7701 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20012

More About TI

History of TI - Recommended Web Links - Affiliation

A Brief History of TI

Art at TI –  Photographic History of Washington Area Synagogues

Web Links We Find Useful


United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism - Southeast Seaboard District of USCJ


A Brief History of TI

TI Today

TI's diverse and "spiritually inclusive community" offers members a wide range of educational courses, community events, opportunities to make friends, and occasions to study and to learn together. Come and drop in on a Friday or Saturday. One can find many service choices at TI - a monthly Carlebach-Style Friday night service with singing and a wonderful Shabbat meal; a more traditional Shabbat morning service in the main sanctuary; Junior Congregation; and a monthly Family Service. TI welcomes you and your family with Ruach (spirit).

Early Days

Tifereth Israel Congregation began about 1914 in the area around 14th and U Streets, NW. At that time, the area was "uptown" relative to other synagogues in the area near 7th and H Streets, NW. Initially, congregants met in the home of Louis Mensh and in rented space. On June 19, 1917, the Congregation was incorporated in the District of Columbia as Chevrah Tifereth Israel. Among the initial officers were Sam Goodman and Samuel Rod.

The 1920's and 1930's

In the early 1920's the Congregation acquired a large house at the northwest corner of 14th and Euclid Streets, NW, and converted that house into a synagogue. In about 1923, Rabbi Gedalia Silverstone was hired to lead the Congregation. The building had a sanctuary and very little space for other functions. Religious school class was held in the attic. There was no social hall and no office space. (That building no longer exists. The lot now contains a gas station.)

Rabbi Gedalia Silverstone left for Palestine in 1936 and was succeeded by his son Rabbi Harry Silverstone. It was clear by the late 1930's that the building had inadequate space for the activities of the Congregation. Board meetings were held in the sanctuary, as there was no other available space. These meetings, tumultuous at times, were not in keeping with the sanctity of the sanctuary. The need for a larger sanctuary plus other facilities was pressing. Rabbi Harry Silverstone and others spurred an effort in the late 1930's to fund and obtain a suitable building.

Finding a New Home

World War II intervened, and attention was focused on helping the Jews in Europe. Afterward, the Congregation again aimed its efforts at finding a more suitable home. One early attempt around 1950 was the consortium of Tifereth Israel, Agudas Achim, and Ohev Sholom, all Orthodox congregations at that time. Nicknamed "TAOS," rhyming with chaos, this consortium attempted unsuccessfully to find a basis to merge and build a suitable home for the resulting congregation. Agudas Achim finally built their own building at 14th and Tuckerman Streets, NW, and the consortium was gone.

A New Building and Becoming Conservative

TI acquired the property at 16th and Juniper Streets, NW and broke ground in 1956 for a new building. A key fundraiser for this effort was auto dealer Joseph Cherner who died suddenly in 1956. The building was completed and funded through the efforts of Sidney Brown and many others. On September 15, 1957 the new building was formally opened and dedicated. The Wolman Sanctuary has about 600 seats on the main floor and about 128 seats in the balcony. The balcony was installed for reasons of space, not as separate seating for women in the then Orthodox congregation which allowed mixed seating. Later in 1957, Rabbi Harry Silverstone retired and was replaced by Rabbi Shmaryahu Swersky.

Ohev Sholom was still looking for a permanent building, as it merged with Talmud Torah Congregation. A merger with TI was proposed to bring more people into the large new building. This merger foundered on the issue of who would be the surviving Rabbi. Even with the intervention of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, an agreement could not be obtained. Ohev Sholom Talmud Torah then built its own building across the street at 16th and Jonquil Streets, NW, which opened in 1960.

In about 1955, a congregant of an Orthodox synagogue in Michigan sued his congregation in civil court for allowing mixed seating. The Orthodox Union provided expert witnesses to support his claim, and he won his suit. That congregation went back to separate seating, but the plaintiff was not appreciated in his community! As a result of such events, the Orthodox Union sent emissaries to its member congregations where mixed seating was practiced. At TI, they explained that an Orthodox congregation in the Nation's Capital must be a model for all concerned, and to practice separate seating. The Congregation instead decided to retain mixed seating by leaving the Orthodox Union, and in 1960 joined United Synagogue, the organization of Conservative synagogues. This organizational change did not affect the traditional character of the worship service.

