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A New World. A New City. A New Synagogue. 

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

Temple Sholom is a place of great historical significance with a dynamic, modern approach to Judaism. Our large and embracing congregation is the perfect place to find your place within the Reform Jewish experience.  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. Two years after the end of the Civil War, Temple Sholom 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 1920s, the Temple finally secured the rights to the beautiful lakeside plot upon which it now resides at 3480 North Lakeshore Drive.

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. Truly pioneering!

More Than Meets the Eye

Long recognized as one of the most beautiful synagogues in the world, our physical structure only tells half the story. Equally rewarding is our rich history when it comes to Social Justice, one that goes back to the congregation’s belief in embracing all types of people. Eleanor Roosevelt visited the temple in 1937 and on October 21st, 1964, 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 Chicago and the world. This event, unsurprisingly, packed the Sholom Sanctuary with members and non-members, Jews and non-Jews alike. Admission cost $1.

Since then, we’ve hosted Cardinals and Imams, politicians of all stripes, and leaders of Reform Judaism to address our congregation.

Our recent work in the arena of Social Justice was recognized in 2017, when we were awarded the Irving B. Fain Award by the Religious Action Center for our program, “Create Change Together;” an effort to promote racial and economic equality in Chicago. 

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. We welcome everyone who wants to be part of this ongoing Jewish experience and experiment. Driven by our commitment to be a sacred community that embraces, inspires and matters, we can only continue to move forward and grow!

Thu, May 30 2024 22 Iyar 5784