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Temple Beth Shalom’s official history begins in the 1940s, although its origin is naturally linked to the long history of Jews in the Southwest. In the 1800s, young Jewish men ventured west along the Santa Fe Trail in search of a new life. Over time, as these young men married and started families, the region’s Jewish population established itself.
In 1876, the first Bar Mitzvah ceremony took place in Santa Fe. During World War II, Erev Shabbat services were conducted by laymen in the Bruns General Hospital located where the College of Santa Fe now stands. The Santa Fe Jewish Temple was formed in 1946. In 1949, eighteen committed families contributed $100 apiece to purchase the property on Barcelona Road for $2000. Noted Southwestern architect John Gaw Meem designed the original building which was dedicated on September 14, 1953. A Cadillac was raffled off to pay for the drapes, carpeting, and other finishing touches.
Not until 1970, at the request of that year’s confirmation class, was the name changed from the Santa Fe Jewish Temple and Community Center to Temple Beth Shalom. By the 1980s, the congregation had seriously outgrown its original home. Our current Main Sanctuary, designed by solar architect Ed Mazria, was completed in 1986.
For many years, TBS served all branches of Judaism in an effort to accommodate Santa Fe’s unique and diverse population. Rabbi Abraham Schindeling was the first in a line of capable and committed rabbis who, from the 1960s to the 1990s, served the community with love and extraordinary effort, often commuting from Albuquerque to officiate at services.
In more recent history, TBS enjoyed the leadership of Rabbi Marvin Schwab from 2001 until his retirement in 2014. The torch has now passed to Rabbi Neil Amswych, whose youthful energy promises to fulfill the original settlers’ faith in the future of Judaism in the Southwest.