Hanukkat in the Lloyd Street Synagogue

Posted on September 28th, 2016 by

Last week I observed a beautiful moment for the Jewish Museum of Maryland and we are not ready for the Festival of Lights yet!  For the past 10 years there was no mezuzah affixed to the doorpost of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. When the building went under renovations roughly 10 years ago, the mezuzah that had been on the building had been misplaced.  The beautiful moment I witnessed was the mezuzah being affixed once again to the building- or a Hanukkat (Dedication) of the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

The Lloyd Street Synagogue

The Lloyd Street Synagogue

The mezuzah is of biblical origin and there is reference to it in the Torah or Five Books of Moses. “And you shall inscribe them on the doorposts (mezuzot) of our house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:9, 11:20). What is to be inscribed?  The passage reads, “The words that I shall tell you this day”: that you shall love your God, believe only in Him, keep His commandments, and pass all of this on to your children.

An important part of the mezuzah refers to the parchment inside, or klaf, on which the verses of the Torah are inscribed. The klaf must be hand-lettered by a kosher scribe — one who is observant of halakha (Jewish law) and who qualifies for the task.  The scroll is rolled up from left to right so that when it is unrolled the first words appear first. The scroll is inserted into the container but should not be permanently sealed because twice in seven years the parchment should be opened and inspected to see if any of the letters have faded or become damaged.

A mezuzah serves two functions: Every time you enter or leave, the mezuzah reminds you that you have a covenant with God; second, the mezuzah serves as a symbol to everyone else that this particular dwelling is constituted as a Jewish household, operating by a special set of rules, rituals, and beliefs.

Rabbi Mintz speaks about the scroll inside the mezuzah.

Rabbi Mintz speaks about the scroll inside the mezuzah.

Rabbi Eitan Mintz helped us with the dedication ceremony and shared with us some interesting facts about the placement of a mezuzah.  Many Jews tilt the mezuzah so that the top slants toward the room into which the door opens. This is done to accommodate the variant opinions of the great Jewish thinkers Rashi and of his grandson, Rabbeinu Tam, as to whether the mezuzah should be placed vertically (Rashi) or horizontally (Rabbeinu Tam). The compromise solution (top slant) was suggested by Rabbi Jacob ben Asher.

Rabbi Mintz and Marvin shake on a job well done!

Rabbi Mintz and Marvin shake on a job well done!

JMM Executive Director, Marvin Pinkert held the mezuzah against the spot upon which it is now affixed, and we all recited the blessing in Hebrew…

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשַׁנוּ בְּמִצְו‌ֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לִקְבּוֹעַ מְזוּזָה                                                              

Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha‘olam, asher kideshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu liqboa‘ mezuzah.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us with His mitzvot and commanded us to affix a mezuzah.

The Lloyd Street Synagogue's new Jerusalem Stone mezuzah.

The Lloyd Street Synagogue’s new Jerusalem Stone mezuzah.

We hope that you will come down to the JMM to see our new mezuzah in the Lloyd Street Synagogue and other recent additions to the space.

ileneA blog post by Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

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Digging into the excavations of the past

Posted on July 12th, 2016 by

Being of an archaeological background, I’ve been itching to work with the JMM’s archaeological collections since I got here. I finally got my chance; for the last few weeks I was working on writing a draft of a finding aid for the collections. This aid will help researchers who wish to study the archaeological projects that have taken place at the Lloyd Street Synagogue. The project started as any good project does, by researching, looking through the Museum’s records and making note of all the materials relating to archaeology the Museum has. I found that there are four recorded and variously documented dig seasons that took place in the basement of the Lloyd Street Synagogue between 2000 and 2010. The purpose of the LSS digs was to date and preserve key features in the basement, particularly the mikvehs and the matzoh oven. The first season was a Phase I study, meaning it was mostly a surface study, with minimal excavations. The other three seasons where Phase II studies, meaning there was more involved excavations, resulting in more material from those seasons. Feeling fairly familiar with the written materials and what years the excavations had taken place I was able to look at the artifact collections and familiarize myself with how they are cataloged in the Museum’s catalog system.

Pot sherd from the Lloyd Street Synagogue, LSS 1341.117.004

Pot sherd from the Lloyd Street Synagogue, LSS 1341.117.004

I cataloged some of the artifacts that had not been fully processed, giving me a good sense of the general condition and scope of the archaeological finds in the collection. I feel looking at archaeological artifacts offers some unique challenges that other historical objects don’t possess. Firstly, you are often times looking at an incomplete object, or fragments of objects. I had very little information to tell me what vessels pot sherds may have belonged to, and even less with glass sherds. Also the passage of time effects objects differently when they are buried for an extended period of time. Some materials like painted pottery, may benefit from this passage, as they are not exposed to light and the paint can’t fade; other materials don’t fare so well, like organic material (wood, most fabrics and paper) which often deteriorates completely, or metal which gets corroded and rusted easily by moisture and acidity in soils. There were several times when cataloging when I was not sure what I was looking at, especially when it came to metal objects.

