Temple Sholom celebrates 150 years

Five buildings, seven rabbis, and 150 years later, Temple Sholom is still thriving.  

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Congregants celebrate at Temple Sholom’s 100th anniversary gala in 1968.

In 1867, Jewish life in Chicago existed solely south of the river. That year, a group of Orthodox German immigrants came together to form North Chicago Hebrew Congregation. 

Three years later, the synagogue, located on Wells and Superior Streets, changed denominations and embraced the Reform movement.  

Five buildings, seven rabbis, and 150 years later, that community is still thriving at Temple Sholom in Lakeview.  

The community's sense of resilience has contributed to the congregation's continuity, according to Senior Rabbi Edwin Goldberg. 

"Just four years in was the Chicago Fire, when the building burned down, the city burned down, and the rabbi left because there was no money to pay him," Goldberg said. "But they rebuilt and got the rabbi back and moved through five different buildings. A building is just a building-it's the people that makes a community." 

Temple Sholom's current building, located at 3480 N. Lake Shore Drive, was dedicated in April 1930. Since then, the temple has hosted several notable figures at Temple Sholom, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, and Elie Wiesel.  

Over the last 150 years, the temple has stayed relevant by changing with the times, according to Goldberg.  

"We see ourselves as a place for the marriage of tradition and modernity," Goldberg said. "The Temple Sholom of today is a lot different than the Temple Sholom of 100 years ago, and I'm guessing it's going to look a lot different 100 years from now. Certainly, if a Reform Jewish person from 100 years ago came to Temple Sholom today, they'd say, 'Oh my God, you've become Orthodox. The rabbi wears a kippah (yarmulke). Your services are on Saturday, not Sunday.' We always try to be relevant with the times but there is more of an embrace of the tradition, and we are certainly reflective of that." 

Rather than confining the celebration to one event, Temple Sholom's anniversary committee-led by Roger and Teri Rudich and Beth and David Inlander-chose to mark its anniversary through multiple events engaging all members of their community for a year.  

One major event the temple hosted was a panel discussion on restorative justice, featuring Tom Dart, the Cook County Sheriff, and Kim Foxx, Cook County's State Attorney, as well as leadership from organizations working for justice in Chicago and nationally.  

"Social action has been a hallmark of Temple Sholom for many years," David said. "That was important to a number of people in the congregation that we focus activities on social justice." 

Temple Sholom also held events to engage people from outside their congregation. Last fall, the temple hosted an open house through the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and author and journalist Thomas L. Friedman spoke at a community-wide event last winter.  

A permanent timeline was installed at the synagogue to commemorate the community's rich history, chronicling everything from the late musician Debbie Friedman's visit to the synagogue's first bat mitzvah. 

The highlight of the yearlong series of events was the 150th Anniversary Weekend Celebration last spring, featuring a Reunion Shabbat and the Lamplighter's Ball.  

"There's so much to celebrate," Teri said. "We felt the significance of our congregation being a significant, relevant force in this city. We have a nice, tight, dedicated community here, and we wanted them to feel the importance of this anniversary."  

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