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Our History

Ohev Sholom's history dates back to the founding of one of its predecessor shuls in 1886.  In 1958, the shul moved to Shepherd Park, a vibrant neighborhood that served as a center for Jewish life for many years thereafter - if you know someone Jewish who lived in DC in the 1950s to 1980s, he or she likely has a connection to our shul - but in the late 1980s and 90s, the shul struggled as many Jews left Washington, DC to move to other communities.  All of that changed, however, in 2004 when the shul hired Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld.  Under the leadership of a small, but strong, lay community and Rabbi Herzfeld, the direction of the shul turned around.  In 2004, the shul had its first bris in almost 30 years, and today there are over 250 children in our community.  This extreme growth led to the shul hiring a youth director, and our youth programming includes Shabbat groups for kids of all ages, a summer camp, a weekly learning program, and other events to celebrate the chagim. In 2013, the shul hired Maharat Ruth Friedman, making history as the first synagogue in the United States to hire a Maharat, an Orthodox female spiritual leader who teaches weekly classes, offers pastoral services, and oversees the operation of our mikvah. The Mikvah Chaim Community Mikvah, with separate men's, women's and keylim mikvaot, opened in 2014.

Detailed History

In 1886, during the Administration of Grover Cleveland, a group of devout Russian immigrant Jews who fled the tyrannical rule of Czar Alexander III founded Ohev Sholom Congregation. The first services were held on the second floor over Myer Fisher's clothing store on the 1100 block of Seventh Street, NW, Washington, DC. As Ohev Sholom grew, it moved to a location on Louisiana Avenue and then, on September 9, 1906, moved to a location at 500 I Street, NW, Washington, DC, where it remained for the next fifty years.

The nucleus of Talmud Torah was a group of twenty-eight families in Southwest Washington who conducted a daily minyan. The first group met in Isaac Levy's clothing store, called Levy's Busy Corner, on 4th Street, in the Southwest section of the district. After meeting temporarily in Samuel Kessler's home, the Congregation moved to a permanent site at 467 E Street, SW. Talmud Torah remained in that location for almost 50 years, until the Federal redevelopment program forced the Congregation to leave in the early 1950's.

On July 7, 1958, Ohev Sholom and Talmud Torah merged, creating a congregation of more than six hundred families. The newly built synagogue building on upper Sixteenth Street, NW, Washington, DC, was dedicated on November 27, 1960. In 1986, the combined Ohev Sholom - Talmud Torah Congregation celebrated its one hundredth anniversary. Throughout this period, the Congregation continued to serve the Jewish community with daily minyanim, daf yomi classes, and other syngogue activities.

In the period beginning in the 1980's, due to attrition in the membership caused by demographic and other issues, the Congregation began to decline. It appeared at one point that the survival of Ohev Sholom - Talmud Torah was in jeopardy, and proposals were advanced to sell the Congregation building on Sixteenth Street.

Realizing the potential for the rebirth of Ohev Sholom Talmud Torah and of Shepherd Park as a Jewish neighborhood, a relatively small group of dedicated individuals embarked on a long, intensive, and at times frustrating effort to recruit new families into the neighborhood. Eventually circumstances changed at Ohev Sholom, and nine years later, the efforts of this dedicated group were rewarded. A turning point in the history of Ohev Sholom took place in 2004 when Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld became spiritual leader of the congregation, newly re-named Ohev Sholom - The National Synagogue┬«. A number of other families became affiliated with the synagogue, and the synagogue membership has continued to grow ever since, with a current membership of over 350 families.

In June of 2019, Ohev Sholom - The National Synagogue┬« celebrated its 133rd year of existence.


Thu, March 23 2023 1 Nisan 5783