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Our History and Historic Sanctuary

A magnificent flying Star Of David crowns the domed ceiling at Temple Ohabei Shalom. (Photo by David Leifer)

Congregation Ohabei Shalom (Lovers of Peace) was founded in 1842, the longest enduring Jewish congregation in Massachusetts and the second in New England after Touro Synagogue located in Newport, Rhode Island. Housed on Beacon Street over the Boston border into Brookline, we are located at the Kent Street Green Line Stop serving Brookline, Newton and the Boston communities of Back Bay, Fenway, Longwood Medical Area and Mission Hill, the South End, Allston Brighton and Jamaica Plain. A highly visible landmark, we are within walking distance to Coolidge Corner, Fenway Park, six universities and colleges, Longwood Medical hospitals including Beth Israel Hospital and Harvard Medical School and the Museum of Fine Arts.

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, in 1844 the fledgling Ohabei Shalom congregation purchased a parcel of land in East Boston creating a cemetery, officially establishing Ohabei Shalom as a religious institution.  In the following year, 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. By 1851, 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. In 1875, for the first time, women were permitted to sit with their relatives in newly installed family pews. Ohabei Shalom's home from 1863 to 1886 is now the Charles Playhouse.

In 1887 the congregation moved to still 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 land for our home was purchased in 1921. The Byzantine-Romanesque edifice and its magnificent sanctuary was completed in 1928.  Modeled on themes from Hagia Sophia and the Great Synagogue of Florence, Italy, it was designed by Boston architects, Blackall, Clapp and Whittemore.

The extensive footprint includes large and small banquet halls with full catering kitchens, an Administrative Office Building, the Ansin Religious School Building housing Montague Chapel (300 person capacity), The Ansin Religous School, several conference rooms, two libraries and an exhibition gallery. 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. In 2009, the synagogue expanded yet again, erecting the Diane K. Trust Center for Early Education Building, a pre-school serving children from 21 months to  age 5. 

For more information about Temple Ohabei Shalom including function facilities rental, or to arrange a guided tour, please contact our office at (617) 277-6610 during regular business hours.

Thu, December 8 2022 14 Kislev 5783