A Sentimental Journey

Posted on May 11th, 2011 by

Sometimes I can’t help not get personally invested in some of the programs that we have at the Jewish Museum of Maryland and this past Tuesday’s program, In Each Other’s Shoes: African Americans and Jews Sharing Spaces and Perspectives: Past, Present and Future was no exception.

The program featured a panel discussion that was moderated by Neil Rubin, editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times.  The panel included Rabbi Andy Busch of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, Rev. Charles T. Sembly, Pastor at Union Bethel AME in Randallstown and a Morgan State University architectural student, Kordae Henry. Rabbi Busch spoke about his own congregation’s connection with the Mount Olive Baptist Church and how both congregations currently share space at Baltimore Hebrew due to a fire at the church a few years ago.  Pastor Sembly spoke about his congregation’s long history (since 1826) and how their current home on Church Lane in Randallstown (a former synagogue) was adapted to suit the needs of the church. Kordae Henry, an architecture graduate student at Morgan, displayed his senior project and  spoke about the plans that he designed for a synagogue near the entrance of Druid Hill Park complete with a Matisyahu Social Hall and The Shofar education wing.

In order to prepare for this program, I thought we needed to have some sort of presentation to give an overview and examples of how former synagogues are now the homes to African-American churches.  I did some research through the JMM’s own collections, and we decided to take a field trip through Baltimore and back to my own stomping grounds in Randallstown, Maryland to find some of these buildings.

We started our search not far from the museum and we drove to 1901 Madison Avenue which was the former home to Baltimore Hebrew Congregation after they left the Lloyd Street address.  BHC occupied the building from 1891-1951 and moved to it present home on Park Heights Avenue.  Berea Temple acquired the building in 1950 and in 1976; the building was designated as a national landmark and recorded as such in the National Registry of Historical Sites with the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Baltimore Hebrew Congregation's Madison Avenue Temple, c. 1905.

Berea Temple

From there we went to the Forest Park neighborhood and saw the Beth Tfiloh Synagogue that was built on Fairview Avenue and Garrison Boulevard.  My own family is steeped in Beth Tfiloh’s history as my grandparents were early members of the congregation, my father became a Bar Mitzvah there in 1939 and my parents were married in the building in 1951.  We had the opportunity to go inside the building which is now the Wayland Baptist Church.  I got chills when I walked inside the sanctuary and realized how much of my own family’s history took place in the building.

From Beth Tfiloh, we drove along the Liberty Road corridor to see how the synagogues buildings that I remembered as a kid– looked like today.

Bnai Jacob started at 543 West Baltimore Street and later moved to Christian Street in 1908.  In 1957, the site was purchased at Liberty Road and Patterson Avenue.  In 1973 the building was defaced with Nazi slogans and a Ku Klux Klansman was convicted for conspiring to bomb the building.  Today, the building is home to the Christian Life Church.


Bnai Jacob at 6605 Liberty Road.


Liberty Jewish Center was a synagogue located on Church Lane and a lot of my friends that I went to school with attended services here.  Today, the building is home to Union Bethel AME, a church that has roots in Randallstown since 1826.  I loved the stained-glass windows that are currently on the building.


Liberty Jewish Center on Church Lane.


Finally, the last place that we went to was Beth Israel-Mikro Kodesh that was located closest to my childhood home in Hernwood Heights.  All of the Jewish kids in my neighborhood attended this congregation and I remember the candelabrum that was on the outside of the building.  Today, the building is home to Colonial Baptist Church.


Beth Israel Zelic and Anne Gresser Chapel, c. 1970.


We took over 75 pictures of buildings that were former synagogues and are now homes to African-American churches.  We just saw a smattering of the buildings around the city… I look forward to another field trip to document more.


