Our History
 

The Southeast Hebrew Congregation was established near Capitol Hill in 1909. During its early years, the Congregation met daily in the homes of its members and held Sabbath and Holiday services in a rented loft above several stores on Eight Street, SE in the District of Columbia. In 1939, the Congregation purchased a building at 417 Ninth Street, SE which was remodeled into a small synagogue.

In 1942, Rabbi Simon Burnstein ZT"L, assumed the pulpit of the growing congregation, inheriting the reins from Rabbi Williamowsky ZT"L. By 1949, the membership had grown out of its confined quarters, so the Congregation approved plans for a new synagogue building. Mr. Paul Himmelfarb, of blessed memory, donated an adjacent plot of land to accommodate the larger building.

With the exodus of other synagogues from the Capitol Hill area during the 1950's the Southeast Hebrew Congregation assumed a primary role in providing a place of worship for government officials and others working in the downtown area. It was not uncommon for members of Congress to participate in the shul's services.

Because of the radical demographic changes which took place in the Capitol Hill area, the remaining members saw the need to relocate again. Inspired by Rabbi Burnstein ZT"L and his vision, six members decided to move the synagogue to White Oak and a house in which to hold services was purchased in 1971.

The new quarters (the historic "Ruppert House" built in 1865 right after the Civil War) was affectionately called "The White House". Due to the growth of the community, it wasn't long before the quarters were in need of expansion. The groundbreaking for the expanded building was held in the spring of 1975 which was formally dedicated in February of 1976. Subsequently, in 1983, with the continued growth of the community, the "White House" was torn down to make way for construction of the initial portion of today's shul building.

Rabbi Simon Burnstein, the driving force behind the Congregation through its formative years and development in White Oak, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in 1980. While unable to personally witness the full fruition of his vision, Rabbi Burnstein had the satisfaction of knowing that his dream of a growing, vibrant young Orthodox community in White Oak was well on its way. "Knesset Yehoshua" was appended to the name of the Synagogue to serve as an eternal tribute to Rabbi Simon (Yehoshua) Burnstein's lifelong efforts on behalf of the shul and the Greater Washington Jewish community.

Though shocked and grieved by Rabbi Burnstein's passing, the Congregation began an extensive search for a new Rabbi to take up the vision and provide spiritual leadership to the growing community. The search led to the selection of Rabbi Kalman Winter ZT"L in the fall of 1981.

Relocating his young family from his previous Congregation in Buffalo, New York, Rabbi Winter served as the Rav of our kehilla for over 30 years, from 1981 until his untimely passing in 2012. Building on the strong spiritual foundation established by Rabbi Burnstein, Rabbi Winter inspired countless families and individuals, helping them strengthen their bonds with Yiddishkeit and increasing their observance of Torah and mitzvos. Just a few years before his passing, Rabbi Winter established The Greater Washington Community Kollel in our kehilla. The Kollel has brought new energy and vigor to our community, serving not only the members of our own kehilla, but the entire Greater Washington Jewish Community as well.

Following the painful loss of Rav Winter ZT"L, our kehilla conducted an extensive search which ultimately led to our selection and appointment of Rabbi Mordechai Rhine as our new Morah D'Asra as of August 2013.