Sign In Forgot Password

History of the UJC

In its more than 90 years of existence, The United Jewish Center (UJC) has served the Greater Danbury area as a unique liberal congregation with an eye toward tradition, serving the spiritual, social, educational, and religious needs of the area's Jewish community.

In 1926, a charter group of 31 members signed the original roster and began worshipping in the West Street home of Henry Dick, who became the first president of the newly-formed UJC. The UJC had been launched in spite of the limited surroundings with no provisions for a religious or Hebrew school. After adding a brick sanctuary to the home on West Street, congregants continued to worship at that location for 28 years.

In 1935, Jerome Malino assumed rabbinical leadership of the congregation, which continued to flourish spiritually and culturally. In 1941, Martin Haspel became the second president of the UJC. During his tenure, the mortgage on the West Street building was paid off and burned. By the late 1940s, it became apparent that the congregation, which numbered 150 families, needed a new, larger building.

In 1947, under the leadership of president Leroy Paltrowitz, a committee met to plan a course of action and acquired our current site on Deer Hill Avenue. It was decided that a new building could be built without a mortgage. Funds were pledged and collected; and on November 16, 1953, ground was broken on Deer Hill Avenue for the new synagogue. In 1961, the new United Jewish Center Cemetery in Brookfield was acquired to succeed the nearly full Miry Brook Cemetery, providing space for 10,000 graves on thirty acres of beautiful land; and in 1964 a new wing housing the Dick Chapel was constructed, funded entirely by donations. This wing provided an air-conditioned, 125-seat chapel, three classrooms, the Education Director's office and the Sisterhood Judaica shop.

The UJC membership voted to affiliate with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) in 1975. In 1977, Rabbi Robert Levine was retained as Religious School Principal and Assistant Rabbi, and quickly impressed the congregation as a committed, caring, and intelligent leader.

In 1981, after 45 years of devoted service, Rabbi Malino retired and was named Rabbi Emeritus. Since then, the UJC has been guided by many remarkable rabbis: Rabbi Robert Levine, Rabbi Paul Golumb, Rabbi Brad Boxman, Rabbi Clifford E. Librach. and Rabbi Stefan Tiwy.

Our distinguished cantors included Cantor Sam Radwine,  Cantor Alan Leider (a student cantor at the time), Cantor Donald Roberts (z"l), and Cantor Thom King. Cantor Penny Kessler was called to our pulpit in July 1995 and has served the UJC since that time. In 2020, Cantor Kessler assumed the role of Senior Clergy.

The UJC continues to thrive, and after nearly ten decades, we are growing again. This year we have instituted a policy of a free school and graduated membership fees. We provide pre-school through Confirmation classes for children and continuing education for adults. Our adult education offerings include Introduction to Judaism and Beginning Hebrew and adult b'nai mitzvah classes, and many opportunities for lifelong learning experiences. We are committed to social action and work with the Association of Religious Communities (ARC) to aid the greater Danbury community.

We are proud to stand as a vibrant, warm, and approachable place to practice Judaism for all of us and for the generations that follow.

Wed, June 19 2024 13 Sivan 5784