Dharma School History

In 1912 the SUNDAY SCHOOL Department was established at 1020 Main Street with a branch in the late I 920s at 8th Avenue and Dearborn. In 1974, the terminology, Sunday School, was changed to Dharma School.

Because of the increasing enrollment in the Dharma School which peaked in the 60s with 500 students, classes were held in the nursery building and the entire temple basement area was utilized. Additional classrooms were needed, and, thus, ground breaking ceremonies were held on December 29, 1963, for the construction of Memorial Hall to contain many new classrooms. The building was dedicated on May 31, 1965. When the enrollment peaked, Dharma School, which met at 10 a.m., was divided into an upper and lower division, alternating the use of the hondo and the classrooms to accommodate the many students.

While the Dharma School attendance was increasing, however, adult attendance at the 11 a.m. service was decreasing at an alarming rate. In order to encourage the adults to attend the 11 a.m. service, a child care program was offered but still the adults were not attending the service in the hondo. Therefore, in order to make it possible for the adults to attend the temple at the same time as their children, in 1964, our unique and very popular Dharma Exchange program was begun.

Reflecting the national trend, by the early 80s, the Dharma School enrollment dropped to below 100 students. However, members of the baby boomer age began to return to the temple with their children and in September 1987, the children’s service was begun in Memorial Hall chapel with parents and children actively participating in conducting the services. In the 90s, attendance has been increasing among the adults and the children with an ethnically diversified congregation.