A Brief History of Congregation Shalom
Congregation Shalom was founded in 1967 by a group of families who felt that the unique religious and social needs of the Jewish families in this rapidly growing suburban community could best be served by the creation of a congregation within Chelmsford proper. It was the first Jewish congregation, ever, in Chelmsford. The first meetings were held at Aldersgate Methodist Church and our services, one per month, at South Chelmsford Baptist Church. The dues our first year were set at $52, one dollar per week.
In January, 1968 a decision was made to affiliate as a Reform congregation with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the UAHC.
In September, 1968 the first Jewish High Holy Day services in the over 300 years history of the town were celebrated by a Jewish Congregation in Chelmsford, Congregation Shalom. It should be added at this time, that from our very first High Holy Day services, we adhered to the principle as stated in our bylaws: “Any person, whether a member of this congregation or not, shall be welcome at any Worship Service”. As it is said: “A tree may be alone in the field, A man or woman alone in the world, But no Jews need be alone on their Holy Days.”
In January, 1969 we moved our services to the Central Congregational Church and then to the Unitarian Church. For those of you who may have attended a wedding or a religious service at the Unitarian Church in Chelmsford, you will now understand the reason for the inscription in some of the prayerbooks indicating that they have been donated by Congregation Shalom…each year, in gratitude for the use of their facilities, we would present the church with a gift. Later in 1969 the land on Richardson road was purchased.
1973 saw the breaking of ground for our first building and, on Friday, September 6, 1974 the building was dedicated in an impressive ceremony attended by ministers, pastors, priests, and representatives of most religious congregations of Chelmsford, the Board of Selectmen, Representatives of the Massachusetts legislature, Rabbis, friends and well-wishers to the congregation.
From 1968 through 1972, student rabbis from the Hebrew Union College led our High Holy Days and other religious services. In 1973, Rabbi Albert Goldstein, who had retired from Congregation Ohabei Shalom, took up residence in Chelmsford and officiated for three years. In September 1976, we engaged Rabbi Terry Bard, to be our spiritual leader.
Our Holocaust Torah
Read a letter from one of our founding members, that reflects on how the Congregation came to possess a very special Torah. Published as a part of our Torah Rededicaton Service in September of 1995.
Torah Rededication – Message from Rabbi Perry
Here is a message to the congregation about the Holocaust Torah, from Rabbi Perry, delivered during our Torah Rededicaton Service in September of 1995.