Dear Abby 1.1
Welcome to a new feature on visitor services on our blog. This feature gives us a chance to answer commonly asked questions about how to get the most satisfaction out of your JMM visit. Since these questions are often asked of our Visitor Services Manager, Abby Krolik, we are calling this feature “Dear Abby” (any resemblance to a syndicated feature with a similar name is purely coincidental). You can also catch up on Dear Abby in our “JMM Insights” e-newsletter!
The last time I saw the Lloyd Street Synagogue or B’nai Israel Synaogue was years ago on a school field trip. My cousin is coming to town for a simcha, and he’s a real Civil War history maven, so I thought it’d be neat if we could just peek into the Lloyd Street Synagogue for a couple minutes, so he could see the matzah oven that used to be a stop on the Underground Railroad. Can we do that? Will we still have to pay admission? I don’t think we’ll have time to visit the rest of the museum, unfortunately.
Dear Miss Information,
I’m afraid none of that is possible. The synagogues are only open for docent-led tours from the museum, so, no, you can’t see them on your own, and, yes, you will have to pay admission (unless you’re a member!). As the buildings are very old and they contain very important, old items (or, in the case of B’nai Israel, perhaps some privately owned items), we cannot just let people go into the buildings on their own. We would much rather our visitors be accompanied by staff or volunteers who know which sections are OK to go into and which things are OK to touch. Besides which, you get a lot more out of your visit if you go with someone who can answer all of your questions!
It will also be impossible for you to show your friend the matzah oven that used to be a stop on the Underground Railroad, simply because it doesn’t exist! That is, the Lloyd Street Synagogue, and definitely its matzah oven, were never a part of the Underground Railroad. First of all, the matzah oven wasn’t put in until the 20th century, and second of all, it is unlikely that Bernard Illowy, the rabbi of Baltimore Hebrew (the Lloyd St. Synagogue’s congregation) during the Civil War, would have allowed the synagogue to be a part of the Underground Railroad.
If you would like to hear more about why that is—or if you just want to see the Lloyd Street Synagogue in a new light—I would recommend bringing your friend to the museum at 3:00pm, so you can both go on our new “1861 Tour” of the Lloyd Street Synagogue! This tour uses parts of the synagogue to reveal the religious and political battles that were being fought within the Jewish and Maryland communities in 1861, including the infamous debate between Rabbi Illowy and Rabbi Einhorn (of Har Sinai Congregation, which was a few streets over) on the issue of slavery.
Have a question of your own for Abby? Click HERE to email her! Make sure to put “Dear Abby” in the subject line!