Shaare Tefila was organized in 1951 in Riggs Park on Washington’s northeastern edge, one of two congregations in what was then a substantial Jewish community.
With its moderately priced homes and proximity to downtown, the Riggs Park neighborhood, attracted both Jewish and African American families. In 1954, after meeting for a few years over the District line in Prince George’s County, Maryland, this Conservative congregation dedicated a new synagogue at 405 Riggs Road, NE. The synagogue added an education and social wing a few years later.
In the 1960s, the neighborhood experienced a rapid exodus of Jewish residents to the suburbs. The 400-member congregation voted to erect a new building in White Oak. Dedicated in 1965 and expanded in the early 1980s, the building seats about 1,000 people in its sanctuary and auditorium. In White Oak, membership expanded dramatically to a high of more than 600 families.
The 400-member congregation plans to move in 2007 to Olney, Maryland, where many younger members live and where the congregation’s religious school currently meets.