My Walk through Jewish History
As an Exhibition and Research Intern at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, it’s my responsibility to describe and dissect the unique connection between the Jewish community and medicine for the upcoming Jews, Health, and Healing exhibit. Every day, I research topics on Jewish identity, conceptions of health, and the changing medical landscape. However, my education in Jewish History begins far before I enter the JMM. My morning walk from Patterson Park to Jonestown is an immediate reminder of Baltimore’s changing ethnic communities and the remnants of a recent past.
Southeast Baltimore and was once home to a thriving Jewish community. This should not surprise our blog readers, as the JMM and corned beef row are located just east of downtown. However, to the casual passer-by, the area’s Jewish presence is not immediate. Jewish History is only found by those who look. One day, as I was walking down East Baltimore Street, I noticed something quite unusual on a Spanish-speaking Roman Catholic Church—Hebrew.
On the facade of Iglesia de Dios, was a prominent Hebrew inscription, and the date 1899. Stepping back, I looked for more Jewish symbolism hidden amongst the Christian iconography. Sure enough, above the stained glass cross, were the tablets of the Ten Commandments. I could not find the earliest congregation associated with this synagogue; however, with a little research, I discovered this beautiful cream brick building at the corner of Baltimore and Chester may have been the home of former Adath Israel Congregation. This Orthodox congregation was founded in 1914 and amalgamated with Congregation Emanuel in 1920. This community worshiped at this location from 1920-1948, until it merged with Beth Isaac to form Beth Isaac-Adath Israel Congregation. The community is still thriving, just in a new location in Northwest Baltimore.
Re-appropriating sacred places is certainly not a new concept to our readers or the JMM. The Lloyd Street Synagogue was once used by the Lithuanian Catholic community before they raised enough money to build their own house of worship. Though I am sure it is hard to leave a place that was once your home every Saturday, it must have reassured former congregants that their synagogue was still used for praise and reflection.
Unfortunately, not all former synagogues find other communities. Just of the corner of E. Baltimore and S. Caroline, I walked past a razed former synagogue. Yet, despite the graffiti and draped blue tarpaulins, I could see the beauty the structure once had. There is no name, just an inscription of a psalm and the date 1925. The closest congregation I found near this site was Agudas Achim Anshe Chernigov Nusarch Ari Congregation, an Orthodox community located at 132 South Carolina Street from 1913-1950.
Although I have just scratched the surface of Baltimore’s past congregations and Jewish communities, I realize I am so fortunate to work in a place that keeps these memories alive. If you have any more information on these structures, please let the JMM know – email firstname.lastname@example.org!
This blog post was written by Exhibitions Research Intern Mandy Benter. For more information on Baltimore’s many synagogues, please see Earl Pruce’s Synagogues, Temples, and Congregations of Maryland, 1830-1990 or visit the website: http://www.kilduffs.com/Synagogues.html. To read more posts by and about JMM interns, click here.