Congregation Ohav Shalom is an egalitarian Conservative synagogue affiliated with the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism. Ohav Shalom is a traditional synagogue, deeply rooted in the laws and practices of the past, while not afraid to see change as an authentic part of our tradition. As an egalitarian congregation, we invite men and women to participate equally in all aspects of congregational worship. The name “Ohav Shalom” means “Lover of Peace.”
We are known for being a warm, embracing, and friendly synagogue family. We see our synagogue as a spiritual home to Jews of all religious backgrounds, personal circumstances and interests. We believe that the preservation of Judaism and the Jewish people is what all Jewish institutions are about. We strive to unite our members in a common commitment to tzedakah (philanthropy) and chesed (kindness) in keeping with the Jewish imperative to serve as God’s partner in tikun olam (repairing our world through acts of goodness.). We are committed to increased awareness of practices which cause damage to the environment and which violate the Jewish principle of bal tash-chit (do not waste.) Administrative offices, classroom teachers are encouraged to recycle paper and to turn off unused lights and other equipment. We continue to educate ourselves about ways we can reduce energy costs and be a more “green” community.
Founded in 1911 by eleven Jewish Families as Congregation Ohav Sholom, our shul would hold worship services in homes until 1922, when the fast growing congregation purchased 441 Washington Avenue in Albany. Our first spiritual leader was Rabbi Nachman and with his, and his successors’ guidance, Congregation Ohav Shalom worshiped and celebrated on Washington Avenue for over four decades. During that time, Ohav continued to thrive as a conservative synagogue, even surviving a fire in 1949 which featured the impassioned rescue of Torah scrolls by Isadore Kolodny, one of the founding members of our congregation.
Following the construction of our beautiful sanctuary in 1964, Ohav Shalom moved to our present location at 113 New Krumkill Road, Albany, NY. By the 1980s, Ohav Shalom added a new wing to our building for educational purposes and began operating the Early Childhood Center. The Center has programming for children from 18 months to the start of kindergarten. The 1990’s was a time of change for Congregation Ohav Shalom with a new rabbi, Rabbi Daniel Ornstein and soon after the decision by our members to become an egalitarian synagogue. This decision gave women equal participation in all aspects of Jewish worship, while maintaining the vital connection to the laws and practices of the past.
After becoming an egalitarian congregation, Ohav Shalom welcomed our first female rabbi, Rabbi Rena Kieval. For two decades, Rabbis Ornstein and Kieval have been the spiritual leaders of Congregation Ohav Shalom. Ohav Shalom has continued to respond to the needs of our members and the community. In recent years as Ohav Shalom has welcomed same sex couples as members, worked with two other synagogues to establish a Hebrew school open to children of all three congregations, and worked for positive change in the community by helping Afghan refugees make a new life in Albany.
The constant in Congregation Ohav Shalom’s journey over the last hundred years has been a Jewish worship experience based on tradition and a welcoming community.