Through The Decades: A Brief History of Temple Israel
(Adopted from the synagogue history prepared for Temple Israel's 70th Anniversary Celebration
In the 1920s, a small group of Jewish families (some summer residents, others year-round) worshipped at a small synagogue on Harding Street — the only place for Jews to worship in Sharon at that time. One group of families started meeting at a small building in the rear of the Rosenstein Mansion House, a hotel, on Pond Street. These were the humble beginnings of what is now Temple Israel. In 1925, the women of this small group formed the Sharon Hebrew Ladies Aid, Inc., which is now the Sisterhood of Temple Israel, to help those in need.
In 1936, the Jewish Community Centre of Sharon was established with 32 members. For over a decade, meetings were held in homes, services were held in a small building in the rear of the Mansion House, and religious education was held in a variety of rooms around town.
It was only in 1949 that the congregation built its first building, on land given by Benjamin Rosenstein. The building included a sanctuary (used by the congregation until 1995), a meeting room, and a rabbi's office. In 1954, ground was broken for the Hebrew School.
The late 1950s was a time of great growth in the Sharon Jewish community. Soon, Temple Israel's thriving membership outgrew its facilities. In the 1960s, the synagogue building was significantly enlarged and now included a social hall and fellowship hall, as well as additional religious school classrooms and youth facilities. Rabbi Shamai Kanter led the congregation for most of this era.
In 1971, the first steps were taken in discuss a woman's place on the bimah, an extended conversation that led to making Temple Israel an egalitarian congregation with women taking their place as shlichot tzibbur (prayer leaders) in 1987.
In 1976, Rabbi Kanter departed and Rabbi Barry Rosen arrived to serve the congregation for the next decade, followed by Rabbi Barry Starr, who served the congregation from 1986 until his departure in 2014. Following the retirement of Harold Lew, our Cantor Emeritus, Steven Dress became our Cantor in 1991 and served our congregation until the summer of 2017, when he also assumed the title of Cantor Emeritus.
The Temple Israel facility that we enjoy today was dedicated in 1995 after an extended period of planning fundraising, and hard work by many in the congregation. We continue to enjoy the fruits of this effort, among them the new sanctuary, an updated Berger Hall, and new classrooms.
Over the last twenty years, Temple Israel has continued to grow and flourish, and today is a lively and innovative congregation. With 600+ families, Temple Israel is the largest Conservative synagogue in the South Area of Boston, offering a diversity of programs and nurturing spiritual, educational, social, and cultural growth in its active membership. Temple Israel is known for its unique membership structure and the numerous award-winning programs developed by the Sisterhood, Men's Club, Hazak, and USY. Learning is a lifelong endeavor at Temple Israel, with Hertz Nursery School, our Framework for Excellence Religious School, and extensive adult and family educational initiatives providing numerous opportunities for Jewish learning and enrichment.
Temple Israel is pleased to have welcomed Rabbi Ron Fish as its new senior rabbi, starting July 2015. The community celebrated his installation on December 6, 2015: