Temple Anshe Hesed’s 172 years of history and service to the Jewish Community of Erie, Pennsylvania began in 1846 with the establishment of the Anshe Hesed Burial Society. Ten years later, the Burial Society purchased the cemetery for the grand sum of $325.
The few Jews living in Erie, almost all of German descent, were meeting at various homes and rented halls. In 1862, Anshe Hesed was incorporated as a congregation, and hired rabbis who each stayed for a year or two. This orthodox congregation became more and more liberal. Differences led to disputes, and in October 1875, the Anshe Hesed Reform Congregation officially took over the assets of the congregation and became affiliated with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now Union for Reform Judaism).
The congregation’s first synagogue was built in 1882 on West 8th Street. In 1901, with 37 families on its roster, the congregation engaged Rabbi Max C. Currick, who became its spiritual leader for 47 years, while the congregation thrived and eventually outgrew the original building.
A beautiful and historic building was erected on the corner of Tenth and Liberty Street and became the home of Temple Anshe Hesed from June 1930 until July 2018, when we moved to our new Temple home on Old Zuck Road.
Many families leaving the darkness of Nazi Germany, between 1933 -1945 immigrated to Erie and brought additional strength and dedication to the congregation. Increased emphasis on the responsibilities for Jews throughout the world became a common theme nationally and locally.
In 1947, Rabbi Randall Falk succeeded Rabbi Currick, and the congregation grew to 250 families. Again, additional space was needed, and the Max C. Currick Memorial was dedicated in 1959. In the early 1960s, with almost two hundred children attending the religious school, the building was teeming with activity. An active Youth Group hosted many regional and national events. Most members looked to the Temple not only for their religious needs, but also for their major social activities. The Temple, and especially the Sisterhood and Men’s Club, took very active roles in the general community, and our congregation has always enjoyed a strong national presence in the Union for Reform Judaism.
As with many congregations, in recent years our Temple has been affected by societal changes resulting in a declining population. Children who grew up in Erie moved away, fewer new families are moving to our city and our congregation is aging. While we still have an active membership, religious school and community presence, our membership is now approximately 130 families and we have 33 students in our Religious School. Thus, in 2013, we began discussions about building a new, smaller building in a different neighborhood.
By Spring, 2014 land was purchased, an architectural firm was hired and construction began. We were supported in this major undertaking with the help of a large endowment from the Alec Fisher and William and Libby Penn families.
In July 2018, our congregation moved the Torahs from our home of 80 years to our new home several miles away. While we cherish the memories of our temple on Liberty Street, we look forward to creating new rituals, traditions and memories in our new home on Old Zuck Road.
With the strong support of our members, and a new rabbi to inspire us, we look forward to a bright future as Anshe Hesed, “People of Loving Kindness “
5401 Old Zuck Rd., Erie, PA 16506