Congregation Shaare Tikvah, a Conservative Congregation affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, originated in June 1965 through the merger of Congregation B'nai Jacob-Beth Israel and Congregation Aitz Chayim (formerly the Washington Highlands Jewish Center).
Looking back briefly at our predecessor congregations, we note that our beginnings occurred in 1941 with the formation of Congregation B'nai Jacob by Jacob and Sadie Levin and about ten other families in a store front on Naylor Road in Southeast Washington, DC.
Meanwhile, as a result of meetings held in the homes of Alex Halperson and David Weiner, Congregation Beth Israel was organized in 1944 in the River Terrace and Greenway areas of Northeast and Southeast Washington, DC. In 1951, the Congregation erected its own building at 3408 C. St. SE. Eventually, in 1958, the merger of the above two congregations took place, taking the name B'nai Jacob-Beth Israel and meeting at the C Street location.
The Washington Highlands Jewish Center (later to be called Congregation Aitz Chayim) was organized in 1946 by a group of people meeting in the office of Herman Sacks. They were concerned about the lack of a synagogue in the Congress Heights/Washington Highlands areas of Southeast and Southwest Washington, DC and adjoining Maryland suburbs. The Congregation first met in a jewelry store and then in a home before moving into their own synagogue at 141 Xenia St. SW in 1949.
With the movement of Jewish people out of the area, the merger of the two congregations became inevitable. The merger was effected in 1965 through the combined efforts of representatives of each congregation. Led by Gabe Kaye, President of B'nai Jacob-Beth Israel and Abe Hamburg, President of Aitz Chayim.
The combined congregation, which took the name Shaare Tikvah (Gates of Hope), initially met at the Washington, DC Xenia Street Synagogue while the current land site on Old Temple Hills Road, Temple Hills, Maryland was purchased. Plans were developed to build the beautiful structure that housed our congregation for over 35 years. Rabbi David Novak was our first spiritual leader and the lay leadership was staffed by members of the combined organizations. Led by Ernest Greenwald, President and Seymour Mintz and Irving Fisher as First and Second Vice Presidents, respectively.
On October 10, 1965, a Service of Consecration of the ground site at 5404 Old Temple Hills Road, where the synagogue was to be erected, was held. The consecration ceremonies featured an address by Carlton Sickles, Congressman from the State of Maryland.
We moved into the Temple Hills building in September 1967 and our first services were held on September 16. Dedication of our new synagogue took place on October 1, 1967 with Daniel Brewster, U.S. Senator from Maryland, as our main speaker. Joseph Mendelson, President of the Seaboard Region, United Synagogue of America, delivered a special message and members of the Jewish and Christian communities offered brief greetings.
Disaster struck on January 11, 1969, when the rear of the building was destroyed by a bomb that had been placed on the premises causing damages estimated at $200,000. Outrage and support were expressed by both the Jewish and Christian communities. On February 5, 1969, the Maryland Senate adopted a resolution, proposed by then Maryland Senator Steny Hoyer, condemning the bombing and congratulating the congregation on its courage and strength on rebuilding. Fortunately, the sanctuary and lower classrooms had only sustained minimal damage and we were able to hold services and religious school throughout the re-building process.
Disaster struck again during July 1980 when vandals broke into the synagogue and fire bombed the synagogue bima. Luckily, the synagogue alarm system alerted the Prince George's County police who responded within minutes and thus prevented any extensive damage to the synagogue ark and torahs.
In 1999, Shaare Tikvah decided it was time to relocate further south. In August 2002, we moved out of our Temple Hills building and moved in with Nevey Shalom Congregation in Bowie, Maryland. Then in June 2008, we moved into our new home in Waldorf, Maryland.
We've had ten spiritual leaders to guide and teach us since 1965. Rabbi Novak was our first from 1965 to 1968. Upon his departure, the Reverend Robert Chernoff was our spiritual leader until 1971. Rabbi Barry Rosen came to us in that year and remained for six years to be followed by Rabbi Eli Kahn from 1977 until 1980. Rabbi Ralph Dalin came to us in 1980 and remained as our spiritual leader until 1989. Rabbi David Bockman came to us in that year and remained until 1991 when Rabbi Haim Keissar began his tenure. Rabbi Keissar served as our spiritual leader until 1994. In 1996 Rabbi Avigayl Young, a student at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, became our spiritual leader and remained with us until her graduation in June 1999. Rabbi Reuven Resnick, who was ordained by Masorti, the Conservative Movement in Israel, came to us in September 1999 and stayed until June 2005. Rabbi Joshua Ginsberg was with us from September 2005 until June 2006. From June 2006 until June 2008, Congregation Nevey Shalom's rabbi, Philip Pohl, graciously provided our congregants rabbinical services. In fall 2008, we hired Cantor Aaron Marcus to be our spiritual leader for the High Holidays. After that, we hired him to be our spiritual leader for the rest of the year. Cantor Marcus has been an ordained Conservative cantor since 1967.
Our accomplishments are the results of the support of our rabbis, our members, our elected officers, congregation board members and appointed committee members, as well as the support of our affiliated organizations. We are grateful for all who have worked on our behalf and acknowledge those who have been our leaders.
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