At the beginning of the 20th century, tens of thousands of Jews migrated to America; some from the Isle of Rhodes and from Turkey made their way to Atlanta and founded Or VeShalom in 1914. At that time there was a membership of 57 families.
At the time OVS was formed, other synagogues already existed in Atlanta, which serviced Eastern European Jews (Ashkenaz) whose customs differed from that of these Spanish/Mediterranean Jews (Sephard). OVS’s most outstanding attribute was servicing the minority Sephardic Jewish community of Atlanta. Jews who identified themselves with Sephardic customs immediately associated themselves with the new congregation, as Or VeShalom’s identity was unmistakably unique from the other synagogues in Atlanta.
Over the course of the century since its inception in 1914, OVS grew in membership, which not only prompted the installation of a Sunday religious school, it also prompted the building of a permanent sanctuary and education wing in 1970. The congregation’s first permanent Keilah was at Central and Woodward Avenues where it remained from 1920 to 1948, when a larger building was acquired on North Highland Avenue. The current building on North Druid Hills Road, which has an award-winning design, was dedicated in 1971 and rededicated in August 1998, with the addition of the rotunda and Victor D. Maslia Wing, in memory of member Victor D. Maslia. The rotunda is designed to celebrate the Sephardic expressions of culture and the traditional symbolism of the Jewish religion.
The six smooth stone spheres placed around the outside walls of the Rotunda silently echo remembrance for the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust—each one stands as a wordless marker of the hollowness left by the horror of their loss. The floor of the Rotunda is Jerusalem Stone—marble quarried in Israel and shipped to Atlanta. On the outside of the Rotunda on the entablature is an inscription from our biblical teachings (Psalms 118, Verse 20): “This is the Gate to the L-rd, Let the Righteous enter it.”