The Orthodox congregation Ezras Israel of Washington was founded in 1907 and led by Rabbi Arthur Bogner for many years. As its membership dwindled in the 1970s, Rabbi Bogner, like many others, looked to the Montgomery County suburbs for the shul's future. In 1978, before he retired from forty years of service to Ezras Israel of Washington, Rabbi Bogner placed an ad to determine whether there was interest in establishing an Orthodox congregation in Rockville. A number of people living in the area answered that ad, and several are still shul members today. Rabbi Bogner bought the house at 320 Lorraine Drive, and Ezras Israel Congregation of Rockville was born.
Services were held in the house's basement, and at that time the rabbi provided almost all of the financial support. Every other Shabbat he and his son, Nathan, arrived from Washington to lead services, read the Torah, and provide learning and guidance. Because the congregation was on its own on the alternate weeks, everyone pitched in to keep the congregation going. There was a minyan almost every Friday night, on Shabbat morning and evening, and on Yomim Tovim, largely due to the population of Iranian Jews who lived near the shul. Since then these attendees, as well as many others from the early years, have left the area.
In 1983 Rabbi Bogner arranged to rent a room at 200 Rollins Avenue, again financed by him and a few of the members. Having reached his mid-eighties, Rabbi Bogner fell ill and was unable to continue to carry the burdens of a struggling congregation. He retired fully in 1987 and moved to Israel.
Macey Kronsberg and Dr. Harry Polacheck assumed leadership of the congregation after Nathan Bogner became unable to remain involved in shul affairs. The shul survived through the sale of tickets for High Holiday services (first at the JCC and in recent years at the Ring House), membership fees, and contributions. The rental arrangement at 200 Rollins Avenue continued until 1992, when we knew it was time to find a place of our own. With help from the treasury of Ezras Israel of Washington, which had in the meantime sold its building in downtown Washington, President Zev Halpern and the congregation purchased the shul's permanent residence at 803 Montrose Road. The original Ezras Israel Congregation also gave us three Torah scrolls, a memorial board with plaques, curtains for the ark, table covers, chairs, prayer books, and other items essential to a shul. Some of these items are still in use today.
Under the leadership of President Rachmil Jacobovits, the congregation addressed the need to add spiritual leadership to assure the shul's continued growth. With the help of The Center for Rabbinic Leadership, the congregation retained the services of Rabbi Eli Weiss in 1995. The congregation modified the interior of the building to provide a residence for the rabbi and his family on the upper two levels and a place for the congregation on the lower level. Under the leadership of President Lazer Fuerst, attendance at services increased. Under Rabbi Weiss' tutelage, Ezras Israel expanded its services to include a Sunday morning minyan, classes, and an eruv surrounding the community.
After four years of service, Rabbi Weiss graduated Georgetown Law and returned to New York to be near his extended family and to take a job with a Wall Street law firm. With the dedicated work of a rabbinical search committee, we found new and vigorous spiritual leadership in Rabbi Eliezer Kreiser. His and his wife Perel's outreach and enthusiasm welcome all visitors to our community. Shortly after joining Ezras Israel, they moved out of the synagogue into their own home, thereby allowing us to complete our first building expansion, which is the structure we use today.
The Rabbi and Perel are the warm nucleus of the shul—teaching classes, welcoming guests, and always helping Jews from all walks of life to connect with their Torah roots. With Rabbi Kreiser's continuing involvement in the community, the Ring House, Aish Hatorah, and the Vaad, our small and friendly shul has become an important community resource throughout the DC area.
In 2009, with the help of Macey Kronsberg who had recently moved into the Ring House, we established a daily Shacharit minyan there that has became a community resource for those willing to daven at 8 o'clock. We added a Mincha minyan in 2009 which further extended the community service we provide in this area.
Today we are looking forward to expand the shul building in advance of the population growth expected in the Rockville-North Bethesda area.
A lot has happened at Ezras Israel since it started in a rabbi’s basement. From its struggling days in the late 1980s, Ezras Israel has transformed to a community facility known for its active and welcoming atmosphere.
We look forward to your visit!