Chronology: Maryland and Israel Part 1, 1830 to 1900

Posted on August 23rd, 2017 by

Compiled by Avi Y. Decter and Dr. Deborah R. Weiner. Originally published in Generations 2007-2008: Maryland and Israel

The term “Zionism” was coined only in 1890, but for 2,000 years Jews throughout the world have yearned for a return to their ancient home in the Land of Israel. Prayers and rituals refer to Israel’s winds, dew, and rain, the fertility of its soil, and the beauty of its produce. The longing for return and redemption has helped to sustain the Jewish people. In the modern era, longing was transformed into an international movement to rebuild a Jewish homeland in Israel as a refuge and as a center for Jewish renewal.

In this movement, Maryland has played an important role. This timeline, based on research conducted by Barry Kessler for the Museum’s Bridges to Zion exhibition in 1998, calls out some of the many events and people who have participated in the Zionist project from the early nineteenth century to the present day.


Letter from Mendes Cohen to his mother, March 19, 1832. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.

Letter from Mendes Cohen to his mother Judith, from Jerusalem, March 19, 1832. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.

Baltimorean Mendes I. Cohen is one of the first American citizens to visit Palestine as part of his six-year tour of Europe and the Middle East. His descriptions of life there, depicted in letters to his mothers and brothers, offer a rare glimpse of Palestine’s Jewish community through the eyes of an American Jew.



Jehiel Cohen (in 1847) and Aaron Selig (in 1849) visit Baltimore, appealing for Maryland Jews to aid the poor, the infirm, the elderly, and the scholars of Israel. Messengers and letters from orphanages, academies, and other institutions serving the Jews of Palestine represent a tradition of charity that dates back to ancient times, founded on the belief that Jews in the Land of Israel contribute to the spiritual salvation of the Jewish people by their study of holy texts and their presence in the holy cities.


Sir Moses Montefiore

Sir Moses Montefiore

Sir Moses Montefiore (1784-1885), a prominent English philanthropist and Jewish communal leader, donates a Torah to Congregation Shearith Israel in recognition of the Congregation’s support for the Jewish residents of Palestine. In 1879, Montefiore gives a second Torah to Congregation Chizuk Amuno.


Young, intellectual Russian Jewish immigrants form the Isaac Bar Levinsohn Hebrew Literary Society to foster cultural activity among Baltimore’s East European Jewish immigrants. With the support of Rabbi Benjamin Szold and his daughter Henrietta (1860-1945), the Society promotes a variety of cultural and educational activities and serves as an early forum for the discussion of Zionist ideas. The following year, under the leadership of its president, Solomon Baroway, the Society opens the Russian Night School in East Baltimore, one of the nation’s first night schools for immigrants. Henrietta Szold serves as superintendent.


“The very learned, although very young” Rabbi Simon Isaac Halevi Finkelstein founds a branch of Hovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion), Baltimore’s first Zionist organization. In its first year, the organization raises $234.58, of which $48.76 is sent to Palestine, the rest being used for Zionist propaganda in Baltimore. By 1899, a branch emerges in Hagerstown, as well.



Cyrus Adler at Oxford, 1898.  Courtesy of the Library at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania, Cyrus Adler Collection.

Cyrus Adler at Oxford, 1898. Courtesy of the Library at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania, Cyrus Adler Collection.

Cyrus Adler, a graduate of the Johns Hopkins Semitics Department, visits Palestine. On his return, he delivers a lecture, illustrated by stereopticon views, that enables Baltimore Jews to “see” the Holy Land, bringing Palestine close to home.

Also, Zev (Wolf) Schur publishes his Hebrew-language periodical, Ha-Pisgah, in which he espouses a strongly Zionist view as an antidote to Reform and assimilation. Schur continues to publish in Baltimore into 1892 and thereafter in Chicago.


Shavei Zion [Returnees to Zion], an organization that promotes emigration to Palestine, holds a public meeting on 26 May, which is attended by more than 1,000 people. However, calls to return to Zion are undercut by the hardships of pioneer life in Palestine and the opportunities of America.


Hevrat Zion (Zion Association) is founded at the Russian Night School with the ideal of rebuilding Palestine. The Association accepts members without regard to their “individual religious and social views.” The Association publishes Dr. Aaron Friedenwald’s lecture on “Lovers of Zion.” The next year, the Association brings to America the famous orator Zvi Hirsh Masliansky (1856-1943), who electrifies audiences with Zionist rhetoric.



Black and white carte-de-visite of Henrietta Szold when she became editor of the Jewish Publication Society, Nov. 1893.

Black and white carte-de-visite of Henrietta Szold when she became editor of the Jewish Publication Society, Nov. 1893.

Henrietta Szold publishes “A Century of Jewish Thought,” advocating the revival of the Hebrew language and a return to the Land of Israel as remedies for a divided and de-natured Judaism.



Rabbi Dr. Schepsel Schaffer, (1862-1933), made from ”The Jews of Baltimore”, by Isidor Blum. JMM 1999.121.1

Rabbi Dr. Schepsel Schaffer, (1862-1933), made from ”The Jews of Baltimore”, by Isidor Blum. JMM 1999.121.1

Shearith Israel’s Rabbi Schepsel Schaffer (1862-1933) is one of two official American delegates to attend the first World Zionist Congress in Basel, where he represents Baltimore’s Zion Association. The other American delegate is Adam Rosenberg of New York City, who was born in Baltimore. By 1910, Rabbi Schaffer presides over the five-member Council of Baltimore Zion Associations.


Dr. Aaron Friedenwald (1836-1902), an eminent Baltimore ophthalmologist, travels to Palestine with his wife, Bertha. After his return, he speaks in New York and Philadelphia on the regeneration of the land and of the Jewish spirit, predicting that the “center for Jewish thought” in Palestine would “radiate an influence” that would overturn generations of degradation and prejudice.



