Temple Emanuel’s Rich Legacy

Temple Emanuel was founded during the Great Depression, a time of despair and doubt, a period in which many in our nation, as well as the world, felt that there was nothing to hope for. It was in that time of bleakness, in September of 1935, that a small group of men and women came together to create an institution which was, for them, the symbol of hope and faith in the future.

Many of our founding parents were recent refuges from the Pale – for them the founding of the synagogue was an expression of freedom never before experienced. This small group from Boston neighborhoods, nearby urban communities, from even greater distances, founded Temple Emanuel in temporary quarters on Commonwealth Avenue. The new synagogue offered its religious leadership to Rabbi Leo Shubow only five days later, and quickly organized a Sisterhood and Brotherhood as necessary adjuncts.

One year later the shul, still temporarily housed on Commonwealth Avenue, could claim 160 students enrolled in the rapidly expanding Hebrew and Sunday schools. The congregation in 1937 would be fortunate to acquire Gabriel Hochberg as Cantor, Teacher and Principal of the Hebrew School. He was named Cantor Emeritus in 1976 after 39 years of continual and dedicated service. His tenure is rivaled only by that of Lewis Lourie, engaged as Temple Sexton in 1947, and who retired to live in Israel in 1981.

Only Two Years After its Formation

In September 1937, the congregation proudly celebrated the High Holy Days in its new home on Ward Street. This was the beginning…

The following years that followed were active and busy years for the shul and its expanding membership. A new religious leader, Rabbi Samuel N. Sherman was welcome and then in 1950, Rabbi Albert I. Gordon, a dynamic figure in Conservative Judaism assumed the Temple Emanuel pulpit. The Congregation welcomed him with plans to erect a half-million dollar school building.

The Growing Years

What followed were growth years.  Temple Emanuel was proud to be the religious home and spiritual center for Jewish families, highlighted by the dedication of the chapel, modern school building, community hall and a birth of a high school for children who sought to explore more deeply their history. In 1968 after 18 years of distinguished leadership was elected Rabbi Emeritus. In Rabbi Chiel’s years as our spiritual leader, he led Temple Emanuel to the position of one of the leading Conservative congregations in the country. He heightened the synagogue’s spirit of creativity and innovation, developing many exciting and meaningful new programs and activities. The Israel concerns committee, the annual Kallah, the Havurot, the Hebrew literacy program, the adult bar/bat mitzvah program, the annual Holocaust Memorial Service, the contemporary Rosh Hashanah service, the stars of David social club and our social action committee were just a few of his marks left on the community.

Time Flies

It doesn’t seem possible that time has passed so quickly since the formation of Temple Emanuel in 1935. Nations have been born while others diminished or disappeared. The surviving young, energetic men and women of 1935 who together dreamed and built Temple Emanuel are now the elders of the community, members of well-known families still active in Newton’s first Conservative Synagogue. Their efforts, supported by the newer Jewish settlers of Newton in the intervening and exciting years through the present time, have thrust Temple Emanuel and its religious, humanitarian and social values into the forefront of American Judaism.

Out of those early days of despair, out of hopes of a few, has grown a vibrant Congregation, serving the spiritual and social needs of thousands of families. We, the thousands, acknowledge the hope and commitment of the founding few.

History influences the future. Temple Emanuel’s history is legendary in its growth, membership, outstanding education of its children, and its spiritual leadership of the Newton community.

We welcome you to view additional photos in our Archives at Temple Emanuel.