Temple Shalom was established in July 1961 when thirty-five Jewish families got together to form the first Conservative congregation on Aquidneck Island. A site was quickly found for worship and a rabbi and cantor were hired for the upcoming holy days.
The first High Holy Days services were held at a recreation center in Newport. The fledgling congregation had little money, not nearly enough to hire a full-time rabbi, so following the High Holy Days, students from the Jewish Theological Seminary were brought in on a bi-weekly basis.
In 1967, the congregation purchased the Birdland Café at 196-198 Thames Street in Newport. Through the physical labor and financial support of its members, the Birdland Café was transformed into a beautiful sanctuary, social hall, kitchen, and study. Rabbi Emanuel Goldsmith of Brandeis University served the congregation on weekends for one year. For the next six years, the pulpit was filled by students from the Seminary.
One of these students, Rabbi Marc S. Jagolinzer, became the spiritual leader in June 1974, and still holds this position today. The congregation rejoiced in its new rabbi and looked forward to building a strong membership for the future. However, disaster struck on October 14, 1974. Temple Shalom was destroyed by arson. That evening, a strong and dedicated membership met to plan for the future. Congregation Ahavis Achim offered the use of its facilities and Temple members worshipped there for three years with Rabbi Jagolinzer conducting the services.
As the Temple recovered from the fire, membership began to increase. Ahavis Achim was too small and parking in Newport was a problem. Ground was broken in July 1977 for the present building on Valley Road in Middletown. The first Shabbat service in the new building was held on September 7, 1978 with a standing-room-only crowd in attendance.
In September 1989, the Samuel Zilman Bazarsky Religious School, donated by Mrs. Beatrice Bazarsky in memory of her beloved husband, opened its doors to all students from Newport County and the surrounding area.
Throughout the years, both the Temple and the religious school have continued to prosper and flourish. Temple Shalom has become well known for its services and its multifaceted activities. Temple Shalom serves as a beacon of spirituality, collegiality, and education to the Jewish community, and a leader in interfaith relations and services.