Our Story

"Be as the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace."

—  Pirkei Avot 1:12

Temple Ohabei Shalom, “Lovers of Peace,” has been at the center of New England Judaism since our founding in 1842 as the first congregation in Massachusetts. As an affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism, we encourage people from all paths of Judaism to be a part of our community. Our members are comprised of Jews by birth, by choice, interfaith families, and a diverse range of ethnicities, nationalities, and sexual orientation.  We worship as one sharing spiritual Shabbat services infused with rich music, comforting daily worship, and inspiring holiday observance. We offer a myriad of adult learning opportunities to challenge your mind. Special guest speakers sprinkle Friday night services. From meditation gatherings to social action Mitzvah Days, we are a community committed to learning and growing both spiritually and in deed.

Formal education for our future generations is a priority. The Trust Center for Early Education and Ansin Religious School serve children ages 18 months to 18 years. Instruction is infused with fun-filled and formative experiences, especially during that precious moment in time, becoming Bat or Bar Mitzvah. Our students look forward to the annual “shul-in” – synagogue sleepover – considering this long standing tradition the event of the year. Be a part of the rich tapestry of a Jewish life. Make your history happen here!


Our history begins with a few families who began meeting at the home of Peter and Julius Spitz on Fort Hill in the early 1840’s.


As a primary obligation of a Jewish community is to provide a burial ground, the fledgling Ohabei Shalom congregation purchased a parcel of land in East Boston creating a cemetery, officially establishing Ohabei Shalom as a religious institution.


On March 22, 1845, the forty member congregation obtained a charter of incorporation from the Commonwealth. Among early meeting places were a room in Rabbi Saling’s house on Carver Street in Boston and a rented house on Albany Street.


The congregation, having grown to eighty families, erected its first building on Warren Street (now Warrenton Street) in Boston’s South End, the first synagogue built in Massachusetts, consecrated in 1852. “Worthy fellow citizens of every Religious Denomination” and the “Israelites of the United States” responded to an appeal for donations.


Welcomed Polish Jewish immigrants


For the first time, women were permitted to sit with their relatives in newly installed family pews.


Ohabei Shalom’s home was located downtown in what now is the Charles Playhouse.


The congregation moved to larger quarters on Union Park Street in the heart of the South End. The Union Park structure is now home to St. John the Baptist Hellenic Greek Orthodox Church.


The year the land for our current home was purchased.


The Byzantine-Romanesque edifice and its magnificent sanctuary was completed.  Modeled on themes from Hagia Sophia and the Great Synagogue of Florence, Italy, it was designed by Boston architects, Blackall, Clapp and Whittemore.


Opened our doors to members of the First Presbyterian Church following the burning of their structure.


At its annual meeting in 1988, a vote was taken to install Rabbi Emily Gopen Lipof as senior rabbi, the first senior woman rabbi of a major urban synagogue in the United States.


Expanded our educational and programmatic outreach with the creation of the Ansin Religious School.


Performed the first same sex Jewish ceremony in Massachusetts.


The synagogue expanded yet again, erecting the Diane K. Trust Center for Early Education Building, a pre-school serving children from 15 months to age 5, fulfilling our commitment to lifelong learning.


Served as an emergency shelter for scores of marathoners impacted by the Boston Marathon Bombing.

2020 to Present

Keeping our doors open throughout the COVID pandemic to meet the spiritual, educational and programmatic needs of our community.


We are celebrating our 180th anniversary this year as the oldest congregation in Massachusetts. We continue to inspire connection, growth and friendship with those in our neighborhood, town, and greater community.