Amherst Media to screen video celebrating Jewish-Christian partnership

  • The 1951 groundbreaking ceremony for Temple Beth Israel in Danielson, Connecticut. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/25/2021 11:04:17 AM

AMHERST — Almost 70 years ago, Jewish survivors of the Holocaust arrived in a small town in Connecticut and tried to rebuild their shattered lives.

And with some help from their Christian neighbors, the newcomers thrived, building a community and a synagogue that today still celebrates that spirit of generosity and hope.

It’s a story that Amherst Media documented a few years ago in the video “A House Built by Hope: A Story of Compassion, Resilience, and Religious Freedom,” a profile of the Jewish community in and around Danielson, Connecticut and the Temple Beth Israel, the synagogue built in the 1950s by Jewish residents with the support of others in the community.

The video will have its Massachusetts debut on Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. on Amherst Comcast Channel 12. The 35-minute film also will be livestreamed at amherstmedia.org and on Amherst Media’s Youtube channel. The film was scheduled to be shown last spring at the Jewish Community of Amherst, but the screening was canceled due to the pandemic.

The documentary examines the losses suffered by each family, many relaying stories of internment in concentration camps; others fought the Nazis as partisans. These 40 Jewish families were aided in their relocation to Danielson, in northeast Connecticut, in part by the Jewish Agricultural Society, which helped the new immigrants obtain farmland for raising chickens and cattle.

The video project was aided by a grant proposal written by Amherst resident Dr. Elsie Fetterman, who is 93 and grew up in Danielson, where her parents opened a hardware store in 1924; they were the only Jewish family in the town at the time.

Fetterman also serves on the board of directors of Temple Beth Israel Preservation Society (TBIPS), an organization in Danielson that maintains the town’s historic synagogue for regular services, a community seder, and as a research center, among other things. It was the preservation society that, through Fetterman’s grant application, received $9,200 about four years ago from the Daughters of the American Revolution and commissioned the Amherst Media video.

The video will be followed by a panel discussion including Hampshire College history professor Jim Wald; Simon Leutz, chairperson of the Social Studies Department at Amherst Pelham Regional High School; and Elsie Fetterman.

In a statement, Amherst Media said that given the struggles immigrant families have endured in the U.S. in recent years, with some family members “torn apart and publicly vilified, it is important to see how a community’s different approach, one of acceptance and assistance, resulted in a lasting collaborative and mutually supportive community.”

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.




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