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Our History

The first Sephardic Jews appeared in Washington around 1924.  Most of these early arrivals were from Turkey and Greece.  In the early 1940s, Moroccan Jews began to arrive, followed by others from Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya. Gradually, they came together to build the foundation of what would become Magen David Sephardic Congregation. In 1966, a board of directors was formed, and a charter was enacted.

For many years, the congregation lacked a permanent home. Ashkenazi synagogues generously offered spaces for prayer and activities. During these early years, services and social activities had a decidedly Moroccan flavor, but by 1982 the congregation included members from a variety of backgrounds, and the synagogue was taking on a broader Middle Eastern and North African character. Ashkenazi Jews appeared first as casual visitors, but captivated by the warmth of the people and the vibrancy of the prayers, many became steadfast members. MDSC warmly welcomed European-style influences, while at the same time maintaining and preserving its Sephardic essence.

In 1984, the congregation began to look for a home it could call its own. A building on the corner of Tilden Lane and Old Georgetown Road in Rockville, Maryland was purchased in 1984, and the first Shabbat service in the new location took place in May 1986.

In 1987, the congregation welcomed its first full-time Rabbi, Hayyim Kassorla, whose Torah knowledge and youthful enthusiasm attracted many new members. By 1992, the congregation numbered 250 families. Once again, a larger space was needed, but the dream was to acquire an ideal home – permanent, lasting, and exactly suited to the congregation’s needs. In time, a location was found, a suitable architectural style was decided upon, and the result was a strong and unique Moorish exterior that houses an elegant and evocative sanctuary,

When the new building was ready, a crowd formed for the last time outside the old address. Carrying its precious Torah scrolls, the congregation walked to its new home. The first prayers were said in the new sanctuary in June 1998. After Rabbi Kassorla's departure, Rabbi Joshua Maroof served the congregation from 2005-2014, and Rabbi Haim Ovadia became the community's spiritual leader from 2015-2018.

MDSC has actively maintained a program of community outreach, especially to those in need. Few congregations can boast MDSC’s sense of kinship for members and friends who are in difficult times. Additionally, MDSC has always welcomed not only Sephardim and Mizrahim, but Jews from all backgrounds. We love to share the beauty and sanctity of our beautiful building, as well as the richness of our melodies and minhagim. Inclusiveness and warmth are hallmarks of our religious services, and we celebrate the vibrancy of Sephardic Jewish life every day.

Tue, February 19 2019 14 Adar I 5779