Temple Sholom's History
The beginning of the Jewish community in New Milford found its roots in Golden’s Dry Goods Store around 1914. It was here that area Jews came for “a little guidance, a little advice, talking of what you should do... what you shouldn’t do,” remembered Merrill Golden, son of the store owner, Joseph Golden. Among others, New Milford Jewish cattle dealers gathered in the store as the central place, which was the Jewish community. The problems of one Jew became the problems of the community. At the time, worship was limited to attendance at synagogues in nearby cities for the High Holy Days, as transportation was difficult at best. Joseph Golden was motivated to form New Milford’s first Jewish congregation, Beth Aaron, named in honor of his father. Joseph then traveled to New York where he purchased a Torah and prayer books for a congregation of about ten to fifteen members, who met in each other’s homes for the High Holy Days. This small congregation was maintained until 1944.
From 1944 to 1958, while the Jewish population was on the increase in New Milford, worship and religious education took place at the United Jewish Center in Danbury. In 1958, it became apparent to some that the need for a New Milford-based congregation existed. In the fall of 1958, a committee was formed to investigate the feasibility of establishing a congregation.
On December 26, 1958, New Milford’s Jewish community held an historic meeting; when it was over, Temple Sholom had been created. A month later, on January 29, 1959, the temple held its first Friday night service. The site was the chapel of the First Congregational Church, a place that became Temple Sholom’s home for the next eleven years; but, despite the warm reception and comfortable
relationship which flourished at the Congregational Church, there were strong stirrings to find “a home of our own.”
Although there was agreement to establish a congregation in New Milford, the early days were fraught with issues that needed to be resolved. Choosing a Reform or Conservative affiliation and whether to require the wearing of yarmulkes were among the hotly debated topics of the time. The congregation joined the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, chose the name Temple Sholom, planned a religious school and established basic policies. All of this was accomplished by July 1, 1959, at the start of the congregation’s first full fiscal year.
In September 1969, a campaign was organized to raise funds to build a Temple on land on Route 7 that had been purchased for that purpose in 1964. Construction began in the fall of 1970. A formal dedication took place on May 2, 1971, shortly after a processional march from the Congregational Church to the new Temple on Route 7 brought the Torahs to their new home.
As the congregation enlarged, after years of student Rabbis, a full-time rabbinic position was established. Norman Koch זצ״ל was hired. Rabbi Koch retired and passed away in 2015. He took great pride in the long-term relationship he and the Temple Sholom family shared. It is in these manifold interpersonal relationships between Rabbi and Congregants wherein the special strengths of our Community can be found. Perhaps Rabbi Koch’s strongest skill (among many) was his ability to relate Torah to our daily lives. He believed his responsibility was to teach Jewish tradition in such a way that it offers people the tools and opportunities to fulfill their responsibilities as 21st century American Jews.
From July 2014 through June 2015 Scott Saulson acted as our interim rabbi.
In July 2015 we welcomed Rabbi, Ari Rosenberg who served as our Rabbi until May 2020. In July 2016, Cantor Laura Breznick joined the clergy team as our first Cantor and first female clergy person. In 2020 she stepped up to lead the congregation.
In July 2022 Cantor Breznick moved on to a larger congregation and we welcomed Cantor Guy Bonne to serve the congregation.
View our previous website (2007-2016)