An amazing event occurred on June 7, 2020, when 35 descendant members and friends of The New England Hebrew Farmers of the Emanuel Society (NEHFES) of Chesterfield, Connecticut, met online for their first ever Virtual Annual Meeting. According to NEHFES President, Nancy R. Savin, “An inadvertent blessing of this tragic pandemic was that COVID-19 restrictions were a mihaiyeh for the organization. Normally, our annual meeting attracts only 10 – 15 attendees from Connecticut and New York.”
Savin, the great-great granddaughter of Hirsch Kaplan, the unordained Ukrainian rabbi who led a small chavurah of Russian Jewish immigrants from Williamsburg, New York, to Chesterfield in 1890, said it was great that current NEHFES descendants–who now live in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Toronto and Hawaii–were able to “see” each other and act to preserve and perpetuate their common family history.
Guest speaker Kelley Berliner, Northeastern Regional Director of TAC, The Archaeological Conservancy of America, discussed “TAC’s American Archaeological Holdings and the NEHFES Site in Chesterfield.” Next year, during American Jewish Heritage Month in May, NEHFES intends to gift the Chesterfield synagogue land to TAC in order to preserve and protect the site in perpetuity. It might be the first Jewish Archaeological preserve in North America.
Times were hard for the early Eastern European Jewish immigrant families, but their devotion to family, ethics and a better life certainly paved the way for the successful lives of their descendants. Today, proud to have almost 50 descendant members, many of whom excel in the fields of academia, business, education, medicine, law and more, NEHFES is always looking for more descendants to help preserve, protect and pass down its legacy–a small but precious chapter of American Jewish History.
For additional information about NEHFES and our history, please explore our website. Feel free to contact us, particularly if you have a family connection to the Chesterfield-Salem-Oakdale Jewish community and would like to join the NEHFES.