If you didn’t have a ticket to High Holiday services in the early ’70s, you didn’t get into the sanctuary at Temple Tifereth Israel in Malden. Well over 1,000 people jammed the seats to recite prayers, hear the fiery sermons of Rabbi Judea Miller, and the soothing tones of Cantor Sheldon Chandler.
But like other cities in the area like Chelsea and Revere, the Jewish population of Malden dwindled and more and more temple members moved farther out into the suburbs.
“We knew that the handwriting was on the wall … we went from 465 families down to maybe 70 families. The Jewish community in Malden wasn’t growing, and we were dying out slowly,” said Sam Tabasky, the former president of Tifereth Israel.
Many Jewish families from Malden had moved to Peabody, so when Tifereth Israel leaders were looking for a merger partner, Temple Beth Shalom about 10 miles up Route 1 seemed like a good fit. The Peabody temple also had been dealing with stagnant membership. In 2015, both congregations gave a near unanimous vote to merge and became Temple Tiferet Shalom.
Clearing out the Malden temple was a highly emotional process for its members. “When I think about it now, it was one of the most painful things that I had to go through,” said Bryna Tabasky, now the music director at Tiferet Shalom. “I had seen tremendous family milestones and sadness and joys and every kind of thing you would see in a lifetime. Congregants would talk to me: ‘How can we leave, I can’t leave this building’ – I would try to reassure them that life goes on and this can be a rebirth.”
Indeed, the newly formed Tiferet Shalom has been a rebirth for both synagogues. It has 250 members, a Hebrew school with more than 100 students, and a series of technological upgrades. Rabbi David Kudan made the move from Malden to lead the new congregation in Peabody.
The former Tifereth Israel building in Malden survived. Tifereth Israel leaders purposefully looked to sell it to another house of worship. It became the Brazilian church Templo dos Milagres. Those driving by on Salem Street will see the menorah still remains on the side of the building.