Former Trumbull residents named 'Couple of the Year'

For Europeans, the name “Liechtenstein” conjures images of the bucolic, landlocked country tucked between Switzerland and Austria, known for its winter sports and its status as a tax haven.  In the Fairfield community, however, the name “Lichtenstein” is far more likely to bring to mind a pair of local residents who have distinguished themselves as dedicated and generous volunteers.

On Saturday evening, April 6, Susan and Joel Lichtenstein, formerly of Trumbull, will be honored as Congregation Beth El's 2012 Couple of the Year. The husband and wife team will be feted for their myriad contributions and decades of service.

“We have been incredibly fortunate to have Susan and Joel as members of Beth El for the past 27 years,” said Steven N. Robifker, President of Beth El. “Their longstanding service to the synagogue and to the greater Bridgeport community is inspirational.  They have generously supported many of our fundraising initiatives.  Joel is a stalwart attendee of study sessions at Beth El, while Susan remains a busy grandmother of nine, keeping a traditional house that, in the spirit of her own mother, welcomes all with warmth, generosity… and chicken soup.”

Joel was raised in the Bronx in the shadows of Yankee Stadium. Susan grew up on farmlands in southern New Jersey. They met at college in Boston and began a lifelong journey together.

They moved to the area in 1969 and quickly became immersed in the local Jewish community. They immediately joined the Bridgeport Jewish Community Center, were involved with the Young Leadership movement and, increasingly, active within the Jewish Federation of Greater Bridgeport. Joel chaired Super Sunday fundraisers and eventually served a term as President of the Jewish Federation.  Currently, Joel serves on various committees at Beth El and is co-president of its Men's Club.

Their massive, impromptu Independence Day block party in 1976 in celebration of the successful raid on Entebbe was emblematic of the community's Jewish spirit in that era. In the 1980s Susan and Joel marched for the release of Soviet Jews and, as the pressure began to pay dividends, Susan took a central role in the resettlement of families that reached Connecticut.

An attorney by profession, Joel has devoted his entire legal career to handling medical malpractice cases.  He has worked at the Bridgeport-based law firm of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder for 39 years, leading the firm's medical malpractice investigation team. To date, he has reviewed more than 25,000 medical malpractice files.

“I am still a newcomer to this country,” said Rabbi Marcelo Kormis, who left his native Santiago, Chile, and became Beth El's spiritual leader last August.  “But no matter where you live, there are certain people who stand out for their warmth and leadership.  It is very apparent to me that choosing Susan and Joel as Couple of the Year was a wise decision.  They are devoted to our synagogue and are well loved by their many friends for the good works they have done and continue to do.”

The Couple of the Year gala celebration will include a formal dinner, live music and dancing.  All proceeds from the evening will benefit synagogue programs, events and services to the community.

For more information on Couple of the Year or other Beth El events, please contact Susan Mittag at Congregation Beth El: (203) 374-5544.  Congregation Beth El is located at 1200 Fairfield Woods Road, Fairfield, CT., 06825.