The Federation of American Zionists holds its second national meeting in Baltimore. When the Federation was established in 1897, immediately after the first World Zionist Congress, Baltimore’s Zion Association and Ezrat Hovevei Zion were charter members. Among the 19 local delegates are Louis Levin, Solomon Baroway, Israel Fine, and Aaron Friedenwald.


Continue to Part II: Maryland and Israel, 1900 to 1950

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MS 46 Sidney D. Cohen Collection

Posted on January 17th, 2013 by

Thanks to JMM archives volunteers we are getting every closer to our goal of having complete finding aids for every one of our 212 manuscript

Sidney D. Cohen, 1896-1987

Collection, n.d., 1911-1987

?MS 46

Jewish Museum of Maryland

Har Sinai Congregation confirmation class, taken by Bachrach & Bro., 1911. Part of the Sidney Cohen Collection. Sourtesy of Audrey Fox. 1994.189.1



The Sidney D. Cohen Collection was donated to the Jewish Museum of Maryland in 1994 as accessions 1994.189 by Audrey Fox. The collection was processed at an unknown date and a finding aid was written by Sidney Rankin in 2012.

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.

Sidney Cohen with the Real Estate Board, Baltimore, c. 1952. Courtesy of Audrey Fox. 1994.189.2


Sidney D. Cohen was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1896, and was educated in the city public schools and Baltimore City College.? He entered the real estate business in 1924 and subsequently was elected President of B. Howard Richards, Inc in 1933, retiring in 1967.? He was President of the Real Estate Board of Baltimore from 1953-1954.? In addition he served on a number of city committees and commissions and was Chairman of the Downtown and Traffic Committee of the Real Estate Board of Greater Baltimore.? He was appointed by President Eisenhower as a member of the National Committee on Safety as a representative of the real estate industry of the State of Maryland.? Cohen was a member of both the Chizuk Amuno and Oheb Shalom Congregations.? He served on the real estate committee of the Associated Jewish Charities, was a Vice President of the Suburban Club, and also was active in the St. John Lodge of the Masons.

Charles Center Theater Building site, sign describing project, before anything was built, 1960-1965. Courtesy of Audrey Fox. 1994.189.3

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The collection contains programs, certificates, correspondence, booklets and other documents related to his work with real estate, his participation in Jewish organizations including synagogues and the Suburban Club. The collection is organized alphabetically by folder title.


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A Synagogue’s Move to the Suburbs: The Beginning of the Future

Posted on May 14th, 2012 by

A blog post by Molly Martell, Johns HopkinsUniversity, Class of 2015

This semester I was able to take a course through Johns Hopkins and the Jewish Museum of Maryland called “Staging Suburbia” in which we, as students, helped the curatorial team at the JMM take a closer look at the move of Baltimore’s Jewish population from the city to the suburbs in the 1950’s and 60’s. At one point in the course, I was to interact with some of the museum’s collections. It was then that I found this “Beginning of the Future” pin in the JMM’s database.



With the information on the pin as my starting point, I began trying to figure out what happened on May 3rd of an unknown year, hoping it would somehow fit into the story of the migration of Jewish families, businesses, and places of worship to the suburbs during the 1950’s and 60’s. After thoroughly searching the web and the museum’s archives, I was still no closer to finding out what event the pin was tied to. It wasn’t until I started reading through Jan Bernhardt’s On Three Pillars: The History of Chizuk Amuno Congregation, 1871-1996, that I was finally able to uncover the history of this little pin.

On January 20th, 1952, Chizuk Amuno began promoting theme of “Toward New Horizons for Chizuk Amuno” (Bernhardt 249). They enacted plans enacted to move the synagogue to suburbs. By October of that year, Chizuk Amuno was able to put down a deposit on a71-acre plot of land on Stevenson road.

Despite the progress that was made on the synagogue’s move to the suburbs, “Excitement surrounding the relocation plans was put aside in January 1953, as Milton Fleischer decided to step down from the presidency of the synagogue after serving as an officer for 55 years- 31 of them as president” (Bernhardt 252).

Plans for the synagogue’s move was overshadowed by the president’s retirement and for five months, the synagogue focused more heavily on welcoming the 8th president, Isaac Potts, to Chizuk Amuno’s congregation.

To re-engage interest and support in the relocation project, “a ‘Festival of Synagogue Music,’ coordinated by Bernice Kolodny, was held on May 3rd, 1953 and featured renownNew York cantor Arthur Wolfson as soloist. Dr. Hugo Wolfson conducted a choir of 75 voices and an orchestra of 40 musicians in 3 works by French-Jewish composer Darius Milhand. The concert attracted citywide attention as more that 1,200 listeners crowded into the sanctuary” (Bernhardt 253). The “Beginning of the Future” pin was most likely used as part of the festivities this day in 1953.

The little pin represents Chizuk Amuno’s goal to relocate to the suburbs, despite losing its president of 31 years. It conveys a message of hope and would have most likely been used in conjunction with the music festival to raise money for the new synagogue and spread the word of its new suburban branch. The move to the suburbs was cyclical in many instances- Jewish families and businesses would move to suburbs as synagogues began to move, and more synagogues began to move as families and businesses began to choose the suburbs over the city as well. 

Chizuk Amuno’s move from Lloyd Street to Stevenson Road mirrors not only the desires of Baltimore Jews of this time to become a part of suburban life but also the larger American ideal of the time- to embrace the future and strive for a life determined by oneself.

Ground was broken for the new synagogue three years later.

1991.007.022 Chizuk Amuno School groundbreaking, October 1956.

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