Working with the Har Sinai Collection

Posted on July 15th, 2019 by

Blog post by JMM intern Mallory Connaughton. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

Within the past few weeks since my last blog post, I have started a new project. I’ve started working with the Har Sinai Collection. This collection houses many aspects of Har Sinai and it’s community. It includes artefacts and manuscripts from not just the Har Sinai congregation, but also the Har Sinai brotherhood and sisterhood, the board, clergy, and cemetery, as well as many others.

The Har Sinai Congregation, Bolton Street Temple. JMM 1985.90.1.

Processing a collection involves going through a series of related documents (which is the collection) and creating a list of everything involved by grouping together like topics and creating new folders/condensing folders. The goal is to make the collection more organized and easier to find and reference. As we work with collections regularly, having it be well organized is important as it not only helps those of us working directly within the archives, but it can also help us answer guest’s questions easier as we know where and what everything is.

I have done processing before this summer. At a previous internship, I fully processed a collection for the first time. And at JMM, I had processed a collection earlier in my internship. But with the Har Sinai collection, we are re-processing the collection. The Har Sinai congregation had already been processed once before, but the finding aid we use to navigate the collection was disjointed and didn’t properly list what was actually in the collection. The other collections intern, Elana, and I went through the various boxes of the collection and re-processed everything.

Banner from the Har Sinai Website. Credit:

Processing takes a while, having to go through every piece of paper and image one by one. Then having to organize each and every item into separate folders, label the folders, then group them into the organized boxes that make sense. Re-processing is similar, going through each file. Elana and I took time, going through each file and writing down a list of what we found in there, panning on updating the finding aid.

From there we went through and separated out everything by original folder, creating a spreadsheet with the folder and everything actually found within it. Then we are reorganizing each folder into groupings that make sense, then re-labeling boxes. The final thing we will do is updating the finding aid but the new boxes, the folders within them and what is in each folder.

While this may not be for everyone. I found it to be very interesting. I didn’t know anything about Har Sinai before this, and I’ve learned so much about the community and members connected to Har Sinai.

The collection houses folders upon folders of correspondence, ranging from personal letters, letters between congregation members, posters for events, financial records, and business correspondence. As someone who knew nothing about Har Sinai before this, being able to sort through all of the documents, seeing how they talked about events and planning, provided me with a perspective I hadn’t previously had, and allowed me to understand Har Sinai at a deeper level.

Yet the collection isn’t all correspondence. There are programs for events, transcripts of sermons given by several different Rabbis, music for the congregation (including parody songs sung at events), yearbooks from the religious school tied to Har Sinai and even a scrapbook from the Har Sinai sisterhood.

While reading through the various correspondence and events bulletins provided me with knowledge towards Har Sinai that I hadn’t known, I found the yearbooks, scrapbook and handwritten/hand drawn pieces to be incredibly interesting. Being able to see something that was created for others, carefully written or drawn out, carefully planned out, was incredibly heart-warming and amazing. To shows such a personal perspective towards the topic that is normally impossible to reach.

And it is amazing to be able to interact with and see such a perspective.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Going For a Drive Up Park Heights Avenue

Posted on March 7th, 2019 by

A blog post by Director of Collections and Exhibits Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.

Growing up in Montgomery County, I did not spend much time in Baltimore; we came up to the aquarium, the science museum, and the Power Plant a few times, but my family’s focus was on the DC museums and attractions. As an adult I occasionally visited Baltimore museums for work and for fun, but the city was still kind of a mystery to me. When hanging out with a friend who lived in Medfield in the mid-2000s, I would drive myself around 695 and come into the city down 83 – and then back out again the same way – just to avoid having to navigate between the end of the JFX and the beginning of 395 on the unfamiliar downtown streets.

Now, after 4 ½ years at the JMM and 4 ½ years of driving to work, to the Park Heights JCC, to the Associated’s Mount Royal offices (which I could not find the first time I tried to go), and to various neighborhoods in and around the city to meet with donors and lenders, I feel like I’m finally getting the hang of it. (And yes, I can now get between the end of 83 and the beginning of 395 with no problems.) Yesterday when traveling between two loan pick-ups I took a wrong turn in Pikesville, found myself facing Surburban Orthodox Toras Chaim, and immediately concluded that I knew how to get myself back on track. Aha! Success! I know my way around!

This, of course, means that I’ll get totally lost next time I try to find something without my phone guiding me. But it also means that, while I’m driving around, I can devote more attention to my surroundings and less to the map, which brings me to the point of this blog post: historic synagogues. Now that I’ve gotten to know historic Jewish Baltimore as well as the modern streetscape, driving past the synagogues and schools in Park Heights and other neighborhoods is like spotting old friends – some with the same name, some that have changed. Here are just a few photos from our collections for you to enjoy today (and don’t forget that you can look through our historic photograph collection yourself, on our online database).

In the 1970s, Paul Schlossberg took Polaroid photos of many Baltimore synagogues – now a useful reference for us, several decades on. Here’s the front of Beth Jacob (5713 Park Heights Avenue), dedicated in 1953; the building is now used by Cheder Chabad. Gift of Paul Schlossberg. JMM 1984.24.6

Artist’s rendering of the proposed Har Sinai building (6300 Park Heights Avenue), 1957.  The building is now (2019) home to Bnos Yisorel of Baltimore, while Har Sinai’s congregation is based in Owings Mills. Gift of Har Sinai Congregation. JMM 2012.108.107

Temple Oheb Shalom (7310 Park Heights Avenue) around 1960, in a photo taken by another conscientious recorder-of-synagogues, Menasha Katz. This building, dedicated in 1960, is still occupied by the Temple Oheb Shalom congregation. Museum purchase. JMM 1987.137.92 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Why Resist a Good Story?

Posted on February 13th, 2014 by

I am such a sucker for a good story – and with Valentine’s Day looming ever so close, I wanted to share a little story that I heard yesterday while speaking to Lillian Reyes, a teacher who brought her 7th graders from Har Sinai Congregation to the JMM to learn about the life in Baltimore during the Civil War and the connection between Rabbi David Einhorn, Har Sinai Congregation and slavery.

I asked Lillian how the morning was going and she mentioned that she loved the Jewish Museum of Maryland and was very excited about bringing her class to the Museum- as the JMM was where she met her future husband.

Lillian, a recent transplant to Baltimore was single and was looking for fun things to do and places to meet other Jews.  She had previously been to “Late Night on Lloyd Street” events at the JMM and a friend suggested attending a B’nai Israel young adult program “Pizza in the Hut” during Sukkot (September) 2013. Lillian met Marc Soloweszyk in the crowded room, hit it off right away and spent the entire night talking!

The Happy Couple

The Happy Couple

After a beautiful courtship during which they both realized how perfect they were for each other, Marc wanted to propose, but hadn’t figured out just the right place to do it. On December 27, Marc took Lillian for a surprise evening in downtown Baltimore and while walking down Lloyd Street, reminisced about the night they had met.  Suddenly, he was on one knee with a ring in his hand, asking Lillian to marry him. After briefly hyperventilating and a random “Congratulations!” shouted from a passing car, Lillian said “Yes!”. Marc put the ring on her finger and they stood in front of the entrance to the Jewish Museum/Bnai Israel and all of the sudden fireworks over the Inner Harbor, lit up the sky.

Lillian says, “It was a magical night and we both feel so blessed to have met each other. We already loved the exhibits and events at the JMM and now the museum has a whole new meaning for us! The wedding will be April 30, 2014, G-d willing, in Pikesville, MD.”

ilene A blog posy by Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Next Page »