Temple Ohev Sholom began in 1853, nine years before the U.S. 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, Pennsylvania. 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 The Occident ran an advertisement in 1863 for a spiritual leader in Harrisburg and that Rabbi Reuben Strauss became the temple’s first full-time rabbi in 1864.
In 1865, The Occident reported the May 12th dedication of Temple Ohev Sholom’s new synagogue at Second and South Streets in Harrisburg. It 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, 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.