Shaarei Tefillah

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Shaarei Tefillah
Basic information
Location 35 Morseland Avenue,
Newton, Massachusetts, U.S.
Geographic coordinates 42°20′22″N 71°11′51″W / 42.33944°N 71.19750°W / 42.33944; -71.19750Coordinates: 42°20′22″N 71°11′51″W / 42.33944°N 71.19750°W / 42.33944; -71.19750
Affiliation Modern Orthodox Judaism
Country United States of America
Status Active
Leadership Rabbi Benjamin Joseph Samuels
Capacity 300 (2009)
Height (max) 20.2 feet (2009)

Congregation Shaarei Tefillah ("Gates of Prayer") is a Modern Orthodox synagogue located at 35 Morseland Avenue in the village of Newton Centre in Newton, Massachusetts.[1][2][3][4] In 2003, the synagogue had a membership of 140 families, and in 2012 that number had risen to 220 families.[1][2][5] The congregation is notable for the unusual concentration of distinguished scholars among its members.[1][6][7]


Shaarei Tefillah was founded in December 1983 by dissident members of Newton's other major Orthodox synagogue, Congregation Beth-El Atereth Israel.[2][6][8] Members describe the split as "generational"; Shaarei Tefillah members were younger, but more traditional and knowledgeable than those at Beth El.[2] Members share the duty of leading services throughout the year.[2]

The synagogue initially met in the living rooms of the homes of its members, and in a church gymnasium.[2][8][9] In 1985, the congregation proposed locating the synagogue in a private house at 841 Commonwealth Avenue. They bought the property in 1984 for $165,000 and sought a zoning variance that would allow them to open a synagogue there in spite of there not being adequate parking.[8][9][10] The synagogue sold the property a year later after failing to work out an arrangement.[9]

The synagogue has been located since 1987 at 35 Morseland Avenue, one block north of Commonwealth Avenue and around the corner from Beth El. It purchased the house that year from a rabbi who had been operating a small synagogue in its basement since 1970.[2][9][11]

The interior walls of the house were removed and a five-foot high wall constructed down the middle to create separate spaces for men and women. The ark is on the men's side, but both it and the bimah are easily seen from the women's side.[2] As of 2009, the synagogue had 300 seats, and was seeking to expand to 405 seats.[11]


Services are held on weekday mornings and evenings, as well as Shabbat and Jewish holidays.[2] Friday evening services are attended primarily by men.[2] The synagogue's two gabbaim welcome unfamiliar guests, and seek people to lead the services.[2]

Its members are known for being highly educated, with people joking that "if you don't have three degrees, they won't let you in".[1] The Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) honors on its Wall of Honor, for being women Presidents of Orthodox synagogues, the following past presidents of Shaarei Tefillah: Brenda Katz (1992–94), Lisa Micley (1999–2001), and Nancy Kolodny, former Dean of Wellesley College (2001–03).[12][13]

Clergy and leadership[edit]

The congregation is led by Rabbi Benjamin Samuels, who was hired in September 1995 as its first full-time rabbi.[1][14][15] It has lay officers, and a board of approximately 15 people.[2] In 1985, Dr. Alan Rockoff was the synagogue's president.[10] Richard Feczko was its president from July 2003 to July 2006.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d e Tye, Larry (2002). Home Lands: Portraits of the New Jewish Diaspora. Henry Holt & Co. pp. 137–38. ISBN 0-8050-6591-1. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Jeffrey A. Summit (2003). The Lord's Song in a Strange Land: Music and Identity in Contemporary Jewish Worship. Oxford University Press US. ISBN 0-19-516181-5. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  3. ^ Steven Feldman (1986). Guide to Jewish Boston and New England. ISBN 0-9615649-0-3. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  4. ^ Betsy Sheldon (2001). The Jewish travel guide. Hunter Publishing, Inc. ISBN 1-55650-879-4. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Rabbinical Council of America (RCA)". June 25, 2008. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Jonathan D. Sarna; Ellen Smith; Scott-Martin Kosofsky (2005). The Jews of Boston. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-10787-0. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Congregation Shaarei Tefillah Inc | Newton Centre, Ma". December 23, 1983. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c Marvin Pave (July 11, 1985). "Complaint Is Filed Over Temple Denial". The Boston Globe. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c d Rhonda Stewart (January 18, 2004). "Synagogue Parking Tiff Sparks Debate Beyond Zoning Orthodox Group, City Say They Are Still Open To Settling Out Of Court". The Boston Globe. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  10. ^ a b Diane Tracy (April 2, 1985). "Parking Order For Newton Synagogue Protested". The Boston Globe. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  11. ^ a b "35 Morseland; Shaarei Tefillah; City of Newton Special Permits" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 27, 2011. Retrieved January 2, 2016. 
  12. ^ "Wall of Honor". Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Nancy Kolodny". August 24, 2009. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Rabbi Benjamin Joseph Samuels". Congregation Shaarei Tefillah. 2011. Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  15. ^ Diego Ribadeneira (January 27, 1966). "A Time of Change: Synagogues adjusting to new, younger rabbis". The Boston Globe. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 
  16. ^ Chaityn, Susan (December 31, 2006). "Haulers take it as it comes". The Boston Globe. Retrieved June 25, 2011. 

External links[edit]