The synagogue was founded in 1904 by a minyan of Eastern European immigrants, who named their community Shearith Israel — “Remnant of Israel” — in acknowledgement of their status as pioneers in the American South, and of their dedication to the tradition from which they had come.
For two years they prayed in one another’s homes, and in 1906 they began meeting in an antebellum Methodist Church on Hunter Street, then the heart of the Jewish neighborhood.
Sisterhood was formed when the women of Shearith Israel organized in 1916 to serve the traditional religious and social needs of the Jewish community. They operated an independent mikvah and offered assistance to new immigrants. When the congregation moved into its first synagogue building in 1929, near the present-day Turner Field, the society became known as Sisterhood, and its role expanded to include improving and maintaining the building and to foster the religious education and activities for both children and adults.
After World War II, under the leadership of Rabbi Tobias Geffen, who served the congregation for decades, the congregation followed the shift in Jewish population to the Morningside/Virginia-Highland/Emory area and settled on residential University Drive in 1946, the first synagogue in DeKalb County.
In the 1960s, the congregation began to draw its orientation from the Conservative movement as well as from Orthodox tradition, removed the mehitza (the barrier between the men’s and women’s sections) and increased the participation of women in services. In 2002, the Synagogue became affiliated with the Conservative movement. Separate seating remains available at the front of the sanctuary for those members who prefer it.
Today, Congregation Shearith Israel serves more than 350 families in Intown Atlanta and beyond. Shearith Israel offers daily minyan in morning and evening, weekly Shabbat services, children’s education, Sisterhood, adult and family programming and education, and more. Most importantly, Shearith Israel fosters a community of Jewish learning and spirituality in a welcoming, intellectual, yet casual atmosphere.