Ohav Shalom is a place we call home.
The Ohav Shalom culture is dynamic egalitarian Conservative Judaism, emphasizing member ownership of all aspects of our communal life. These values are the foundation of our keihilah as a house of prayer, house of learning and personal connection. Located in the capital of New York State, we are a cross section of the Jewish community – all ages, native Albanians and newcomers to our area, families with children of all ages, single parents and their families, singles and couples with diverse experiences and backgrounds, and anyone looking for a connection to to the Jewish community. We pray together, learn together, come together in joyous times and comfort each other in the face of loss and tragedy, enjoy social activities and work to repair the world.
Congregation Ohav Shalom (meaning Lover of Peace) is a warm and spiritual synagogue that embraces the values of Jewish tradition and respect for all people. We are a friendly synagogue family, where people gather to pray, learn, laugh, share important life moments, celebrate and mourn together in a nurturing and supportive community. We welcome all people of the Jewish faith and their families, including people of diverse religious backgrounds, spiritual needs and personal circumstances. We are committed to enhancing Jewish life through learning, praying and performing mitzvot together as God’s partners in the work of Tikkun Olam… repairing our world. We support Jewish peoplehood and the State of Israel, and our members are engaged in activities of tzedakah and social justice throughout the New York Capital Region’s Jewish community as well as the greater communities in which we live and work.
As a synagogue affiliated with Conservative Judaism and the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism, Ohav Shalom is deeply rooted in the traditions of the past while also embracing change as an authentic part of Jewish experience. We are an inclusive, egalitarian synagogue that welcomes all those who wish to practice Judaism regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, ability, age, marital status, family/parental status, or socioeconomic status.
“My house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” Isaiah
We strive to create an inclusive and supportive community that is welcoming to all. At Ohav we treat one another with respect, honesty and integrity, as we honor the spiritual teaching of our tradition that every person is created in the Divine image.
We are a diverse community that embraces individuals and families of different Jewish backgrounds, as well as families with members who are not Jewish. We are committed to helping families whose members come from different faith traditions participate in the life of our congregation as an interfaith family. Holiday and Sabbath celebrations, life-cycle events, religious education and all areas of synagogue life present opportunities for all members of the community to be a part of our dynamic congregation.
Ohav is committed to religious, cultural and educational programs that will maximize meaningful participation and a safe environment for individuals of all abilities. Our large-print siddurim, magnifier reading glasses, hand-held amplifiers and fully accessible facility help all people participate and enjoy synagogue life. Additionally, our comfort room is always available for nursing mothers and people who need quiet space.
Founded in 1911 by eleven Jewish Families as Congregation Ohav Sholom, our shul would hold worship services in homes until 1922, when the fast growing congregation purchased 441 Washington Avenue in Albany. Our first spiritual leader was Rabbi Nachman and with his, and his successors’ guidance, Congregation Ohav Shalom worshiped and celebrated on Washington Avenue for over four decades. During that time, Ohav continued to thrive as a conservative synagogue, even surviving a fire in 1949 which featured the impassioned rescue of Torah scrolls by Isadore Kolodny, one of the founding members of our congregation.
Following the construction of our beautiful sanctuary in 1964, Ohav Shalom moved to our present location at 113 New Krumkill Road, Albany, NY. By the 1980s, Ohav Shalom added a new wing to our building for educational purposes and began operating the Early Childhood Center. The Center has programming for children from 18 months to the start of kindergarten. The 1990’s was a time of change for Congregation Ohav Shalom with a new rabbi, Rabbi Daniel Ornstein and soon after the decision by our members to become an egalitarian synagogue. This decision gave women equal participation in all aspects of Jewish worship, while maintaining the vital connection to the laws and practices of the past.
After becoming an egalitarian congregation, Ohav Shalom welcomed our first female rabbi, Rabbi Rena Kieval. For two decades, Rabbi Ornstein and Rabbi Kieval have been the spiritual leaders of Congregation Ohav Shalom. Ohav Shalom has continued to respond to the needs of our members and the community. In recent years as Ohav Shalom has welcomed same sex couples as members, worked with two other synagogues to establish a Hebrew school open to children of all three congregations, and worked for positive change in the community by helping Afghan refugees make a new life in Albany.
The constant in Congregation Ohav Shalom’s journey over the last hundred years has been a Jewish worship experience based on tradition and a welcoming community.
Ohav Shalom’s Torah’s were in need of care, and in 2012, the Congregation undertook an effort to write a new one. One particular Torah was badly in need of repair, and the congregation decided to replace it rather than take the necessary steps to repair it. This provided our shul with an opportunity. We had heard that Congregation Kehillat Ohel Avraham and Sarah, in the town of Rishon l’Tziyon, Jerusalem, was in need of a Torah, and that they were in a position to repair an existing one, if one was donated to them. Their congregation is now linked to Ohav in a very special way, as it is home to a Torah that was with Ohav since its inception. With the addition of our new Torah scroll in 2013, Ohav Shalom donated one the older scroll to this small Israeli congregation that was in desperate need of it. Rabbi Surazski, the sofer who penned our new Torah scroll, told us of this need, and Ohav’s leadership and the Board voted to make the donation. Rabbi Rena hand-carried the scroll to Israel and delivered it to the synagogue there personally! We understand that the Torah scroll was repaired in order to become kosher again and is back in use. A mitzvah for all!
Ohav Shalom came to the rescue of an egalitarian synagogue in New Jersey in the wake of destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy. White Meadow Temple in Rockaway lost its roof and, according to Rabbi Benjamin Adler, sustained significant damage to its siddurim as a result of the storm. It was reported that about 65 synagogues in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area were damaged by the superstorm. In New Jersey, where the eye of the storm made landfall, at least six synagogues suffered some damage, including White Meadow Temple. In the spirit of tikkun olam, Ohav stepped up to the plate and made a donation of our old siddurim.