The JMM is very lucky to have collections of various sizes related to all four of the Jewish congregations that used the two historic synagogues that make up our museum – Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, Shomrei Mishmeres, Chizuk Amuno, and B’nai Israel. This finding aid for Chizuk Amuno will be the first of the four that I post. Chizuk Amuno has its own museum, The Goldsmith Museum of Chizuk Amuno Congregation. You can visit their website to learn more about the museum and read the curator’s blog.
Chizuk Amuno Congregation Collection
ACCESS AND PROVENANCE
The Chizuk Amuno Congregation Collection is comprised of two accessions. Chizuk Amuno congregation donated materials as accession 1985.064. The rest of the materials were found in the Jewish Museum of Maryland in 2004 and assigned the accession number 2004.068. The collection was processed by Erin Titter in 2004.
Access to the collection is unrestricted and is available to researchers at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the Jewish Museum of Maryland before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library’s usual procedures.
Congregation Chizuk Amuno was founded in 1871, when a group of congregants broke away from Baltimore Hebrew Congregation due to a dispute over rituals of orthodoxy. Originally focused on Orthodoxy, the congregation eventually became influential in the Conservative movement and helping to establish the Jewish Theological Seminary and the United Synagogue of America.
The congregation built their first synagogue in 1876 on the corner of Lloyd and Lombard Streets. Chizuk Amuno’s first rabbi was Rev. Henry W. Schneeberger, the first American-born ordained rabbi, who remained with the congregation for forty years. In 1886 the women of the congregation founded the Ladies’ Chizuk Amuno Auxiliary Association of Baltimore City to help advance the welfare of the congregation. That same year Rev. Schneeberger and Aaron Friedenwald were invited toNew Yorkto help establish the Jewish Theological Seminary. In 1895 the congregation moved to a new building at Mosher and McCulloh Streets after selling theirLloyd Streetbuilding to B’Nai Israel Congregation.
In the late 1920’s the congregation began to introduce new reforms to the procedures of worship, including more prayers in English, and introducing a confirmation service for girls. The congregation also debated the issue of mixed seating during Rabbi Coblenz’s tenure, finally voting in favor of family pews in 1947. The decision upset many of the congregants and drew condemnation from the Va’ad Harabonim (Council of Orthodox Rabbis). In 1948 the board of Chizuk Amuno unanimously decided to change the congregation’s designation from Orthodox to Conservative.
Chizuk Amuno hired Rabbi Israel Goldman in 1948 (in response to Rabbi Coblenz’s ailing health) and he continued as their spiritual leader until 1976. Rabbi Goldman established the congregation’s first Adult Jewish Institute, Layman’s Weekend Retreat and Interfaith Services. He also introduced a Bat Mitzvah service in the early 1950s, which allowed girls a more active role in the synagogue, a practice that had been introduced by the Reconstructionist movement in the 1920s, but had not been widely accepted by the Conservative movement. In 1971 Rabbi Goldman proposed two items to the board regarding the involvement of women in service – to allow women to sit on the bimah on Friday night, and to allow women to be called to the Torah on Simchat Torah morning. The board passed both proposals.
In 1958 Chizuk Amuno organized a branch of the United Synagogue Youth (USY), and throughout the 1960s and 1970s the congregation remained active in social issues such as civil rights, raising bond money forIsrael, discussions about feminism, and other social actions.
Due to financial difficulties, the Chizuk Amuno Congregation sold the building atEutaw Placein 1975. Following Rabbi Goldman’s retirement in 1976, Chizuk Amuno hired Rabbi Maurice Corson. The next year, the members of the congregation approved a measure that would allow women full ritual equality in services. And in 1979, when Rabbi Corson’s contract was up, the congregation hired Rabbi Eliot Marrus for a period of ten months, upon which time the congregation hired Rabbi Joel Zaiman. Rabbi Zaiman established a Solomon Schechter Day School in Baltimore, today called Krieger Schecter Day School (KSDS).
The Ritual Committee continued to petition for other changes to services. In 1992, the congregation adopted the triennial cycle of reading the Torah, and in 1995 introduced an alternative minyan completely run by laymen – both adults and children. In 2004, after Rabbi Zaiman’s retirement, the congregation hired Rabbi Ronald Shulman.
SCOPE AND CONTENT
The Chizuk Amuno Congregation Collection consists of constitutions for the congregation and Ladies Auxiliary, pew documents, legal documents, correspondence and meeting minutes. Meeting minutes from 1959 through 1969 make up the bulk of the collection. The collection is organized chronologically with undated materials at the front.