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Rabbi James Prosnit

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jimRabbi James Prosnit has been Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Israel in Bridgeport, Connecticut, since 1990.  Prior to this, Rabbi Prosnit served as Associate Rabbi at both Congregation Rodeph Sholom, New York City, and Holy Blossom Temple, Toronto, Ontario. 

He 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).  He was ordained from HUC-JIR in New York in 1981 and received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity in 2006.

Since 1990 he has also been an adjunct lecturer in the Religious Studies Department at Fairfield University. 

Rabbi Prosnit is involved in the rabbinic residency mentoring program for rabbinic students at HUC-JIR and has served as a mentor for the Ignatian Residential College at Fairfield University.
Among numerous community activities, Rabbi Prosnit is Past-President of Connecticut Against Gun Violence and serves as vice-chair of Operation Hope, a homeless shelter and social service agency in the Town of Fairfield.  He serves on the Inter-religious Affairs Commission and the Commission for Lifelong Learning for the Union for Reform Judaism.

Rabbi Prosnit lives in Fairfield, Connecticut, with his wife and three sons. 

Kislev/Tevet 5775
From The
Rabbi's Desk
December 2014
A Surprise Gift,
a Noble/Nabel Legacy


I didn’t know Florence Nabel until shortly before she died. I have a hunch that very few of you knew her either. She was shy and introverted and as lovely as they come. She never married and lived with her disabled brother until his death a couple of years ago. I met her at that time and made it a point to stay in touch. She came to the temple only on occasion.

When I received word that Florence had died, I was quite concerned that there would be hardly anyone at her graveside funeral. To this day the saddest funeral I have ever officiated at took place many years ago when I was a young rabbi in Canada. The only two people present were me and the man’s executor. I resolved at that point never to allow that to happen again, so I asked some of our Temple leaders to come even though they didn’t know her.

Imagine my relief upon arriving at the cemetery to find an unexpectedly large number of people who over the years had been touched by Florence’s life: A neighbor, the man who cut her grass, her plumber, her hairdresser, a distant cousin. She was a wonderful baker, who made a living making lemon meringue pies and other goodies for some of the local restaurants. Some of the restaurant owners and managers attended, too. Each one wanted to be present and share a reflection because this unassuming, sweet woman touched their lives in a very genuine way – as she had touched mine.

Sometimes we just never know how we’ll make our mark or what our impact or legacy will be.

Weeks passed and one day our synagogue president, Sam Rosenberg, came to me saying that Florence included the temple in her will. I was surprised because Florence was an infrequent visitor to the synagogue and I wondered if I had somehow misjudged the depth of her connection to us. She touched so many people in her life and maybe we had touched her in ways I had not realized. The dollar amount was not large, but simply including us showed the synagogue’s importance to Florence and how she wanted us to be a part of her legacy. Sam and I agreed that the most fitting place for her bequest was our Endowment Fund, so future generations could benefit from her generosity.

sdacOur congregation is remarkably generous with their time, effort and, yes, money. But I do believe one place we’ve fallen short and missed the mark is encouraging people to contribute to our Endowment Fund. It is the one place where we can pass on a legacy to the generations which follow us, ensuring the longer-term financial stability of the congregation. I do believe we touch so many people in so many different ways and yet we are often preoccupied with today that we don’t think about tomorrow. Florence’s contribution surprised me, and helped me realize that perhaps others would also be grateful to make the synagogue part of their legacy if we only asked. So, going forward, Sam, Rabbi Sher, Cantor Blum and I are starting an endowment campaign, speaking with congregants about a donation now or in the future towards a critical foundation of our community. Florence Nabel touched me and her generosity will touch others for years to come. I hope many of us will consider joining her.  



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