Built five years before the Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline, the Temple Kehillath Israel on Harvard Street employs a similar architectural aesthetic of the Byzantine Revival style. The Jewish community of Brookline had grown significantly since the early 1900s, reaching a population of 4,000 by 1921. The congregation which constructed this temple had temporary quarters in a building at Harvard and Thorndike streets. By March 1921, it was decided to build a temple, and in 1922, the cornerstone was laid for a building which would cost an estimated $150,000 and have a capacity for 1,000. Plans submitted by architects architects Albert MacNaughton and George E. Robinson showed the large structure with space to build outbuildings as the congregation was expected to keep up with growth.
In 1948, an Art Deco Community House, designed by Samuel Glaser, was constructed of stone replicated the materiality of the temple, but with Modern features, a connector addition was added in 1958. The congregation is currently in the midst of a huge building campaign, which began with the exterior restoration of the temple building, followed by a modernization and restoration of the interior. In 2019, the 1948 Community House was razed to make way for an affordable housing development, called the Brown Family House.
Congregation Ohabei Shalom was founded in 1842, and is the longest enduring Jewish congregation in Massachusetts and the second in New England after Touro Synagogue located in Newport, Rhode Island. The congregation grew from the original eight families to over a hundred and was forced to continually relocate around Boston for enough space until it purchased the former South Congregational Church on Union Park Street in the South End (now St. John the Baptist). The South End became a hub for Boston’s Jewish community and the congregation continued to grow, alongside catholic and other religious groups in the area, notably the Holy Cross Cathedral a block away. By the turn of the century, the jewish population began to shift outward to Brookline and other outlying cities, which only increased after WWII.
Land was secured on Beacon Street in Brookline in 1921 and the congregation hired the Boston firm of Blackall, Clapp and Whittemore to design a large new temple and sanctuary. The Byzantine-Romanesque edifice and its magnificent sanctuary were completed in 1928. Modeled on themes from Hagia Sophia and the Great Synagogue of Florence, Italy, it has a commanding presence on the busy street to this day. The temple was to even have a large corner tower, which never materialized. With its use of polychromatic masonry and Byzantine ornament, and capped by a great copper dome, the congregation boasts one of the most architecturally outstanding religious buildings in the area.