The Rogers Avenue Synagogue & The Goblet of Fire

Posted on February 9th, 2011 by

A blog post by Collections Manager Jobi Zink

Long before Harry Potter’s name blew out of the Goblet of Fire on a burning piece of parchment (but roughly the same time that the Chamber of Secrets was open for the first time), the Rogers Avenue Synagogue had its own Goblet of Fire.

All of Hogwarts watched intently as the Goblet of Fire spews a fourth (and unexpected) time.

The “Rogers Avenue Synagogue” was formed in 1950 when two existing congregations–  Ohr Knesseth Israel and Anshe Sphard Congregations — merged. In 1951 they broke ground for their new building in the Upper Park Heights neighborhood on, you guessed it, Rogers Avenue. In 1958 they expanded the building, nearly doubling its capacity. By 1975 the congregation was ready to pay off their mortgage in entirety. (In pure coincidence, Archivist Jennifer Vess will be talking about the Rogers Avenue Synagogue manuscript collection in her next post, so you can find out more about the congregation history from her.)

Although highly uncommon in the early 21st century mortgage burning parties were popular events for synagogues, churches* and even families just a few decades ago. I’m sure a few of our readers can remember when Archie Bunker burned the mortgage on All in the Family.

Approximately 2:00 into the clip below for the famous line “don’t set fire to the house:”

Invitation to the mortgage burning, JMM 1995.165.001b

The mortgage burning at Rogers Avenue Synagogue was talked about with the same amount of excitement as the Tri-Wizard tournament!

Paying off the mortgage is no small feat. It shows the dedication and commitment of the Congregation members, as well as their fiscal responsibility. It was a moment of great celebration and pride for the congregation, as this tremendous financial burden was lifted!.

Program for the mortgage burning, JMM 1993.052.287

At the Rogers Avenue Synagogue, the day’s program combined the mortgage burning with the re-dedication of the building. Cantors Herbert Grossman and Irving Grossman entered the sanctuary singing Matovu, and Rabbi Joshua Shapiro offered the Invocation.  Congregational highlights were presented and individuals were recognized. Rabbi Shapiro gave a prelude to the Mortgage Burning and the actual mortgage burning was done by Mr. and Mrs. Albert Trepolsky, Mr. Morris Cohen, Mrs. Ruby Eberlin and Mrs. Stuart Weinberg.

The mortgage is held above the Havdallah candle by Morris Cohen.

Mr. and Mrs. Albert Trepolsky show the burning mortgage to the congregation.

Cantor Grossman and Rabbi Shapiro sing in the liturgical songfest.

Last December the mortgage burning bowl used by the Rogers Avenue Synagogue was donated to the JMM. The collections staff was positively giddy! We already had the documents from the mortgage burning, we had photos from the event, and now we have the actual object that was used. It even has residue of the ash still in its bowl. This is a true piece of Maryland Jewish History!

Ash from the mortgage, JMM 2010.073.001

Now what I want to know is: how was this bowl chosen? It’s gold in color, but not overly shiny and ornate. There are no overt Jewish symbols on the footed compote bowl; it has a petal design.

JMM 2010.073.001

The shape, however, is perfect for the purposes of burning the mortgage. The sides are tall enough to protect the person holding it, but short enough for congregation members sitting in the back to see the flames!

And it still measures up to our expectations!

The Goblet of Fire illustrated by Mary Grandpre in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Indiana Jones knew that he was looking for a plain cup, created by a carpenter.

Donovan, the villain in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (and later Ilsa) were attracted to the precious gemstones and gleaming gold. They chose poorly.

*Red Church Doors?

Many church doors are painted red. According to some lore, this indicated that the church has paid off its mortgage, but I could find no concrete proof of this. Anglican (Episcopal) churches boast red doors for theological reasons. This goes back to the Middle Ages, when the north, south and east doors were painted red, symbolizing the Blood of Christ, to indicate that churches were designated Sanctuary, where anyone was safe from danger. Some other mainline Protestant churches, such as Lutheran churches, have red doors as Wittenberg Cathedral, where Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses, had red doors, and by tradition, this marks such churches as Reformed churches. Another school of thought holds that church doors are painted red to indicate the mortgage has been paid off!

