Congregation Har Shalom, now over 700 families strong, was founded in 1964 as the Seven Locks Jewish Community of Potomac, MD. The few dozen founding families first met in members’ homes and school auditoriums. They used a portable ark and a borrowed Torah, while planning a vibrant egalitarian Jewish life in this growing suburb.
Congregation Har Shalom was founded in 1964 as the Seven Locks Jewish Community of Potomac, MD. The few dozen founding families first met in members’ homes and school auditoriums. They used a portable ark and a borrowed Torah, while planning a vibrant egalitarian Jewish life in this growing suburb.
In 1965, the membership voted decisively to affiliate with the United Synagogue of America (now the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism).
Milestones and “firsts” quickly followed. We received our first Torah in August 1966 — a restored Torah from Trehitsch-Trebic, a Czech village destroyed by the Nazis. In 1967, we welcomed our first spiritual leader, Rabbi Morris Gordon, who served as part-time rabbi and advisor for four years and in 1968, we celebrated with Andrea Lavendar, our first Bat Mitzvah, and Steven Jay Chansky, our first Bar Mitzvah. The year 1968 also brought us Cantor Cal Chizever, who began as a part-time cantor and became full-time in the early 1980’s as the congregation had expanded so greatly.
In 1970, we voted to adopt the name Congregation Har Shalom, and in 1971 we dedicated our first permanent home, containing a multifunction sanctuary/social hall and school building. Later in 1971, we welcomed our first full-time rabbi, Rabbi Martin Levin, who was succeeded by Rabbi Leonard Cahan in 1974. We added the larger Stempler Social Hall and kitchen in 1981 and expanded the school building in 1987. Hazzan Arthur Shragg succeeded Cantor Chizever upon his retirement in 1993, and served Har Shalom until 1996 when he returned to Minnesota. Hazzan Henrique Ozur Bass came to Har Shalom in 1996 following graduation from the Jewish Theological Seminary and his investiture as Hazzan. Executive Director Michael Simmons FSA, ATz came to the congregation in 1999. Rabbi Cahan retired in 2001, after 27 years of service to the Congregation that saw our membership increase to more than 1100 families. Rabbi H. David Rose joined us as Senior Rabbi, just in time for the groundbreaking for our beautiful new sanctuary. In 2003, we dedicated our beautiful new Burke Sanctuary and this sanctuary-in-the-round has received awards for accessibility as well as its inspirational design. Rabbi Rose completed his tenure as Senior Rabbi in 2009. Rabbi Neil Zuckerman then served as Senior Rabbi for one year. Har Shalom maintains an excellent Early Childhood Education Center with Liran Laor serving as Director, and Julie Ashin serves as our part-time Youth Director. In July of 2010, we welcomed Director of Congregational Learning, Rabbi Deborah Bodin Cohen, and Interim Rabbi Gerald Zelermyer. Rabbi Adam J. Raskin was hired in July of 2011 as our full-time rabbi.
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