A blog post by Program Director Ilene Dackman-Alon.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Everybody is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day

Posted on March 14th, 2011 by

A blog post by Sr. Collections Manager, Jobi O’Kin Zink

St. Patrick’s day has always been my favorite holiday even though I don’t have an Irish bone in my body. I remember when I was in 7th grade my dad got us all matching Kelly green sweatshirts with an apostrophe transforming Okin, Russian for perch, into O’kin, English for I’m pretending to be Irish.  It was pretty convincing when the four of us cheered on the sidelines in our matching sweatshirts at our town parade. (Sadly, I couldn’t find a photo of us)

Then there was the Friday night dinner with Irish soda bread and corned beef from Dad’s favorite caterer, the Market Basket instead of the typical brisket and challah. It’s virtually the same thing, isn’t it?

Corn beef and cabbage vs. Brisket

Soda bread vs. Challah; If Grandma Sylvia were here this challah would have raisins, too.

Over the years I’ve eaten a lot of green bagels, as did St. Patrick himself!

Could it be true?! 2008.43.2

They are better when it’s with spinach rather than just plain green food coloring.g

and drank my fair share of green beer (Note: I now prefer to drink real Irish beer: Guinness, Harp or Smithwicks!) on St. Patrick’s Day.

Jobi on St. Patrick’s Day 1998, Dubliner, Washington DC

And while I am excited that St. Patrick’s Day is being embraced by the masses, I miss the chance to hang out in Irish bars, singing Irish tunes, celebrating Irish culture.

Hurling is kind of a cross between lacrosse and field hockey

It really didn’t surprise many that Eric (who is neither Irish nor Jewish, but plays the Gaelic sport hurling) and I decided to go Ireland and hike the Ring of Kerry on the west coast for our 5th anniversary.

Just a few photos to highlight the trip (let me know if you want to see the full scrapbook!)

Lake of Kilarney, low on water

For five days we hiked and tramped across beautiful and diverse terrain.

Kenmare Bay


More than once I was grateful to St. Patrick for driving the snakes out of Ireland. It certainly made scrambling over rocks a lot less nerve wracking.

This photo was taken by my sister when she went to Ireland in 2006 with her friend, Irish Liz

No snakes on this trail!

There were castle ruins

Ballycarberry Castle

And circular forts

Cahergeal Fort

There were sheep on the trail

And large rocks to rest against

Cool old cemeteries to explore

No Jewish names on these markers; also my favorite photo from the whole trip!

But little shelter to protect you from the passing storms.

My 2nd favorite photo of the trip

After a week of hiking, we flew to Dublin. It’s true! Dublin had a Jewish Mayor, Robert Briscoe who served twice: 1956-57 and 1961-62

Jewish heritage tourism is on the rise]

I attempted to go to services while in Ireland, but there were no synagogues in Kerry. In fact, most Jews outside of Dublin come to Dublin for the High Holidays

I insisted that we go to the Jewish museum

I think they had their entire collection on display  and were featuring photographs of old synagogues.

Naturally we took a tour of the Guinness factory

Its true: Guinness does taste better in Ireland

And as history geeks, we got a kick out of their campaign ad 

This year as I don my green and raise my pint (or two or three) maybe I’ll add a L’chaim to the chorus of Slainte.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Standing in Hurva Square, in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, we learned about the Hurva Synagogue.

Posted on February 23rd, 2011 by

The Hurva, whose name means “ruin,” was initially built in the 18th century.  It was destroyed shortly thereafter and then rebuilt in the mid 19th century.  It became Jerusalem’s main Ashkenazi synagogue but was destroyed again in 1948 by the Jordan Legion a few days before the fall of the Jewish Quarter in the War of Independence.

Its reconstruction was completed in 2010.  It has been rebuilt in the same Neo-Byzantine style as the original.

Hurva Synagogue, 89 ha-Yehudim Street Old City of Jerusalem

The stained glass windows, although different, reminded me the ones in the Lloyd Street Synagogue and B’nai Israel Congregation.

Stained glass window at the Hurva Synagogue.

One of the stained glass windows of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, IA 1.187

Stained glass window in B'nai Israel Synagogue, pre-restoration, IA 2.66

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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