticut that was burnt in a fire.

John Burgeson, CTPost.com

Get close enough to the building that used to house the Hebrew Congregation of Woodmont and you'll get a whiff of its burnt-out interior, empty since an Oct. 14 fire ravaged the building.

Things are finally looking up for the beleaguered temple, however. On Sunday, about 150 supporters and dignitaries turned out for the ground-breaking for what will be a much-improved synagogue and social hall that will be used year-round.

Officially called the Hebrew Congregation of Woodmont/Chabad -- it merged with the Chabad Jewish Center of Milford in 2007 -- the historic temple was for years one of the very few synagogues in the nation that operated only seasonally. It catered to Jews who vacationed along the Woodmont shoreline, the so-called "Bagel Beach."

"There was never any question that we would rebuild," said Chanie Wilhelm, who emceed the noontime event; she's the wife of the temple's rabbi, Schneur Wilhelm.

Since the blaze, the congregation has been meeting in the municipal community center across the street.

The temple was completed in 1927 and the social hall next door opened 20 years later. The fire was by no means the only bump in the road. Dwindling attendance -- it relied on donations, not dues, most of the time -- nearly closed the temple for good in the late 1970s and again about 15 years ago. The social hall has been mostly unused for some years.

It's on Merwin Avenue in Milford's Woodmont section, on the corner of Benjamin Street.

In 2007, Rabbi Wilhelm arrived and injected new vitality into the congregation, merging it with the Milford Chabad center. Chabad, or Chabad-Lubavitch, is an intellect-based sect that's part of the Hasidic movement in Orthodox Judaism. Members say that unlike many other movements of Judaism, Chabad congregations are non-judgemental, and welcome Jews of all stripes.

"We have an open-door policy," said Joel Levitz, president if the congregation. "From the ashes of our building, we'll have a beautiful new shul. And we have an open-door policy, regardless of your observance level and regardless of your ability to pay."

He also praised Mayor Benjamin Blake for all of his help after the fire. "You're a real mensch," Levitz said.

"We will have dark days, but they are tempered by long, glorious days like this one," Blake said.

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Opinions and Comments
Mazel Tov
We share this wonderful, historic moment with you, and may Hashem send His blessings for much success in making this a reality. From us in CA
(6/25/2013 4:36:13 PM)
My dear friend Reb Shiyeh Ma Sheya-ase hazman,
BH you are so persistent and you just continue pushing with amazing strength thank G-d you are able to see fruits, who would ever think.

You are definitely being a source of Nachas to the Rebbe, and your parents.

Michayil el Choyil.
(6/25/2013 5:37:43 PM)
chanie! great work
from aussie
(6/26/2013 11:15:31 AM)
RL ;)
I am so proud of my tante and feter!!
(6/26/2013 5:15:31 PM)
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