Retiring Rabbi to be honored
Rabbi James Prosnit of Fairfield, soon to retire after nearly three decades as spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Israel, the oldest and largest synagogue in the Greater Bridgeport area, will be honored during a special weekend of ceremony and festivities starting with Shabbat services, Friday night, May 31 at 7:30 p.m.
Guest speaker at the event at the temple at 2710 Park Avenue, Bridgeport will be Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), the leadership organization for the Reform Judaism movement in North America comprised of more than 900 congregations in the U.S. and Canada.
Remarks on Rabbi Prosnit and his success as an interfaith community leader, enriching dialogue and quality of life for many in the region, also will be provided by the Rev. Dr. Alida Ward, Pastor of Greenfield Hill Church in Fairfield, by Father Gerald Blaszczek, Vice President of Fairfield University and by Nasif Muhammad, Iman of the Al Aziz Islamic Center in Bridgeport.
In a letter sent to all B’nai Israel congregants early in 2018, Rabbi Prosnit commented:
“I inherited a wonderful, healthy congregation from my predecessor Rabbi Arnold Sher and I am pleased to think that we have successfully built on that legacy to become an exemplary 21st century synagogue community.
“We’ve navigated transitions, transformed a building, shaped a deeply caring community and created new opportunities for spirituality and personal growth. Our vision and mission inspire the highest quality education and social justice engagement, “he wrote.
Subsequent to Rabbi Prosnit announcing his planned retirement Congregation B’nai Israel members moved to elevate Rabbi Evan Schultz of Fairfield, now associate rabbi at B’nai Israel, to the senior rabbi position. He assumes those responsibilities on July 1, 2019.
Shari Nerreau, of Fairfield, president of Congregation B’nai Israel, announced that a gala dinner in Rabbi Prosnit’s honor with “toasts and roasts” will take place at the temple on Saturday June 1.
“Rabbi Prosnit has been steadfastly committed to helping congregants to live meaningful Jewish lives and to working tirelessly with our neighbors of all faiths to make the Greater Bridgeport community a better place,” said Nerreau.
Among numerous community activities, over the years Rabbi Prosnit has served as co-chair of Bridgeport Prospers, Collective Impact Leadership Team organized by the United Way, president of Connecticut Against Gun Violence and chair of Operation Hope, a homeless shelter and social service agency in Fairfield. He was also one of the organizers of Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut (CONECT), a diverse community organizing group comprised of more than twenty - five churches and synagogues from Norwalk to New Haven.
He has also been an adjunct lecturer in the Religious Studies Department at Fairfield University and is a member of the advisory board of the Bennett Center for Judaic Studies at Fairfield University. He will continue in those roles at the university after his retirement plus adding the new position of chaplain for Jewish students on campus.
Rabbi Prosnit received his B.A. from Ohio Wesleyan University and M.A. degrees from New York University (Education) and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (Hebrew Literature) in New York City where he currently serves on the Board of Governors. He was ordained from Hebrew Union College in 1981. Prior to coming to Bridgeport in 1990 he was an Associate Rabbi at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York City and earlier at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto.
Rabbi Prosnit lives in Fairfield with his wife, Wendy Bloch, Administrator of Program and Business Development at the Kennedy Center in Bridgeport. They have three sons, three daughters-in-law and have begun to experience the delights of being grandparents.
Congregation B’nai Israel, founded in 1859, today includes more than 700 member families from Fairfield, Trumbull, Easton, Westport, Stratford, Shelton, Monroe, Bridgeport and surrounding communities.