Reflections on Woodmont After The Fire
Dr. Peter Aaronson: Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2012 12:30 PM
My Grandfather, Harry Aaronson, came to this country as an infant in 1882 from Poland with his parents Harris and Pauline Aaronson. My Grandmother, Sadie Hartenstein was born in New Haven in 1886. After getting married they lived in New Haven but summered in Woodmont. In 1912 my grandfather opened a pawn shop and jewelry store on Congress Avenue in New Haven diagonally across from the start of Legion Avenue. Legion Avenue was the heart of shopping for Jews in the Hill section and Kensington Square area of New Haven. My father Larry Aaronson was born in 1912 and my Mother Ruth Finklestein Aaronson was born in 1913 to Bernard and Lena Finklestein who were in the scrap metal business in New Haven. Although my paternal grandparents eventually separated they spent their married summers in Woodmont and continued to do so thereafter. After separating my grandfather lived in a house on the corner of Hawley Avenue and Village Road (in those days called Cherry Street) and my grandmother purchased a store front home in the little Center of Woodmont on Village Road. On the ground floor she opened a general store and sold everything from women’s dresses to Toys and home goods. I especially liked going into the store and many times walking out with a toy she had given to me. She lived with her sister Hilda Hartenstein on the second floor which housed an old coal stove which heated the area and an ice block refrigerator. In the 1926 my grandfather was one of the founding members of the Hebrew Woodmont Synagogue. My grandfather and other members of our family belonged to Bnai Jacob on George Street in New Haven and attended services there in the fall, winter and spring. However, it was impossible for them to travel back to Bnai Jacob during the summer while living in Woodmont. Having no place to worship he was influential in organizing and founding the Woodmont Synagogue. My father Larry Aaronson purchased a home at 7 chapel Street in 1946 and over the years made improvements to it to eventually make it a year round house. My brothers Dr. Arthur Aaronson and Dr. Robert Aaronson and spent all our summers at the house on Chapel Street and spent our time swimming at the Anchor and Horse Shoe Beach, climbing on tank rock, fishing, and boating. Other members of our extended family including my aunts and Uncles, Archie and Pauline Thalberg, Joe and Adele Aaronson, and Eli and Ann Lettes summered in Woodmont. All my cousins were there as well as friends from New Haven and new friends from as far as West Hartford and Middletown. They were wonderful and memorable times spent with family and friends. What was always special to me was the little seasonal synagogue my grandfather played such a big part in organizing. I heard today, October 16, 2012 that the synagogue caught fire. I have heard that thankfully the Torahs and other special scripts and documents were saved. This afternoon I took a ride out and all the memories of my youth returned and I was saddened as I viewed the little synagogue. I also felt somewhat guilty that it took a tragic incident to bring me back to a place I had not visited for about 40 years. I hope that the building can be restored and this very special historic place can serve as a place of worship for the Jewish people once again.
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