Since our founding in 1845, Shaaray Tefila has been responding to
the continued growth and diversity of the Jewish community of New York
Shaaray Tefila's journey from strict Orthodoxy to Reform Judaism is
the most striking of the major changes in our history. The shift took
place slowly. Samuel Isaacs, one of only two English-speaking Rabbis in
the United States at the time of our founding, and a firm adherent of
Orthodox Judaism, served as the first Rabbi of the congregation. In
1879, after much deliberation, the congregation voted to shorten and
simplify the worship service and to include more English. Shortly
thereafter, women and men were permitted to sit together, and organ
music and a mixed choir were introduced. Shaaray Tefila formally joined
the American Reform movement (the Union of American Hebrew
Congregations, or UAHC, now the URJ) in 1921.
location has mirrored the northward migration of New York’s Jewish
community. Originally located on Wooster Street, the congregation has
relocated its Temple building several times. Before 1958, when the
congregation moved to its current Upper East Side home at 79th Street
and 2nd Avenue, it had also been located on West 44th Street and then
on West 82nd Street.
Several notable rabbis have left their mark
as leaders of our synagogue. Rabbi Bernard J. Bamberger, the spiritual
leader of the congregation from 1944 until his retirement in 1971, is
well known as the author of commentaries on the book of Leviticus in
"The Torah: A Modern Commentary." Rabbi Bamberger wrote numerous books
and scholarly articles and served as President of the Central
Conference of American Rabbis as well as the World Union for
He was succeeded by Harvey M. Tattelbaum,
our Senior Rabbi for three decades. During that time our congregation
grew enormously. We now have more than 1,500 family member units, 675
students in our Religious School and more than 180 children in our
Early Childhood programs. Rabbi Tattelbaum retired in 2001 and now
holds the title of Rabbi Emeritus.
Rabbi Jonathan Stein became
our Senior Rabbi in July, 2001 after having served as Senior Rabbi of
both Congregation Beth Israel of San Diego and Indianapolis Hebrew
Congregation. Rabbi Stein succeeded to the presidency of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) in March 2011 for a two-year term. As President, he leads the principal organization of Reform rabbis in the United States and Canada.
Here at Shaaray Tefila, we view ourselves as a
traditionally oriented synagogue affiliated with Reform Judaism. We
love and honor Jewish tradition, and hope that any Jew, from whatever
background, will feel at home with us.
The mission of Temple Shaaray Tefila is to provide the means for our
congregational community to nurture and to continue its life-long
involvement in Judaism by instilling a love of our heritage, a shared
connection within the warmth of worship, a devotion to community, and a
renewed strength in our Jewish identity.
We hope to realize this through:
- worship of God in a Reform Jewish congregation that offers its
members the fulfillment of meaningful participation in traditional
- CHAVURAH -
a community committed to creating a warm and welcoming environment for
our congregants' social, educational, ritual, and lifecycle needs.
- TALMUD TORAH - an enlightened program of Jewish learning for all generations.
- TIKKUN OLAM -
commitment to the ideals of our Jewish ethical heritage by working to
fulfill our responsibilities to our community, our nation, and our
- GEMILUT CHASADIM - the pursuit of justice, peace, and deeds of loving-kindness.
- KLAL YISRAEL - strengthening our support of Israel and the Jewish people wherever they live.