A selection of Lloyd Street Synagogue oyster shells.

A selection of Lloyd Street Synagogue oyster shells.

One question that keeps bugging me is why there were oyster shells found in the Lloyd Street Synagogue (LSS). Shell fish is not kosher, so oyster shells seem a bit out of place in a synagogue. The shells also do not have any decoration on them. While we are close to the inner harbor, I don’t believe shells would be deposited here by natural means. The LSS did house a Christian congregation at one time, and was a reform synagogue for another chapter of its history. Perhaps the shells coincide with one of these periods of time, where the laws of kosher may not have been as heavily enforced.

Archaeological material is most valuable in its context. Based off where the artifacts, such as the oyster shells were found and what items were around it, possible dates of levels of the excavation and the events that took place at a site can be determined. In this manner the material culture creates and aids the telling of history. This being the case when forming the finding aid I made sure that artifacts could easily be associated with their field report and any field notes that could be found. After knowing what was in the collection I was able to compile the research I had done into a format that I hope will help future researchers easily find the materials they need.

06.06.2016 Interns (20)Blog post by Collections Intern Tamara Schlossenberg. To read  more posts by and about interns click HERE.

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JMM Joins City’s Celebration of American Design and Manufacture

Posted on April 6th, 2016 by

Last year, the organization MADE: In America designated the Carroll Mansion as its “All American House” for 2016.  From April 23 to July 7, 2016 the Carroll Mansion will be transformed into a showcase for some of the most innovative manufacturers and craftsmen in Baltimore and across the nation.  The city expanded the celebration by inviting partner organizations in what it’s calling the “Baltimore’s American Treasures” event.

The Carroll Mansion, 2016's "All-American House"

The Carroll Mansion, 2016’s “All-American House”

Located just a few blocks away from the Carroll Mansion in Baltimore’s oldest neighborhood, Historic Jonestown, is the Jewish Museum of Maryland (JMM).  To play our part in the celebration we’re hosting special events in recognition of the Lloyd Street Synagogue as a truly All American Synagogue.  Built in 1845, the Lloyd Street Synagogue is the third oldest Jewish house of worship still standing in the United States.  The building was designed by Robert Cary Long, Jr., a prominent church architect of the era.  Nearly every component of the original building and its 1860 renovation were the result of American craft and manufacture from the stenciling to the wooden pews to the stained glass Star of David.

The Lloyd Street Synagogue

The Lloyd Street Synagogue

The museum has spent the winter researching the material history of the building – which switched hands multiple times, serving first as a traditional German synagogue, then as a reformed temple, later it became a Lithuanian Catholic Church and finally a Russian Orthodox shul.  Each iteration brought new design elements into the building, holy arks and altars, mezuzot and an organ.  We’ve sifted through the records to identify some of the most interesting stories of how this site was designed and built to serve the needs of successive waves of immigrants.

The oldest extant photo of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Courtesy of the Ross J. Kelbaugh Collection, JMM 1997.71.1

The oldest extant photo of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Courtesy of the Ross J. Kelbaugh Collection, JMM 1997.71.1

Not every story has been easy to trace.  Where did the synagogues first Torah scroll come from?  What was the origin of the church’s bells and where did they go when the church was sold?  How did church chandeliers end up hanging from the ceiling of an Orthodox synagogue?  Questions like these led to the idea of our “Book, Bell and Candle Mystery Experience” (offered each Sunday from May 1 through July 7 at 3pm).  Our expert history sleuth will transport you into the shoes of a researcher on the trail of holy artifacts.  Made in America? Or lovingly imported?  Only one thing is certain – “it belongs in a museum” – the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Chandalier inside the Lloyd Street Synagogue

Chandelier inside the Lloyd Street Synagogue

We’ve set three Sundays aside for activities related to design work for the whole family.  On May 1 our focus is on crafts related to the building itself.  It includes a closer look at the stained glass windows and the art behind them.  On May 29, our “Welcome to Jonestown” free family day will feature crafts related to music in the synagogue.  Finally, on June 26, we will offer demonstrations of specialized skills required to manufacture the artifacts of the synagogue – from a sofer  (scribe) illustrating Hebrew calligraphy to a blacksmith making fencework.

Leaded glass window. East wall. Over ark. Lloyd Street Synagogue- Baltimore. restored 1964. IA 1024.

Leaded glass window. East wall. Over ark. Lloyd Street Synagogue- Baltimore. restored 1964. IA 1024.

Come see how the Lloyd Street Synagogue and its congregations fit into the fabric of America’s material culture.

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