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PHOTOS: Waterbury: 10 Years & Community Growing

[PHOTO LINK BELOW] The following article appeared in this mornings Republican-American:

WATERBURY — When the first nine Orthodox Jewish families moved to Waterbury 10 years ago, only about eight children attended Yeshiva K’tana, the young children’s school.

The families had to travel to New York to purchase kosher groceries. On Shabbat, the weekly day of rest which begins at sundown Friday, many families simply stayed home, unable to as much as push a stroller.

Ten years later, the community and Yeshiva K’tana have seen their numbers swell; Yeshiva K’tana now has 220 members.

At a reception Sunday to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Yeshiva K’tana, nearly 400 people from babies to rabbis packed the ballroom at B’nai Shalom Temple on Roseland Avenue.

“I don’t know next year where we’re going to have this dinner,” said Rabbi Yahuda Brecher, the school’s principal, to cheerful applause.

The challenges the Yeshiva K’tana has faced in the seven years Brecher has been principal are similar to any fledgling school, including a shortage of money and teachers. Now, 40 teachers guide boys and girls in Hebrew and English.

On Sunday afternoon, angelic voices of a boys’ choir filled the temple as more than 30 people sang in Hebrew. One of the songs was composed by Baruch Levine, a songwriter and singer in the Jewish community who teaches at Yeshiva K’tana.

The community, much like the young children’s school, has grown from just nine families to about 150.

Besides the Yeshiva K’tana, Waterbury is home to the Yeshiva Gedolah, the posthigh school level school. Many families that have made Waterbury home are former students from the Yeshiva Gedolah.

Aaron Sapirman was 17 when he came to Waterbury from Toronto 10 years ago. He was a member of the first class at Yeshiva Gedolah.

Now a father of two, he owns a home in the Overlook neighborhood and works as an administrator at Yeshiva K’tana.

Sapirman said about five to six out of 10 students from the Yeshiva Gedolah have chosen to stay in Waterbury.

Things are much easier for the now well-established Orthodox Jewish community. Three groceries cater to them, includ ing ShopRite in Waterbury.

An impressive dessert display at Sunday’s dinner was prepared by First Class Caterers, a Waterbury company formed by former students of Yeshiva Gedolah.

A second Mikvah, a ceremonial bath house, was recently completed. For the past five years, neighborhoods where the families have settled have rabbi-approved Eruv, an enclosure of walls or string on posts that makes it possible for community members to carry burdens outside their homes on Shabbat, including pushing baby strollers.

To outsiders, the Orthodox families mostly keep to themselves.

“They’re very family and religion motivated,” said Sally Odle, president of the Overlook Neighborhood Association, where many of the families have settled.

Each year, the school honors parents and grandparents, as well as a member of the outside community. Rabbi and Mrs. Moshe Don Kestenbaum were parents of the year, and Dr. and Mrs . Dovid Rhein were grandparents of the year. Mayoral Aide Steve Gambini, also a resident of Overlook, received the Community Service Award from Yeshiva K’tana on Sunday.

State Sen. Joan Hartley, who also lives in the neighborhood, was one of the few non-Orthodox guests at the dinner Sunday.

She remembered planting tulips with children from the school on Columbia Boulevard just two years ago.

“It’s just been a great run,” she said, marveling at the growth of the school.

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One Response

  1. “I don’t know next year where we’re going to have this dinner,” said Rabbi Yahuda Brecher, the school’s principal, to cheerful applause.

    What’s the question, Rabbi Brecher? It’s obvious: next year in Eretz Yisrael! The community will surely wake up and realize that Waterbury is golus (no matter how comfortable it may be) and Eretz Yisrael is home! No? The audience wouldn’t respond with “cheerful applause” to that notion? Oh right. Aliyah? Nah… fuhgeddaboutit.

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