My Walk through Jewish History

Posted on June 26, 2014 by

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.

A Hebrew inscription hidden in plain sight.

A Hebrew inscription hidden in plain sight.

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.

Iglesia de Dios on E. Baltimore Street is an excellent example of a re-purposed religious space.

Iglesia de Dios on E. Baltimore Street is an excellent example of a re-purposed religious space.

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.

The Lloyd Street Synagogue took on multiple faith communities in its lifetime.

The Lloyd Street Synagogue took on multiple faith communities in its lifetime.

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.

 Though it’s near demolition, one can still appreciate the structure’s subtle beauty.

Though it’s near demolition, one can still appreciate the structure’s subtle beauty.

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!


Mandy BenterThis 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: read more posts by and about JMM interns, click here


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1 Comment

  1. Fred Shoken says:

    Dear Mandy,

    I am afraid that you have been taken in by a ruse enticing Jews to visit a Christian Mission in the guise of a synagogue.

    The building at Caroline Street near Baltimore Street was known as the Salem Hebrew Lutheran Mission, The formal address is 1503 East Baltimore Street — it is connected to a Baltimore Street building displaying crosses.

    Its purpose was to convert Jews to Christianity — see attached envelope found on ebay.

    There are clues on the building as to its true nature — see attached photos from about six years ago. While the cornerstone displays an inscription in Hebrew and cites Psalms 118 verse 22 from the Hebrew Bible, it also cites Mathew 21 verse 42 from the Christian Bible. The verse has been used to describe Jesus at the “cornerstone” that was rejected by the Jews. Today there is a “messianic” Jewish congregation in Owings Mills called Rosh Pina from this verse.

    כב אֶבֶן, מָאֲסוּ הַבּוֹנִים– הָיְתָה, לְרֹאשׁ פִּנָּה. 22 The stone which the builders rejected is become the chief corner-stone

    A Star of David is at the top of the building, but within it are the letters IHS which is an abbreviation in Greek for Jesus.

    So, the building was designed as a deception enticing Jews within a heavily Jewish community at the time to enter a building where yiddish speaking former Jews who converted to Christianity attempted to convert others. The mission was initially supported by the Lutheran Church, but later became independent.

    The person who headed the mission, Henry Einspruch, is known for his translation of the New Testament into Yiddish. Ironically, one can still find his work on line: courtesy of the National Yiddish Book Center and the Stephen Speilberg Digital Yiddish Library.

    A few years back the Baltimore Jewish Times had an article about this “mysterious” building with a follow-up from readers reporting that it was a mission.

    In some ways the building’s history may be more significant than a regular synagogue since it tells another story about local Jewish history and relations with Christian neighbors. Also the fact that many Jews and others still mistake it for a synagogue is a testament to the original deception of its design.

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