Temple Ohev Sholom began in 1853, nine years before the Civil War, when 24 Jewish families gathered to celebrate Rosh Hashanah on the second floor of the Duncan Building located at Third and Walnut Streets in Harrisburg. Two years later, in April of 1855, the congregation acquired a cemetery site in Progress, just north of Harrisburg. During its early years, Temple Ohev Sholom was an orthodox congregation.
Although little is recorded about the early rabbis of Temple Ohev Sholom, we do know that the Jewish publication “Occident” ran an advertisement in 1863 for a spiritual leader in Harrisburg and it is recorded that in 1864 Rabbi Reuben Strauss became the first full time rabbi.
In 1865, the Occident reported the May 12th dedication of Temple Ohev Sholom’s new synagogue at Second and South Streets. The Occident also reported the purchase price as $5000.00.
In 1867, Temple Ohev Sholom became a Reform congregation. The central issue behind this momentous change was women’s rights and specifically, a rebellion against the orthodox practice of segregated seating for women. The women of Temple Ohev Sholom have a long and distinguished history of social and political leadership. One of the early organizations, the Hebrew Ladies Social Circle, was the predecessor of today’s Temple Ohev Sholom Sisterhood.