My Walk through Jewish History

Posted on June 26th, 2014 by

As an Exhibition and Research Intern at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, it’s my responsibility to describe and dissect the unique connection between the Jewish community and medicine for the upcoming Jews, Health, and Healing exhibit. Every day, I research topics on Jewish identity, conceptions of health, and the changing medical landscape. However, my education in Jewish History begins far before I enter the JMM. My morning walk from Patterson Park to Jonestown is an immediate reminder of Baltimore’s changing ethnic communities and the remnants of a recent past.

Southeast Baltimore and was once home to a thriving Jewish community. This should not surprise our blog readers, as the JMM and corned beef row are located just east of downtown. However, to the casual passer-by, the area’s Jewish presence is not immediate. Jewish History is only found by those who look. One day, as I was walking down East Baltimore Street, I noticed something quite unusual on a Spanish-speaking Roman Catholic Church—Hebrew.

A Hebrew inscription hidden in plain sight.

A Hebrew inscription hidden in plain sight.

On the facade of Iglesia de Dios, was a prominent Hebrew inscription, and the date 1899. Stepping back, I looked for more Jewish symbolism hidden amongst the Christian iconography. Sure enough, above the stained glass cross, were the tablets of the Ten Commandments. I could not find the earliest congregation associated with this synagogue; however, with a little research, I discovered this beautiful cream brick building at the corner of Baltimore and Chester may have been the home of former Adath Israel Congregation. This Orthodox congregation was founded in 1914 and amalgamated with Congregation Emanuel in 1920. This community worshiped at this location from 1920-1948, until it merged with Beth Isaac to form Beth Isaac-Adath Israel Congregation. The community is still thriving, just in a new location in Northwest Baltimore.

Iglesia de Dios on E. Baltimore Street is an excellent example of a re-purposed religious space.

Iglesia de Dios on E. Baltimore Street is an excellent example of a re-purposed religious space.

Re-appropriating sacred places is certainly not a new concept to our readers or the JMM. The Lloyd Street Synagogue was once used by the Lithuanian Catholic community before they raised enough money to build their own house of worship. Though I am sure it is hard to leave a place that was once your home every Saturday, it must have reassured former congregants that their synagogue was still used for praise and reflection.

The Lloyd Street Synagogue took on multiple faith communities in its lifetime.

The Lloyd Street Synagogue took on multiple faith communities in its lifetime.

Unfortunately, not all former synagogues find other communities. Just of the corner of E. Baltimore and S. Caroline, I walked past a razed former synagogue. Yet, despite the graffiti and draped blue tarpaulins, I could see the beauty the structure once had. There is no name, just an inscription of a psalm and the date 1925. The closest congregation I found near this site was Agudas Achim Anshe Chernigov Nusarch Ari Congregation, an Orthodox community located at 132 South Carolina Street from 1913-1950.

 Though it’s near demolition, one can still appreciate the structure’s subtle beauty.

Though it’s near demolition, one can still appreciate the structure’s subtle beauty.

Although I have just scratched the surface of Baltimore’s past congregations and Jewish communities, I realize I am so fortunate to work in a place that keeps these memories alive. If you have any more information on these  structures, please let the JMM know – email research@jewishmuseummd.org!

 

Mandy BenterThis blog post was written by Exhibitions Research Intern Mandy Benter. For more information on Baltimore’s many synagogues, please see Earl Pruce’s Synagogues, Temples, and Congregations of Maryland, 1830-1990 or visit the website: http://www.kilduffs.com/Synagogues.htmlTo read more posts by and about JMM interns, click here

 

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A Visit to Rhodes

Posted on October 7th, 2013 by

While recently on vacation in Turkey and Greece I had the opportunity to visit the Synagogue and Jewish Museum of Rhodes, Greece.

interior

interior

The Kahal Shalom is the oldest Jewish synagogue in Greece, and the sole remaining synagogue on the Island of Rhodes used for services. It is located in the Jewish Quarter (called “La Juderia”) and is believed to have been built in the year 1577. The full name of the building is “Kahal Kadosh Shalom” (Holy Congregation of Peace).  Our docent, Schmuel Modiano, was a survivor of Birkenau.  He spoke to a group of visitors, similar to the way the JMM arranges for Holocaust survivors speak to visiting groups.

Docent with visitors

Docent with visitors

The Jewish community of Rhodes has an historical background dating back to ancient times. During the past five hundred years, the background of the Jews of Rhodes was influenced principally by the Jews who fled Spain at the time of the Spanish Inquisition. Large numbers of Sephardim traveled across the Mediterranean Sea to the Island of Rhodes, as well as other cities such as Salonica, Istanbul and Izmir. During its height in the 1930’s, the Jewish community had a population of approximately 4,000 people.

The interior of the Kahal Shalom synagogue follows the traditional Sephardic style of having the bima in the center of the sanctuary facing southeast toward Jerusalem. The floor is decorated with graceful black and white mosaic stone patterns, which is a distinctive design motif used throughout the Old City of Rhodes.  One decorative pattern includes the year 5601 or 1840-41.  An intriguing feature of the Kahal Shalom sanctuary is that it is decorated with numerous religious wall paintings.

During the 1930’s, a balcony was built in the Kahal Shalom sanctuary for seating of the women. Prior to that time the women sat in rooms adjoining the south wall of the synagogue. The women’s prayer rooms  viewed the sanctuary through windowed openings adorned by latticework.

Docent with Group

Docent with Group

In the courtyard on the east side of the synagogue, there is a plaque above where a water fountain once existed, and it bears an inscription dated the month of Kislev, 5338 (1577). Apparently, this fountain was constructed at the same time as the synagogue. On the west side of the synagogue there was a religious school, however it was destroyed during World War II.

Today there are about 40 Jews living in Rhodes, who practice their religion in the Synagogue.  However, it is worth mentioning that the Synagogue is also open to the public that visit it because of its great historic and architectural interest. In 2002 the Municipality approved the erection of a Monument of the Victims of the Holocaust in the Jewish Martyrs square, in the place where the Jewish quarter used to be. The Jewish cemetery of the island is still preserved.

Holocaust Memorial

Holocaust Memorial

ilene cohenA blog post by Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen. To see more posts from Ilene click here.

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Once Upon a Time…03.23.2012

Posted on November 13th, 2012 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week.  If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contactJobi Zink, Senior Collections Manager and Registrar at 410.732.6400 x226 or jzink@jewishmuseummd.org.

Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times:  March 23, 2012

PastPerfect Accession #:  1992.108.001

Status:  Unidentified! Do you know them? A 1951 Purim celebration at Agudath Achim Synagogue

 

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