Our History

Etz Hayim Synagogue initially evolved out of a Torah Study Group taught during the winter of 1991-1992 by Rabbi Bruce Diamond. As interest in establishing a local synagogue grew, Rabbi Diamond began to conduct Shabbat evening services at the West Side Community Center in Derry, the first being held in April. By June of that year, a working group of twelve households drafted by-laws, applied for and later received a charter from the state of New Hampshire. In September 1992, Etz Hayim held its first High Holy Day services at Derry's Masonic Temple. As there was a demonstrated need for more permanent quarters, the Odd Fellows Hall located at 18 Oak Street in Derry, was rented during the fall of 1992 and offerings were expanded to include a midweek youth education program and monthly Sunday Camp.

By June 1993, Etz Hayim had attracted nearly fifty member households and elected officers as well as a board of directors. Once again the synagogue had outgrown its quarters. A warm relationship had developed between Etz Hayim and Derry's Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, having co-sponsored a Thanksgiving Service the previous year. An agreement was soon reached for the synagogue to share a home in the Church beginning in the autumn of 1993. Ever since, Etz Hayim has held its worship services, educational programs and other events at the Church whenever possible.

As Etz Hayim continued to grow, the search for land and a building of our own was an ongoing process. This became more of a reality when one of our members donated a three acre parcel to us in December, 1999. Unfortunately, we later found that erecting a structure on this property was going to be quite cost prohibitive due to the configuration of the parcel along with the discovery of ledge. A decision was made to sell the land and look elsewhere. At that time the Church of the Transfiguration made a stunning offer to subdivide a portion of its lot for Etz Hayim to purchase and build a home of its own. In 2008, the land was purchased and the establishment of our “interfaith campus” was underway. Our official groundbreaking ceremony was held on January 6, 2008.