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Then & Now


Established in September 1939, Agudath Achim Congregation was situated at 909 Quackenbos Street in Washington, DC until, in response to the increasing needs of its growing congregation, the synagogue moved to a new building at Piney Branch Road and 13th and Tuckerman Streets, NW in February 1954. Rabbi H. Jonah Waldman, z"l, who had begun his service with Agudath Achim in 1941, remained as the spiritual leader until he became Rabbi Emeritus when the merger with Har Tzeon took place.

A full program of religious services, adult study groups, chavurot, and a Talmud Torah for the children drew active participation by the Agudath Achim membership. Approximately 2,000 children were educated through the Talmud Torah.

The establishment of Congregation Har Tzeon in October 1951 brought a focus on Conservative Judaism to the Wheaton area of Silver Spring and its environs for the first time. With strong lay leadership, during its first two years, Har Tzeon laid a solid foundation for the eventual development of full-blown religious, educational, social, and communal programs that have continued to function under the combined aegis of Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim.

Rabbi Arthur Talmadge became Har Tzeon's first spiritual leader in the summer of 1953. Rabbi Joseph M. Brandriss, z"l, assumed the pulpit in August 1955 and remained in that position until his tragic death in October 1975. In March 1958, Cantor Elijah Olkon, z"l, became Har Tzeon's full-time cantor, serving the congregation until his untimely death in January 1979. Chazzan Moshe Meirovich came to Har Tzeon in July 1981. Rabbi Reuben Landman arrived in May 1976, and became the Congregation's longest serving spiritual leader, retiring in 2012 and becoming Rabbi Emeritus. In August 2012, Rabbi Steven Suson became the congregation's fourth rabbi since its founding some sixty years earlier.

The original Har Tzeon building, planned as a combined synagogue, school, social hall, and administrative office building was completed in June 1956. The sanctuary building including a small chapel, social hall, and kitchen facilities was added in early 1968.

By the mid 1970's, Har Tzeon and Agudath Achim had individually achieved substantial success in reaching significant numbers of Jewish families. At the same time, new residential areas springing up in the suburbs and major population shifts in both the District of Columbia and closer-in Maryland suburbs led to major changes in the demographics of the membership of both synagogues.

Independently, both institutions recognized the necessity of reevaluating their program needs, resources, and future prospects and undertaking future planning consistent with their individual situations. They both came to the conclusion that by combining membership and resources with another synagogue with shared values and traditions, both institutions would be enriched. With the approval of both Har Tzeon and Agudath Achim boards, the merger was accomplished in November 1977. 

Thu, May 23 2024 15 Iyyar 5784