Temple Shalom | Our Story

From rich beginnings until now, Temple Shalom has been a pillar of Judaism in Waterloo Region

The Reform congregation in Kitchener-Waterloo had a transient life in its first decades. Services were held in a building on Allen Street North, then at 421 King Street North, Nine Pines Centre on Ottawa Street South, and in 1987, the basement of the Church of the Good Shepherd at 116 Queen Street North. This last move gave the shul a more central and convenient location for its members, who came from all around the region.

Beginning in 1970, Rabbi Michael Morgan commuted from Toronto on a part-time basis. Rabbis continued to come and go. From 1986 to 1988, Roger Pavey served as Temple Shalom’s first and only full-time rabbi. English by birth, he had served several congregations in England, Saint John, New Brunswick and Sarnia. When Rabbi Pavey left the community, Temple Shalom started engaging part-time rabbis, both students and ordained rabbis, from Hebrew Union College in New York. This turned into a twenty-year tradition, which has served the community well. In more recent years, Temple Shalom has also sometimes been served by part-time ordained rabbis from Toronto. Some members have expressed a desire for a full-time rabbi who can form an enduring relationship with people, but supporting a full-time rabbi remains a financial obstacle.

Having a part-time rabbi shaped the activities of Temple Shalom around monthly “big weekends” when the rabbi visited. These busy weekends usually included a Friday night potluck dinner, religious school classes on Saturday morning, a service and potluck lunch, adult b’nei mitvah, Havdalah, and an adult discussion group on Sunday. The congregation has also organized Hebrew study groups, community seders and succahs, as well as many fundraisers. Martin Levene, whose family joined Temple Shalom in 1996, describes their experience as enjoyable: “We find the services very meaningful…. There’s a lot of participation, a lot of singing. It’s a very warm service.”

Leadership at Temple Shalom has been taken on in different ways by many people over the years. Early leaders included Jack Adelberg, Marilyn Gold, Harry Atrubin, Cyril Taylor and Moe Rosenberg. In 1973, Temple Shalom elected the first female president of a Reform Congregation in Canada: Mrs. Ethel Fahidy. Other presidents included Alfred Rudin, Charlie Rothschild, Laura Wolfson, Dr. Martin L. Resnick, Jennifer Shalinsky, and Bob Chodos. Bob served the community for 18 years as Religious School teacher and principal, newsletter editor, service leader, congregation president, board member and chair of the Ritual Committee. Temple Shalom has a strong tradition of laypeople leading services. In 1990, the High Holy Days services had nearly 100 reading parts for congregants. Members have also led b’nei mitzvah, baby namings, funerals and other special services in addition to weekly Shabbat worship.

The most significant development in Temple Shalom’s history occurred in 1996 when they moved into a brand new, permanent home. The Cedars, located at 543 Beechwood Drive in Waterloo, is believed to be Canada’s first purpose-built Jewish-Christian house of worship. The whole Temple community was involved in this $1.4 million building project, from the initial idea stage through design and construction.

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