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 

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