WEST HAVEN — Congregation Sinai, located in West Haven since 1929, recently sold their 78-year-old building in West Haven, and started construction of their new Milford synagogue space, located on the second floor of an existing commercial building at 55 Old Gate Lane.
Rabbi Dana Bogatz, who grew up in Meriden, and has been serving as rabbi of the Conservative (though not affiliated with United Synagogue) Congregation Sinai for three and a half years, has been proud of her congregations process in making decisions about their future.
Bogatz observes, Our congregation is aging, our building is aging, and West Haven is not a place where young families are moving to. The congregation wrestled with what to do. Im terribly impressed by the fact that the primarily elderly congregation believes it can and should continue to exist-and that changes needed to be made.
The Congregation Sinai building, at 426 Washington Avenue in West Haven, was sold to a church in November 2006. The church allows the synagogue to use two rooms until their proposed mid-June 2007 move to Milford.
Bogatz is confident about the future.
When I came here four years ago, there was not one child in synagogue, there was no Hebrew school, and there hadnt been a bar or bat mitzvah in eight years. Now, we have a Hebrew school and we have at least one bar or bat mitzvah scheduled every year for the next seven or eight years. That means there is a future-the congregation will continue! There are 100 individuals who are members of the congregation.
Bogatz, who recently purchased a house in Milford, notes, Milford is the first town in New Haven County outside of Fairfield County, the town offers the best of old New England and contemporary culture, and Milford has a Jewish population of young, educated families.
Congregation co-president (and incoming president), Becky Goodman-Olshansky, celebrated her bat mitzvah at Congregation Sinai in West Haven, was married there, and has been a life-long member.
Goodman-Olshansky, herself a Milford resident, feels that Milford is a vibrant, up and coming community and she loves the fact that downtown Milford has never been built up and remains quaint. Goodman-Olshanskyobserves that there are a number of young and unaffiliated Jews in the Milford area.
Daniel Krevolin, the other co-president, notes that a number of young families have already expressed interest in the Hebrew school. At a future date, the synagogue will likely become Congregation Sinai of West Haven and Milford, adds Krevolin.
While pleased with the move, Krevolin acknowledges, The thing that really hurts is that we will not have this beautiful sanctuary any more. Visitors have always been impressed with the beautiful, plain and simple sanctuary. But it was larger than we needed. Krevolin notes that the sanctuary had been totally refurbished following an arson fire on May 5, 1989.
Congregation Sinai will be the only year-round synagogue in Milford.
Says Bogatz, While Milford offers the seasonal (Orthodox) Woodmont Synagogue, there has been no year-round synagogue in Milford since the last one closed in 1981.
The board is sensitive to the needs of their elderly congregations who live mainly in West Haven and in the Towers in downtown New Haven. Members often pitch in to assist in transporting fellow congregants to the West Haven building, and will likely do the same after the move to Milford.
The new building is in a very good location-right off the highway, reports Krevolin. We wanted to be near New Haven Avenue so members could come from West Haven without having to go on the highway.