In the spring of 1962, six local Jewish families joined to found an Orthodox synagogue in Merrick. They rented a store on Merrick Avenue to gather and pray.
Half a century later, the synagogue that they founded, Congregation Ohav Sholom, boasts 300 member families, is housed in a large brick building at 145 Merrick Ave. — roughly a half mile south of the original site — and is fully integrated into the fabric of the community’s religious life.
Ohav Sholom was gearing up to celebrate the milestone of its 50th year near the end of last year, but it put its plans on hold after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc throughout the community. Now the synagogue will mark its golden anniversary with events scheduled for this spring and fall of 2013.
The first part of the festivities will take place on May 4 and 5, when the synagogue will honor Rabbi Jeremiah Wohlberg, its rabbi for 47 of its 50 years, from 1963 to 2010. During the Shabbat service on May 4, Ohav Sholom will dedicate its sanctuary to Wohlberg, and the rabbi will once again speak from the pulpit. Ohav Sholom will pay further tribute to Wohlberg, as well as past synagogue presidents, at a dinner on May 5.
Rabbi Ira Ebbin, who has led Ohav Sholom since Wohlberg’s retirement in 2010, said that the synagogue still centers around the “vision” that Wohlberg long provided. “Rabbi Wohlberg’s vision was to build a synagogue committed to the Orthodox tradition, but one that is modern and opening and welcoming,” Ebbin said.
He expressed pride in Ohav Sholom’s role as a community center, in addition to being a house of worship for its members. “We have a commitment to the community,” Ebbin said. “We hold a second Passover seder that is open to everyone from the community. About 75 or 80 people attend it each year.” He added that Ohav Sholom also holds blood drives, monthly bingo games and “as many community-type programs as possible.”