LSS Fact of the Day

Posted on January 6, 2009 by

1845 - After fifteen years of moving between rented rooms, the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation decided to build its own synagogue. The structure became the first synagogue in the state of Maryland. The congregation hired Robert Cary Long, Jr., a prominent Baltimore architect, who created a Greek revival style building. In September, the new synagogue was consecrated.

From the Baltimore Sun, September 27, 1845

“Agreeably to announcement, the new synagogue erected by the Hebrew congregation of Baltimore, was yesterday afternoon dedicated to the service of the Most High. The building was crowded in all its parts, and among the audience we noticed the Rev. Dr. Johns, Rev. Wm. Hamilton, Rev. Mr. Purvance, and other ministers of Christian churches. There were present, the Rev. Mr. Rice, Chief Rabbi in the U. States, the Rev. Mr. Isaacs, of New York, the Rev. Mr. Leeser, of Philadelphia, and the Rev. Mr. Ansell, of this city. About 4 o’clock the lamps in the church were lit, and the ceremonies of consecration commenced by the opening of the Ark, from which the five books of Moses were taken, and carried by five persons through the centre aisle to the front door and back again to the reader’s desk or altar, prayers in Hebrew being chaunted in the meantime by the congregation, led by Mr. Ansell. They then moved round the desk a number of times, still chaunting [sic], when the sacred archives were deposited in the Ark. Mr. Ansell then read a prayer in English, in which the blessing of Heaven was invoked upon the President of the U. states, the Executives of the State and city, &c. &c.

“The Rev. Mr. Leeser then rose and delivered a lengthy address from a portion of Scripture commencing with, ‘And not to you alone do I make this covenant,’ &c. We cannot pretend to follow the Reverend gentleman in his discourse. He spoke of the covenant given by God to the fathers in Israel, which had been handed down; the law, although called the law of Moses, was the law of God, and Moses but the means used to deliver the law to mankind – in it God speaks, not Moses. He gave a history of the Jews, their persecutions, &c., and exalted that the law was still preserved, and alluded to the preservation of the law as one evidence of their being peculiarly under the keeping of God; Israel has been ever true, will be ever true, to follow their God – the one God. The brethren present, by raising this structure, had entered into the covenant anew. They had no new mode pointed out to them, but faith in the law and obedience were still the means to be used for propitiating the mercy of God. The address, of which the above is the merest sketch, was an eloquent one, and was listened to with the most profound attention.

“The Rev. Mr. Isaacs next followed in an able discourse from the text, ‘How awful is this place; this is no other than the house of God; the gate of Heaven.’ The general object of this discourse was to demonstrate that the church just erected was God’s house – a miniature temple erected to his service. The address was quite a lengthy one, and at the conclusion, he made an appropriate prayer. Prayers were then chaunted [sic], in Hebrew, led by the Rev. Mr. Ansell, and the congregation was dismissed. And thus has been dedicated, the first synagogue ever built in Maryland. We are requested to state that the services will be continued as usual this morning; and at ten o’clock a lecture in English, will be delivered by the Rev. Mr. Isaacs. Tickets of admission will not be required.”

*Please note that “Rev.” does not indictae that a person was of Christian faith but a title for someone who was deemed to deserve respect. In this case, “awful” is something full of awe, not something horrible. Additionally, spelling and grammar have not been edited.

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