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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. 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 300 families.

In June of 2011, Ohev Sholom - The National Synagogue celebrated its 125th year of existence.