Renovating History, Building the Future: Charter Oak Cultural Center


Charter Oak Cultural Center (Charter Oak), located in Hartford, Connecticut, carries out its social justice mission by offering access to the arts to everyone.  Recently, Charter Oak needed legal guidance to navigate the intricacies of a grant in the amount of $450,000 from the State of Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development. With this grant, Charter Oak would be able to renovate its historic building, the first synagogue built in Connecticut, in 1876, to make it safer and more accessible through mechanical and ADA improvements.

Rich Wasserman, partner and chair of the Institutional Finance and Commercial Lending practice group at Day Pitney LLP, and Tekhara Kimber, associate in the Corporate and Business Law department, lent their skills to the complex project, from reviewing the grant proposal to negotiating and bringing the financial assistance agreement to signing.

The renovation of the structure will help transform the community. Charter Oak provides 1300 underserved Hartford children in grades K-12 with free, sophisticated classes in the arts (including music lessons, drawing, rap/poetry, and dance classes). The organization also offers three programs for the homeless community that provide educational and employment opportunities— and presents professional performances and exhibits that celebrate Hartford’s cultural diversity. No one is turned away from these events for lack of funds.

“The implications of this project are immense, explains Rabbi Donna Berman, Charter Oak’s executive director. “It will enhance many people’s lives — the children and families we serve, the homeless community, the Jewish community, the arts community, the City, the State — and we are grateful to the Pro Bono Partnership and to Rich and Tekhara for walking with us.”

Rich summed up his pro bono experience: “I like my regular work – but projects like this are much more heartwarming. And excellent experience for Tekhara (and me, too).”

Charter Oak was Tekhara’s first matter with the Partnership.  She said, “I am grateful to the Partnership for giving me the opportunity to work with such an inspiring group for a truly important cause.  Thank you!”