Ohev Sholom – The National Synagogue’s roots are traced back to a merger in 1958 between Ohev Sholom and Talmud Torah. In 1886, during the Administration of former President 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. In 1958, Ohev Sholom and Talmud Torah merged, creating a congregation of more than six hundred families. The congregation built a new synagogue at the current location on upper Sixteenth Street, NW, which was dedicated on November 27, 1960.
Today, Ohev Sholom – The National Synagogue is an Orthodox congregation that is vibrant and deeply committed to traditional Judaism. It has approximately 350 family members and seeks to adhere to the teachings of the Torah in service of God. Members span all ages, professions, and a wide variety of backgrounds. Their congregation is led by Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld and Maharat Ruth Friedman. Both the leadership and congregation have been made history with Rabbi Herzfeld being the first rabbi to write the Torah in the United States; leading a Torah Parade through the Shepherd Park neighborhood in celebration of the dedication of the aforementioned Torah; and Ohev Sholom being the first synagogue in the United States to hire a Maharat, an Orthodox female spiritual leader who teaches weekly classes, offers pastoral services and oversees the operation of their mikvah. Ohev Sholom welcomes singles and families, young and old, and they take extra effort to make Judaism special for children and teenagers. A detailed history of Ohev Sholom can be found on the synagogue’s website.