Jewish history photo exhibit at Fairfield University's Bennett Center for Judaic Studies continues in the new year


Due to popular demand, the photo exhibit, "A Slice of American Jewish Life: Fairfield County 1654-1986," has been extended by Fairfield University's Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies of the College of Arts and Sciences. The exhibit was coordinated and compiled by the Jewish Historical Society of Lower Eastern Fairfield County.

The exhibit is free and will be open for viewing Jan. 16-30 in the Bennett Center, located in Donnarumma Hall, Room 245, on the Fairfield University campus, 173 North Benson Road. Viewing hours will be 10 a.m. to 12 noon, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Questions can be directed to the Bennett Center at (203) 254-4000 ext. 2066.

Documents, telegrams, letters, newspaper clippings, vintage advertisements and photographs help tell the story of how Jews came to settle and prosper in Fairfield County. Moses Levy was the first Jew of record in the county, taking up residence in 1698, and so the story begins. In 1776, Jews fleeing British-occupied New York held the first Jewish religious services in the county. The pioneer Jewish settlers were merchants and artisans, and many came here to make a living selling clothing and ice cream, opening saloons, making cigars, and baking bread. They fueled the economic life of the county despite hardships, including limited finances, little Jewish community and anti-Semitism which made it difficult to live in certain towns. The exhibit tracks the success of Jewish people as established merchants, physicians, journalists and leaders.

Ellen M. Umansky, Ph.D., director of Fairfield's Judaic Studies program and the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Professor of Judaic Studies, said the exhibit will undoubtedly offer people a sense of how Jewish individuals and families in our region helped shape American Jewish experience. "It is quite moving to see how just a few Jewish settlers here grew to be a strong and prominent community in Fairfield County. It is essential that we do not forget our past, and understand how challenging and trying it was for our Jewish ancestors to set roots in the community."

The exhibit combines personal collections with materials from the photo archive collection of the Jewish Historical Society of Lower Fairfield County, formerly the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Stamford. It is a 20-year-old organization whose mission is to be the community's resource for discovering, explaining, preserving, developing interest in, and enjoying Jewish history of the region and elsewhere.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on January 3, 2007

Vol. 39, No. 116