Temple Hesed is Scranton’s oldest Jewish congregation. Our founding families came to Lackawanna County in the 1840’s. The congregation was known as “Chevra Rodef Shalom”, the “Brotherhood of the Pursuer of Peace”. Legend has it that these earliest Jewish families trekked from Scranton to Wilkes-Barre in a covered wagon for High Holy Day services even though there were many dangers along the way. In August 1860, they were renamed “Kehilat Anshe Chesed”, the “Congregation of People of Loving-Kindness”. They met in Scranton at the Alhambra Hall, situated in the 400 block of Lackawanna Avenue.
The founders were: Gustave Brooks, Moses and Isaac Newhouse, Juilias and Judas Josephson, Manual Green, Siegfried and Edward Sutto, Samuel and Sigman J. Wertheimer, Simon Green, Jacob Sullum, Samuel Fulde, Jonas Lauer, Joseph Rosenthal, Simon Krotosky, Nathan Springer, J. Alexander, and S. Morris.
The founders petitioned for incorporation on September 24, 1861, and a charter was granted to the congregation on January 7, 1862, by which time the membership list had increased to 27.
The first man to be identified as president was A. Ackerman. The first spiritual leader is listed in the records only as Dr. Cohen. His duties consisted not only of those traditionally associated with Rabbis, but also providing an entire elementary education for children of members of the congregation, including teaching of Hebrew and German.
In April of 1867, they moved into their first synagogue, located on the 100 block of Linden Street. The building was dedicated by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, founder of the Reform Judaism movement in America. In 1880, they joined the American Reform Movement organized only seven years earlier. This organization is now called the Union of Reform Judaism, and consists of over 900 member congregations nationwide.
On May 8, 1902, a second move was made to a new facility on Madison Avenue in Scranton’s Hill section. Abraham S. Anspacher was the spiritual leader, and Bernard Moses the president at this time. A school and auditorium were added to the building in 1938, through bequests by Samuel H. Frank, Solomon Goldsmith, and Samuel Samter. Extensive renovations to the sanctuary were made in 1950 to accommodate the expanded congregation. The Oppenheim Chapel was donated in 1957 by the family of the late I.E. Oppenheim. In the 1960’s, the name was changed to “The Madison Avenue Temple”. In December of 1973, the congregation’s present home off of Lake Scranton Road was consecrated. The congregation chose to rename itself “Temple Hesed”, “The Temple of Loving Kindness”. The current building was entirely refurbished in 1999. It houses a sanctuary with fixed seating for 225 and expandable seating for over 600, ample parking, offices and classrooms, a youth lounge, social halls, full kitchen, and library.