Tarentum was settled in 1829, after the construction of the Pennsylvania Canal brought a stream of people through the area along the Allegheny River northeast of Pittsburgh. Tarentum was incorporated as a borough in 1842. It became an important industrial center with the construction of a railroad in 1866 and with the arrival of several mills in the late 1870s and 1880s.
The early Jewish settlers in Tarentum and neighboring Natrona, Pa. originally rode by horse and buggy to nearby New Kensington for religious services and stayed with local families. By 1908, Tarentum had a large enough Jewish population to support an independent congregation, which was initially called the Tarentum Hebrew Congregation. They initially met at the Oppenheimer Building at Corbet Street and 5th Avenue and later at the Smith Building on E. 6th Ave. They started a Hebrew school in 1914 and a youth club called the Omri Club in 1915. Other communal organizations started soon after drew members from New Kensington, Natrona and Brackenridge.
A group chartered Ohev Sholom Congregation about 1919 and dedicated a new synagogue at 516 E. 6th Ave. in 1923. In 1940, Ohev Sholom hired Rabbi Dr. Joseph Babad, a fifteenth-generation rabbi who was born in Poland and serving a congregation in Vienna when Germany annexed Austria in 1938. He stayed with the Ohev Sholom Congregation for several years before moving joining a congregation in Washington, Pa.
Ohev Sholom Congregation grew from 25 families to 60 families over its first few decades, but membership started to decline between the wars, “as the young people relocated in search of careers,” according to a community history. The American Jewish Yearbook listed a population of 300 in its 1928-1929 edition, 180 in its 1940-1941 edition and 120 in its 1951 edition. In 1973, Ohev Sholom Congregation donated its Torah scrolls to synagogues in Israel and sold its synagogue. The proceeds were given to Beth Jacob Congregation in New Kensington, where many former Tarentum members had relocated. As of 2013, the former synagogue building was being used as apartments.