Rabbi Abramowitz

Rabbi A. Nathan Abramowitz was engaged in 1960 as the first Conservative Rabbi of the Congregation. During the 1960's it became clear that much of the Jewish community had moved to the suburbs, leaving behind the city of Washington and its Jewish institutions. By the late 1960's, Tifereth Israel had a "satellite" Hebrew School meeting at Pyle Junior High School in Bethesda, MD. In the Congregation's election of officers in May 1969 the nominated slate of candidates favored moving to the suburbs. An opposing slate was formed and won that election on the plank of maintaining a viable presence in Washington D.C..

Meanwhile in 1969 the Jewish Community Center sold its building at 16th and Q Streets, NW to move to a new "Jewish Campus" on Montrose Road in Rockville, MD. The Jewish Social Service Agency and the Hebrew Home left their Spring Road facilities to also move to the "Jewish Campus". Other congregations established suburban school facilities, and eventually some congregations moved themselves from the city to even farther out in the suburbs.

Viet Nam and Social Action

During the 1970's, TI needed to pull together those congregants with a long affiliation to the synagogue who remained with an in-town congregation, and younger families living close by.  The Viet Nam War was a frequent topic of Rabbi Abramowitz' sermons, as he applied his interpretation of the Torah portion of the week to the moral and ethical disaster of the continuing illegal war. These Jewish moral and ethical concerns were also reflected in the organization of a Social Action Committee, which addressed community needs close to home. By helping Jews and others in need within our own community, congregants put their principles into action. These efforts continue today in a variety of ways.

TI becomes Egalitarian in the 70's

This was also the period in which the participation of women in services was addressed and resolved. By the mid-1970's TI becam fully egalitarian , the first conservative synagogue in Washington D.C. to do so. TI member Barbara White has written "Women on the Bima", which details the history of how TI became egalitarian. This egalitarian participation was within the framework of the traditional service elements. For some years, there had been a paid Torah reader, and a paid High Holy Day Cantor, but these paid personnel were replaced by volunteer congregants by the end of the decade. Participation by everyone was more important at TI because of the decision not to rely on paid readers and chanters. Services were led and Torah was read by a variety of volunteers. It was of considerable help that Rabbi Abramowitz and later Rabbi Seidel are both very musical and can chant portions of the service.

In addition to regular Shabbat services, the Congregation started an occasional "alternative" service providing differing approaches to Shabbat worship. Many different leaders and approaches graced TI's alternative services and it they continued at TI for close to three decades.

The 1980's - many Bar and Bat Mitzvahs

During the 1980's the Congregation and its building both aged. The Sanctuary and Auditorium were redecorated, and the air conditioning compressor was replaced. We talked about repairing the front steps, and started to put funding aside for eventual major needs such as roof replacement. As the young children of newer members matured, almost every available Shabbat morning in some years had a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. In 1984, for example, some Bar and Bat Mitzvahs were celebrated on holidays other than Shabbat in order to have enough opportunities for each person to have an unshared simcha. During some of those years, the total number of religious school students exceeded the capacity of the building, and different classes were held on different days in order to fit.

Rabbi Seidel

By the 1990's the congregants had aged further, and we had fewer young children in school. The Congregation addressed the need to attract new, younger families and continue the life cycle. Rabbi Ethan Seidel was engaged as Rabbi of the Congregation, overlapping for four years with Rabbi Abramowitz who then retired to "emeritus" status. The Congregation attracted younger families who become involved in a variety of activities, including regular Shabbat and holiday service attendance.

Building Renovation

To provide wide-ranging accessibility of the building and its programs, the Congregation added on in the 1990's: a ramp into the building, specially equipped restrooms, devices to transport people up and down the stairs within the building, hearing-assist devices for services, and a religious school class for deaf children. In addition, the Congregation pursued other specialized facilities. Meanwhile, the front steps were replaced, the heating/cooling system was updated, the roof was replaced, the exterior facade was repaired, and the Congregation committed to substantial repairs, renovations, and improvements to keep our building going well beyond the forty-plus years that we have so far enjoyed its facilities. The Congregation mobilized to define building facility needs and to go about making it happen!

