Our History

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 serving as a cohesive force in the community-at-large.

Our Roots

Mishkan Israel, founded in 1858, was the first structure in Boston built specifically to be a synagogue. Previously, all Jewish services had been conducted in either converted churches or renovated halls. During this period, another Conservative synagogue, Shaarei Tefila, also was formed. In 1894, Mishkan Israel approached the smaller Shaarei Tefila, with the suggestion of merging the congregations. In 1895, the two synagogues combined, to form Congregation Mishkan Tefila.

In 1906, younger members of the Congregation recognized the rapidly changing environment of early twentieth century America. They expressed the need for an English-speaking Rabbi with an appreciation for tradition as well as modernization.

Also during this time period, Congregation Mishkan Tefila moved from the South End to the outlying suburb of Roxbury. Thereafter, in the mid 1900s, Mishkan Tefila members began to resettle in Brookline and Newton. Fewer members came from the immediate Roxbury and Mattapan neighborhoods, and suburban members found it difficult to attend services, the school, and social events. 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 building.   The ground-breaking took place on November 13, 1955 and the laying of the cornerstone on June 9, 1957.

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.

After 58 years in Chestnut Hill, Congregation Mishkan Tefila once again is redefining itself as a progressive leader, creating a Campus Model for American Judaism. This model involves co-locating and joining forces with Congregation Kehillath Israel and other partners to infuse new vitality, programs, and participants under one roof. In July, 2016, Congregation Mishkan Tefila opens its doors on the Campus at 384 Harvard Street and begins a new era in its history and that of American Judaism.