Congregation Mishkan Tefila is the oldest Conservative synagogue in New England. Its growth parallels the remarkable development of the Boston Jewish Community, from a handful of immigrants to a vibrant and responsive component of American society. Through the years, Mishkan Tefila has played an integral role in promoting and strengthening Judaism and in serving as a cohesive force in the community-at-large.
Mishkan Israel, founded in 1858, was the first structure in Boston built specifically to be a synagogue. Previously, all Jewish services had been conducted either in converted churches or in renovated halls.
During this period another Conservative synagogue, Shaarei Tefila, was also formed. In 1894, Mishkan Israel approached this smaller congregation with the suggestion they merge. The merger became official in 1895 and they adopted the combined name, Congregation Mishkan Tefila,
In 1906, younger members of the Congregation felt a need for modernization. They promoted the idea of an English-speaking Rabbi who would combine learning and an appreciation of tradition with the
changing environment of twentieth century America.
During the early part of the twentieth century the Congregation moved from the South End into the outlying suburb of Roxbury. By mid-century, however, Mishkan Tefila members who had been affiliated for many years were beginning to resettle in Brookline and Newton. Fewer members came from the immediate Roxbury and Mattapan neighborhoods.
Suburban members found it difficult to attend services, the school, and social events. Children of these older members were firmly rooted in the suburbs where they sent their own children for religious education. Some began to join other congregations.
In response, the Congregation moved its religious school to a house on Walnut Street in Newton in 1955. At the same time, planning began for a new suburban synagogue. The ground-breaking took place on November 13, 1955 and the laying of the cornerstone on June 9, 1957. On these occasions many long-time members participated together with their children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren.
In 1958, exactly one hundred years from our beginning as a Congregation, High Holy Day Services were held for the first time in the new Sanctuary.
In this spiritual home there was a resurgence of Sisterhood and Brotherhood, the religious school, youth and family activities, establishment of an active PTA and Forum, and a group of able and dedicated clergy, professional staff, board members, and lay leaders, Well into its second century Mishkan Tefila continues to be a jewel in the Jewish Community of Greater Boston and in the spiritual and social lives of its families.