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MS 87 the Rogers Avenue Synagogue (Ohr Knesseth Israel Anshe Sphard Congregation)

Posted on February 3rd, 2011 by

Recently the JMM received a donation of materials related to the Rogers Avenue Synagogue (Ohr Knesseth Israel Anshe Sphard Congregation).  We already have an extensive collection of objects, photographs and archives related to the synagogue but the new accession contains even more information about the congregation as well as some very exciting items (be sure to check back in next week when Jobi reveals one of our favorite new objects!).  The new donation has inspired me to highlight our finding aid for the Rogers Avenue Synagogue (though when the newest materials are added in, it may end up looking a little different).

MS 87 at home in archives storage


Rogers Avenue Synagogue (Ohr Knesseth Israel Anshe Sphard Congregation)

Collection, n.d., 1832-1993

MS 87


 The Rogers Avenue Synagogue Collection was donated to the Jewish Museum of Maryland by Morris Cohen in 1993, 1994, 1996 and 1998 as accessions 1993.52, 1994.19, 1994.86, 1996.28 and 1998.85. The collection was processed in November 2001 through January 2002 by Robin Waldman.

 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.


The Rogers Avenue Synagogue, formally known as Ohr Knesseth Israel-Anshe Sphard Congregation, was the product of a merger agreement signed in November 1950 and effected beginning in 1951.  The merge was between Ohr Knesseth Israel Congregation of West Franklin Street and Anshe Sphard Congregation of North Broadway, both of Baltimore City.  The merged congregation at first held services in a cottage, and in 1952 broke ground on the same plot of land to erect a new, larger building at 3910 West Rogers Avenue.  This building was completed and dedicated in April 1953, and an addition was erected and dedicated in 1958.  The Congregation celebrated a centennial in 1986-1987, marking 100 years since the founding of Anshe Sphard Congregation.  Facing an aging population and suburban flight, the dwindling congregation of Rogers Avenue Synagogue joined Beth Jacob Congregation of Park Heights Avenue in 1993, and the synagogue’s belongings were also transferred.  The building on Rogers Avenue was sold, and that year marked the dissolution of Ohr Knesseth Israel-Anshe Sphard Congregation.

1987.137.1 The 1937 dedication of Anshe Sphard at 4 N. Broadway. Soloman Faiman stands 4th from right and Rabbi Jacob Bobrowsky stands 5th from right.


The Rogers Avenue Synagogue Collection represents the administrative, financial, and religious history of Ohr Knesseth Israel-Anshe Sphard Congregation. The collection includes correspondence, record books, photographs, financial statements, legal records and meeting minutes. The collection also contains plaques, blueprints, drawings, cemetery plats, signs, and Mishnah texts. The collection is divided into ten series: Series I. Administration, n.d., 1942-1993; Series II. Cemeteries, n.d., 1918-1993; Series III. Committees, n.d., 1958; Series IV. Correspondence, n.d., 1949-1993; Series V. Financial Records, n.d., 1936-1988; Series VI. Groups, n.d., 1953-1993; Series VII. Miscellaneous, n.d., 1832-1992; Series VIII. Other Institutions,  n.d., 1944-1993; Series IX. Programming, n.d., 1948-1993 Series X. Religious Materials, n.d., 1948-1993. Materials represented in the Rogers Avenue Synagogue Collection derive from the original Anshe Sphard Congregation and Ohr Knesseth Israel Congregation, as well as from the merged Ohr Knesseth Israel-Anshe Sphard Congregation.

