From the late 1980’s into the 1990’s, the Quince Orchard area of Montgomery County was a fast growing suburb. With its attractive rural setting and good schools, this area became a magnet for young Jewish families. In 1994, an early attempt to form a Jewish worship community faded away, owing to lack of unity on its religious orientation. However, in its wake was a strong sense that our local area would support a new synagogue and a conviction that its affiliation should be with the Conservative movement.
Shabbat services were organized, meeting twice each month, beginning in September 1995. We operated under the name Quince Orchard Conservative Congregation and created our first publication, a supplement to the Shabbat evening service. Our congregation was officially founded in February 1996, when a group of five families signed the Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation. After some debate and with deciding votes cast by our young children, the name Shaare Torah (“Gates of Torah”) was chosen.
We were soon advertising in local papers, bulletin boards, and distributing flyers to homes with mezzuzot. 1996 was a busy year and, slowly, our numbers began to grow. By April, we had twelve member families. The Shaare Torah Scroll began publication. We moved from members’ houses into Jones Lane Elementary School (which was to be our home for nine years). In 1996, we also held our first High Holiday services, led by a young rabbinical student, Jacob Blumenthal. In the fall of 1997, we began a parent-taught religious school. Professional teachers were hired in 1998. In 1999, after three years leading our high holiday services, we hired Jacob Blumenthal, as our full-time rabbi. Shortly, thereafter, we launched a wide range of youth programs. In 2002, we initiated our nursery school.
Not long after the congregation formed, a few forward-thinking members began a campaign to work towards donation of land planned for development in the new Kentlands-Lakelands neighborhood. Uncertain of our prospects, and with the generous support of another group of members, we were able to acquire our first property, on Darnestown Road, in 2000. A few years later, we were gifted a property in the Lakelands. Following planning, design and construction phases, we opened the doors of our new synagogue in 2006.
Today, Shaare Torah continues to thrive. We have approximately 300 member households, an innovative and dynamic religious school and nursery school, a book club, a culture chavurah, a green team, and a yearly interfaith 5K run.