Be a Part of Nearly 150 Years of History

Temple Sholom, founded in 1867, is one of Chicago’s oldest synagogues.

Temple Sholom is a place of great historical significance in the Reform Movement and a dynamic, modern approach to Judaism. Our large and welcoming congregation is the perfect place to find your niche.

In 1867, a brave group of North Chicago Reform Jews met to discuss the necessity of founding a synagogue, school, and home-base for the Jewish community of North Chicago. There were several Jewish institutions in the city, but they were all to the South of the city. This meant that if North Chicago Jews wanted to send their children to receive a Jewish education, they would have to travel far and cross bridges. This posed the possibility of peril, for this was well before the widespread use of cars and before bridges were all safe and sound.

Two years after the end of the Civil War, they leased what was to become the site of the first Temple, at the corner of Wells and Superior Streets. This location fell victim to the famous Great Fire of 1871. Over a decade later, the community that was to become Temple Sholom bought their second House of Worship on Rush and Walton Place. At this location, there was only enough room for a Sanctuary and a Religious School classroom, both of which were put to great use. This is a profound demonstration of Temple Sholom’s deep roots in commitment to Jewish education for anybody who should desire to pursue it.

Over the next 45 years, the temple went through three more building changes–which shows something of the volatility of Jewish life at the change of the 19th and 20th centuries. Enrollment fluctuated between 400 and 600, with the religious school always larger than the community that prayed regularly. In the late 1930s, the Temple finally secured the rights to the beautiful lakeside plot upon which it now resides.

It was at this location that Temple Sholom truly began to flourish and demonstrate its commitment to equity, education, and social justice. No matter the board members or the head clergy, the organization remained a safe haven for disenfranchised people of all faiths, creeds, and colors. During the mid 20th century, the Temple began seeing a distinct rise in enrollment, and several community groups developed, including youth groups, young couples’ groups, a sisterhood, and a society of professional working women–a rarity at any religious institution of that day.

There was also a great spiritual growth. Temple Sholom worked closely with several churches and other religious groups, fighting for the freedoms of people of color, and famously providing a platform for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to speak to the Chicago and the world on October 21st, 1964. This event, unsurprisingly, packed the Sholom Sanctuary with members and non-members, Jews and non-Jews alike. Admission cost $1.

We are now living out the past, present, and future of Temple Sholom. We continue to be a beacon of light for those lost in darkness. We continue to provide a meaningful Jewish education to those who desire. We continue to live out our legacy of egalitarian, inclusive, loving faith. We continue to be a safe haven for those in need of safety. Everyone who wants to be part of this ongoing Jewish experience and experiment is more than welcome. Temple Sholom can only continue to grow.

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