In the Beginning
In September of 1959, several families who were living on the east shore of Narragansett Bay felt the need to provide an educational and social gathering place for their fellow Jews. Thirty-five families became the Eastward Jewish Center. A few years later, a group of members decided to start a temple in Barrington and the Barrington Jewish Center was founded in 1963. There were 39 charter member families and 36 children in our Religious School.
Two years later, members purchased their first building at 147 County Road, pictured to the right. In 1967, we became the guardians of our first Sefer Torah, Holy Scroll #1133, one of the 1,564 scrolls saved from the Nazis in Czechoslovakia and assigned by the Westminster Synagogue in London to us.
Our first Bar and Bat Mitzvah services were conducted in 1969 and our first Confirmations in 1972. By 1973, our Religious School enrollment had grown to 100 students. Rabbi James Rosenberg became our third full-time spiritual leader in October, 1974, and introduced guitar music to our service.
For several years, a group of members had been suggesting that we choose a Hebrew name for our community. In March of 1975, our name was officially changed to Temple Habonim – Barrington Jewish Center. Habonim means “The Builders” and it seemed a most fitting name for our evolving congregation.
The New Building
In 1976, the Town of Barrington decided to sell the Civil War-era school at 165 New Meadow Road. The idyllic riverfront setting of the property combined with the striking architectural lines of the structure, made this opportunity particularly appealing. After much discussion, we purchased and renovated the building to meet the needs of our growing congregation and moved in to our new home in June of 1980. September of 1980 marked the first time our facility was large enough to celebrate the High Holy Days in our own building.
Continued growth and program enrichment carried us through the ‘80s and ‘90s. At the turn of the millennium, our facilities needed to expand again to keep pace with our congregation. In September of 2003, our renovated building was dedicated. Our expanded structure now included modern classrooms and an enlarged Sanctuary and social hall. Our membership numbered almost 200 families and Religious School enrollment was at 185 students.
Our New Rabbi
In 2004, Rabbi Rosenberg announced plans for retirement and preparations began to find a new rabbi. In 2006, Rabbi Andrew Klein accepted the position as Rabbi of Temple Habonim. With his arrival, services were expanded to include Tot and Family Shabbat services as well as continued involvement with other local houses of worship in an effort to further our community connections. A strong bond with Rev. Jeff Larson of the Barrington UCC (locally known as the white church) formed which has resulted in several collaborative events and trips for both youth and adults. As a member of the Barrington Interfaith Coalition, Rabbi Klein ensures our congregation has opportunities to learn of our similarities and differences jointly with other local houses of worship, building a respect for each of our belief systems.
Rabbi Klein has been responsible for introducing our congregation to leading Jewish songleaders and scholars, broadening the experiences of worship for our members. Rabbi Klein accompanies our confirmation class members to the annual L'Taken weekend in Washington DC where the students have an opportunity to worship and learn with 300 other Reform Jewish teens in a formative experience. Rabbi Klein encourages participatory involvement in weekly Shabbat services as well as during the High Holy Days allowing members to join in the creation of worship which includes all. His warm and inclusive manner continues to provide a spirit of welcoming for all who visit Temple Habonim.