Temple Emek Shalom (TES), located in Ashland, Oregon, is a vibrant Jewish congregation serving residents of the Rogue Valley (Jackson and Josephine Counties), surrounding communities in adjacent counties, and those who access the congregation online.
In 1973, TES was founded as the Rogue Valley Jewish Community (RVJC) by a small group of local Jewish families, most of whom had recently moved to the Medford area.
From 1973 to 1982, the congregation primarily held services at First Presbyterian Church in Medford. Membership steadily grew and included people from as far away as Grants Pass to the north and Yreka, California, to the south. In 1976, the religious school for children’s education was launched with approximately eight students and RVJC was granted responsibility for administering the Jewish section of the Historic Jacksonville Cemetery. RVJC affiliated with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), now the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and retained this affiliation, through 2012.
In the early years of the congregation, student rabbis from the Los Angeles Campus of Hebrew Union College would fly in once a month to lead services and teach classes for children and adults.
By 1983, the congregation had grown to approximately 185 families and voted to purchase a permanent home at 1081 East Main Street in Ashland, at the corner of Mountain Avenue. That same year, the congregation hired its first part-time rabbi, expanded the religious school, and became a proud and visible member of the local community under a new name: Temple Emek Shalom.
A new, larger home was needed to accommodate the many activities of the growing congregation. In 1998, land was purchased at 1800 East Main Street and architectural plans developed, with groundbreaking in 2001. The new 15,000 square foot building was completed in 2002 at a total project cost of $3 million. In February 2003, Temple Emek Shalom’s new facilities opened with a community-wide celebration.
Rabbi Marc Sirinsky served as the congregation’s first full time rabbi from 1994 to 2012, followed by Rabbi Joshua Boettiger from 2012 to 2021. Rabbi Julie Benioff joined the congregation as Education and Program Director, and Prayer Leader, in 2017 and was subsequently named Assistant Rabbi; in August 2021, she became Rabbi of the congregation.
In 2018, TES affiliated with Reconstructing Judaism, the central organization of the Reconstructionist movement, which trained and ordained both Rabbi Boettiger and Rabbi Benioff.
Throughout our history, Temple Emek Shalom has flourished as a welcoming home and house of worship for all Jews and as a participant in the larger community. Today TES has approximately 185 member families, and 20 preschool and 32 religious school students (pre-kindergarten through 7th grade). As of August 2021, professional staff includes a full-time Rabbi who also co-directs the religious school, a Preschool Director, and Office Manager. An estimated 2,500+ members of the public attend classes, community events, services, and celebrations at TES throughout the year.