Shaare Tefila Congregation

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.

In 2011, the congregation dedicated a new synagogue in Olney, Maryland, where many younger members lived.


Shaare Tefila, Riggs Road N.E., built in 1954

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1. Shaare Tefila, Riggs Road, NE

Photograph by Jeremy Goldberg
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First building of Shaare Tefila, Riggs Road, N.E., 1958

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2. First building of Shaare Tefila, Riggs Road, NE

A large menorah enhanced the façade of a new wing with a small chapel, social hall, classrooms, and offices.

© Washington Post; Reprinted by permission of the D.C. Public Library, Photograph by Walter Oates
Shaare Tefila, White Oak, Maryland, 1965

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3. Shaare Tefila, White Oak, Maryland

The new Shaare Tefila synagogue at 11120 Lockwood Drive was designed by Washington architects Werner-Dyer + Associates. A new wing, by Smolen/Emr + Associates, was added in the early 1980s.

Courtesy Smolen-Emr + Associates Architects of Rockville, Maryland
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Shaare Tefila, White Oak, Maryland

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4. Shaare Tefila, White Oak, Maryland

When Shaare Tefila was defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti in 1985, the synagogue pressed charges. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. Overturning the
lower courts, the Supreme Court ruled that Jews were protected under a federal statute prohibiting discrimination. This ruling contributed to the creation of current hate crimes legislation.

© Washington Post; Reprinted by permission of the D.C. Public Library Photograph by Walter Oates
Shaare Tefila Sanctuary

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5. Shaare Tefila Sanctuary, White Oak

Shaare Tefila Collections
Shaare Tefila, Olney, Maryland

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6. Shaare Tefila Congregation, Olney, Maryland

Shaare Tefila moved into this new synagogue at 16620 Georgia Avenue in 2011.

Shaare Tefila Collections
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