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1185 Sheridan Road, Glencoe, IL 60022847.835.0724

Our History and Archives


For a more complete collection of NSCI's history, please visit our Archives page here


In 1920, a group living on the North Shore, but still members of the classical reform Sinai Congregation in Chicago, sought to create a northern branch of the congregation closer to their homes. And so it was that, with a vote of 40 people, the original founders established: “The North Shore Branch of Sinai Congregation” for those with "an interest in furthering their thought and creating a background of Jewish thought for their children." Rabbi Emil G. Hirsch of Sinai Congregation served as the "traveling" rabbi. Because of his main responsibilities at Sinai in Chicago, including regular Sunday sabbath services as was the custom for most reform synagogues at the time, the North Shore Branch’s services were held on Friday nights to accommodate. On June 1, 1920, the first Shabbat service was held at the Hubbard Woods School in Winnetka, Illinois. From that point forward, services were held at irregular intervals, mainly whenever the rabbi was available.


In the early years, a series of visiting rabbis serving as clergy served the North Shore Branch’s 198-member families, leading to the congregation’s 1924 affiliation with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. As the desire grew for a more permanent and independent identity, the members voted to separate from Sinai Congregation on April 19, 1926. Three months later, after a location in Glencoe was selected, the name North Shore Congregation Israel was chosen on June 19, 1926. All in all, 326 synagogue members and 46 non-members contributed to the building fund. 


In the late 1950s, the congregation had grown to the point where the need for larger facilities was clear. A congregant acquired the magnificent 19-acre lakefront property where we are presently located. The building, designed by renowned mid-century modernist architect Minoru Yamasaki, was dedicated in 1964, including the central architectural feature known as “The Sanctuary of Light” as well as administrative offices and the original religious school wing.


Again, due to growth as well as the changing and diversifying face of reform Judaism, NSCI dedicated an addition at the south end of the building, including the Jane R. Perlman Sanctuary and Rebecca K. Crown Social Hall in 1982. In keeping with the same evolution, in 2008, the congregation built its most recent additions to our campus, including the Larry and Lillian Goodman entryway to Perlman Sanctuary, the Larry and Lillian Goodman Terrace, and the Nate and Beth Tross Family Education Center to allow for experiential learning. The congregation remains the oldest synagogue on the North Shore of Chicago as well as the largest reform congregation in the Chicagoland area and continues to be recognized for its dynamic and nationally recognized clergy, high caliber worship experiences, educational programs, and social justice offerings. 




It has been almost 60 years since NSCI dedicated its current home on the lake. The striking building was unlike any other synagogue and was immediately embraced as a bold landmark of modern design. Dr. Samuel D. Gruber gave a richly illustrated talk about the Minoru Yamasaki-designed sanctuary, placing it within a long tradition of religion and building, but also seeing it as something still fresh and new that continues after more than a half-century to inspire (and sometimes perplex) the worshiper and the visitor.


Additionally, special guest Matt Wylie, Principal at Eckenhoff Saunders, the architectural firm selected to help NSCI transform to a modern, flexible synagogue campus via the Imagine the Possible campaign, gave a detailed walkthrough of forthcoming plans to enhance our synagogue with beautiful and functional spaces.


To listen to the discussion and history behind the landmark that is North Shore Congregation Israel, please click here

Tue, May 21 2024 13 Iyar 5784