Series I. Administration consists of the congregational records, including minutes of congregational meetings. This series contains the legal papers of the synagogue, including the synagogue’s constitution, employment and rental contracts, zoning petitions and sales agreements as well as the negotiated agreement for the merger between Ohr Knesseth Israel and Anshe Sphard Congregation, and papers for other proposed mergers that were not implemented. Membership records, materials pertaining to High Holiday services and synagogue calendars are also located in this series. Folders are arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Record book of Anshe Sphard Congregation, 1888-1940. 1992.52.212

Series II. Cemeteries contains information on the cemeteries of the two congregations that were maintained separately before merging, as well as jointly owned and administrated cemeteries. Materials include plats, maintenance records, perpetual care records, blueprints, correspondence and administrative records. Anshe Sphard Congregation Cemetery, German Hill Road Cemetery, Mikro Kodesh Cemetery, Ohr Knesseth Israel Cemetery and Rosedale Cemetery are all represented by materials in this series.  Materials are also included that pertain to unspecified cemeteries. Folders are arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Series III. Committees consists of records of the meetings of the various committees of Ohr Knesseth Israel-Anshe Sphard Congregation.  These papers, while not all dated, seem to represent only a short period of time in the activity of the committees, rather than having been collected over a period of years.  Committees represented are the Appeal Fund Committee, Building and Building Fund Committees, the Hebrew School Committee, the Nominating Committee and the Religious Committee. Folders are arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Zoning Proposal, 1972. 1994.19.13

Series IV. Correspondence contains all correspondence related to the Congregation.  Included are folders of correspondence of several of Ohr Knesseth Israel-Anshe Sphard Congregation’s clergy, Brotherhood and Sisterhood, and congregational correspondence are all included.  Financial and legal correspondence are included in this series, as is correspondence with various other organizations. Folders are arranged alphabetically by folder title.

 Series V. Financial Records consists of ledgers, statements, bills, receipts and other financial records of the congregation. These include records of contributions given to the synagogue by members, bank account records, canceled checks, and papers for different accounts and funds within the synagogue. Folders are arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Schoolbook covers. 1994.19.2

 Series VI. Groups contains material pertaining to the activities of the synagogue’s organized groups. Organizational records and meeting minutes as well as newsletters and material such as programs from annual events are included. Both adult and youth groups are included in this series. Folders are arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Series VII. Miscellaneous includes material on various components of the synagogue, its groups, activities and leaders. The synagogues blueprints, memorial plaques and architectural drawings as well as  rare books, posters and newspaper clippings about the events of the synagogue and its leaders are included. Folders are arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Charity box from Agudas Achim Anshe Sphard (1920-1921) also used by Rogers Avenue Synagogue, 1969-1971. 1993.52.16

Series VIII. Other Institutions includes various materials about other organizations that were collected with the Rogers Avenue Synagogue records over time.  Most represented organizations are local, and include other synagogues and local and regional chapters of national Jewish organizations.  Also included are materials from both secular and religious Baltimore schools, as well as from several non-Maryland organizations. Folders are arranged alphabetically by folder title.

 Series IX. Programming, which relates to all of the events held at or on behalf of Rogers Avenue Synagogue,  consists of two subseries.  Subseries A. Shabbat and Holidays, n.d., 1948-1993 represents the synagogue’s calendar-based celebrations. Events based around the regular components of Sabbath observance are included, as are those of Jewish holidays and Israel’s Independence Day.  Subseries B. Special Events, n.d., 1952-1993 includes those activities not linked to a calendar-fixed celebration.  These include bar mitzvahs, testimonial dinners, banquets, dedication and rededication ceremonies, dances, installations, groundbreaking ceremonies, and the final event of the synagogue, in which its Torah scrolls were deposited with another congregation. In both subseries, folders are arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Series X. Religious Materials contains material related to the religious activities of the congregation.  In addition to religious texts and prayer books, this series includes parchments scrolls from mezuzahs, blessings for several holidays, printed booklets for Grace After Meals, and the printed blessings that are said when one is called to an aliyah at the reading of the Torah.  Also included are several sets of aliyah cards that were used in services to assign honors to congregants. Folders are arranged alphabetically by folder title.

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Mezuzah from the Rogers Avenue Synagogue. 1993.52.24


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