In 1999, the Congregation extensively renovated its Wolman Sanctuary and Cherner Auditorium. Through the continuing efforts of the ATID ("atid" is Hebrew for "future") Committee of the Congregation, the rest of the building was renovated during 2000, including the installation of an elevator to provide access throughout the building, and the creation of all new offices and a new lobby. Also, extensive air conditioning improvements were done. All of this supports the ongoing operations of a vibrant congregation.

Influx of Young Families & Renovations

During the 2000's TI has continued to grow with the influx of a whole cadre of younger Jewish families and many, many children - especially in the under kindergarten age group. TI started offering Tot Shabbat services once again. L'dor v'dor (from generation to generation).

In 2009 we completed renovation of the kitchen and of the backstage area - to accomodate a modern kitchen facility as well as a newly created dish wash, and dish storage areas. In addition we created a newly deigned Teen Lounge for the "tween" and teen groups.

We also completed a beautiful renovation of our Ark.


Web Links We Find Useful

TI provides the web links as a convenience, but is not responsible for the content of these web sites maintained by others. We hope these links prove helpful to you.


The "Beyond Oil" Campaign of the Shalom Center helping America break the oil addiction.

Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, COEJL represents the organized Jewish community's voice on the environment in Washington and around the country.

Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light, GWIPL is a project of several local interfaith groups and the DC Department of Energy Green Faith Project. It is one of the co-sponsors of the locally held "Green Tikkuns". Topics covered included Greening Simchas; Motivating congregations; and Green Education and Youth programming. Good site for resources.

Hazon is a site on environmental and outdoor education with a Jewish twist.

Interfaith Works is a non-profit organization that partners with religious organizations to do good works by integrating environmental stewardship with community outreach.

Jewish Carrot is a blog on Jewish food and life, environmentally oriented - connected with Hazan.


Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs is affiliated with the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism.

Foundation for Masorti Judaism in Israel provides specific support for Conservative congregations and activities in Israel.

Jewish Theological Seminary of America is an academic center, the major source of Rabbis for the Conservative Movement and a provider of educational web information.

Koach is the college-outreach branch of the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism and the Masorti movement.

MERCAZ USA is the US Branch of the Zionist Organization of the Conservative Movement, providing a Conservative presence in the World Zionist Organization.

Women's League for Conservative Judaism unites Conservative synagogue women's organizations into a body whose aim is the perpetuation of Conservative Judaism and the interpretation of its highest ideals. TI's Kol Nashim is affiliated with Women's League.


District of Columbia Jewish Community Center The DCJCC, located at 1529 16th St., NW (corner of Q St.) provides a variety of Judaic, cultural, athletic and other activities at their building. The DCJCC sponsors nursery schools in the community.

Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington is the community relations and public affairs arm of the organized Jewish community.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington is a community charitable organization funding Jewish activities locally, nationally, and throughout the world. The site includes links to the community calendar maintained by the Federation, links to community organizations, and other useful information.

Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington provides area-wide funeral education and coordination of a standard contract for Jewish funerals. TI is an active participant in this Committee. The Committee's web site has excellent general information related to Jewish funerals and mourning practices. TI members should consult TI's own Funeral Practices Committee for specific information about funerals and burials handled by TI.

Jewish in DC is a good site for finding up-to-date information about what is Jewish and happening in D.C.

Jewish Information and Referral Service is a community service of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington that answers many questions about the community. Phone (301) 770-4848.

Jewish Information for Families (JIFFY) is a  comprehensive listing of programs and activities of interest to Jewish families, parents and teens.

Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School provides dual secular/Judaic studies for grades K through 12. There are a number of other Jewish day schools in the Metropolitan Washington, DC area which are listed under "day schools" in the Jewish Information and Referral Service web site noted above.

Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation's Capital provides dual secular/Judaic studies for grades K through 6. The school is located near TI on 16th Street in the District of Columbia.

The New Jewish School (formerly Hebrew Day Institute) is a K-6 Jewish day school with an integrated general and Judaic / Hebrew studies program, located in Rockville, MD