Vassar Temple is proud to be the oldest continuously functioning Jewish congregation between New York City and Albany. The congregation was founded in 1848 as Congregation Brethren of Israel. Twenty years later the members moved their worship services from the upper floor of a building on Main Street in Poughkeepsie to a former (and again now) church they had purchased on Vassar Street, whose location inspired the nickname of the congregation. The current home of Vassar Temple on Hooker Avenue at Cherry Street in the City of Poughkeepsie was dedicated in 1953 and has proved to be flexible enough to accommodate the changing needs of an active congregation.
Members are involved in congregational life through the Board of Trustees, a variety of committees, and the Sisterhood, Men’s Club, and Youth Group. Using the prayer books published by the Union for Reform Judaism, of which Vassar Temple has been a member for over 60 years, services are held every Friday evening (sometimes with a special theme or speaker) and some Saturday mornings, as well as on the High Holy Days and festivals throughout the Jewish year. New Paths services take a different approach on Saturday mornings once or twice a month. The congregation prides itself on caring for its members during challenging times in their lives and provides the opportunity to break the Yom Kippur fast and celebrate the Passover seder at the temple, as well as to enjoy a humorous show at Purim.
Our members have always worked for social justice, serving the community in many ways and coming to the aid of people in other states and nations in difficult times. The congregation contributes food every month for distribution by Dutchess Outreach and since 1983 has cooked and served a meal at the Lunch Box every month. Other annual social action projects include Trim-a-Thanksgiving in cooperation with Hudson River Housing, Souper Sale to warm our hungry neighbors during the winter, Protein Plenty to keep them healthy during the summer, and the Yom Kippur food collection organized by our Youth Group. Congregants continue to participate in the annual CROP Walk and to be active in other activities of the Dutchess County Interfaith Council.
Vassar Temple offers a program of Jewish education for all ages. Our Seth A. Erlebacher Religious School provides a stimulating learning environment for grades K-12. The recently established Hebrew School program is open to children regardless of temple affiliation and gives students in grades 5-7 familiarity with the Hebrew language as part of their preparation for Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Torah study sessions are held every Saturday morning and Talmud classes every Thursday. The community is always welcome at our adult education programs on a wide range of topics, from international affairs to Jewish philosophy.