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The information for this article was provided by Rabbi Jeremiah Wohlberg, in an interview with lifelong congregant Rebecca G. Smith, age 9 at the time of this article.
Congregation Ohav Sholom was formed in April 1962. The original "founding" members were the Braverman, Kronish, Marks, Pruss, Robbins, and Werman families. They started Congregation Ohav Sholom in order to establish an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Merrick.
In July 1963, Rabbi Jeremiah Wohlberg joined the congregation as its full-time rabbi. By then, the synagogue membership had reached 14 families. Over the years, Rabbi Wohlberg has seen and been part of many changes. This includes the tremendous growth of the Congregation Ohav Sholom membership to nearly 400 families today.
After their arrival in Merrick, Rabbi Wohlberg and his wife, Mimi, had two children. Back then, they were the only two local children who attended Hebrew day school or Yeshiva. Now, the congregation is blessed with many children who attend Hebrew day school, including the author of this article.
At first, the congregation met in a small, rented store on Merrick Avenue, near the Smith Street (Chatterton) School, which was nearly a mile north of the synagogue’s current location. For Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when there were larger crowds, a room was rented in a local firehouse, near the Merrick railroad station.
About two years later, the congregation bought a house located on the very same property where the synagogue is located today. The congregation remodeled the inside of the house, with the downstairs becoming the shul and kitchen, and the upstairs being made into classrooms and an office. For Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the congregation put up a big circus tent in the backyard of the property to hold the many hundreds of people who came to daven at the Congregation Ohav Sholom.
The current synagogue building was built in two parts, in 1968 and 1974. The new building was needed because the congregation was growing as many more families started moving into Merrick. The new synagogue was also needed for a Hebrew School with as many as 300 children at one time, for many other youth activities, and as a community center. It was easy for the members to think of the idea to build the new synagogue because many synagogues were being built across Long Island at that time.
Said Rabbi Wohlberg, "One of the great joys I have as a rabbi who has been in the same community for 35 years is that I see people who grew up in the community come back with their own babies after they are married. They always have some very special memories of the times that they spent at Congregation Ohav Sholom."
November 8, 1998