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Shir Hadash History

The Early Years

Shir Hadash was founded in 1980 by individuals who saw Judaism and a Temple as central to their lives. The founders wanted to create a community that embodied the ideals of participation and involvement by members in the management of the congregation as well as in its activities, and a supportive environment for interfaith couples. Their goal was to create a congregation that was less hierarchical and more participatory in structure.

Within a year of its founding, Shir Hadash had grown into a congregation with 207 members. Between 1980 and 1986 services and religious school were held in several different locations in Los Gatos.

Finding a Permanent Home

In 1985, with temple membership at 240, the congregation embarked on a journey to find a permanent home. Although the first effort failed, we were successful in obtaining a former Los Gatos school at 16555 Shannon Road. In a major milestone for the congregation, we moved into this site (which is now our current site) in August 1986.

By 1988, our continued growth was straining the existing facility. Therefore, the congregation gave the Long Range Planning committee the authority to contact various architectural firms to begin exploring design concepts for construction of a new building.

It is at the end of this period, in 1990, that Rabbi Melanie Aron becomes our Rabbi.

Establishing Our Identity in Words and Bricks

One of the key points of the Shir Hadash mission statement that was distributed in 1989 was the “creation of a sense of community for all its members”. Congregational meetings continue to be a key communications and management tool for Shir Hadash. With a membership of 320 people, new ideas were tried to help members connect with each other in a more personal way. One of these ideas, Havurot, was introduced in 1991 and has become quite popular.

During 1993–94, a new capital campaign was launched. With over $2 million in pledges by December 1, 1994, we prepared to raise a sanctuary building and to renovate the existing structure to better accommodate the religious school and temple administrative office.

Over 400 people attended the ground breaking ceremony in 1996 and we moved into the new structures in January 1997.

Where We Are Today

Today, membership has grown to over 600 families. We have an amazing pre-school program which opened in fall 2009. Among the many benefits of the expansion of our existing facility are an enhanced ability to hold larger social functions and the addition of a Pre-school, which opened in fall 2009. For more than 25 years, Congregation Shir Hadash has been led and inspired by Rabbi Melanie Aron. For over 20 years, Cantor Devorah Felder-Levy has taken Shir Hadash’s name (a New Song) to heart and expanded the congregation’s musical participation. Rabbi PJ Schwartz has brought new life into our youth and family engagement programming since he began in July 2017.

In the spring of 2016 we celebrated our 36th Anniversary with a special shabbat service and then a Gala Dinner a few weeks later. The tribute video from that event is here.

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