Do you want to see the oldest synagogue in Maryland? Are you curious about a congregation that has prayed in Baltimore for over 100 years? Our docent-led synagogue tours take you back in time to explore the stories of our historic buildings, the Lloyd Street Synagogue and B’nai Israel.
Tours are offered daily at 1pm and 2:30pm, plus 11am on Sundays and are included with admission. To guarantee your place on a tour, please reserve in advance at the time of purchasing admission tickets, spaces are limited. Tours last around 45-50 minutes.
Our synagogue tours take you into the two historic buildings for a close-up look into the history of Jewish Baltimore. These unique buildings do require guests to walk up and down flights of stairs. Due to their age and protections as historical sites, we do not have accessible entryways to the interiors. For people who are not comfortable walking up and down flights of stairs, we offer our synagogue tour video as an alternative. We’re happy to play this video in our accessible Orientation Space when you ask at the front desk.
To find out more about the synagogue tour video, click here.
The Lloyd Street Synagogue
The Lloyd Street Synagogue, built in 1845, is the oldest synagogue in Maryland and the third oldest, still standing in the US. While on tour of the building, you’ll learn about Baltimore Hebrew Congregation (1845 – 1889), the German-Jewish immigrants who built the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Their story as a Baltimore Jewish community includes the first ordained rabbi in the US, a schism in the community, and a movement out of the immigrant neighborhood. You’ll hear about the St. John the Baptist Lithuanian Catholic Church (1889 – 1905) who found a home in this place of worship, even placing a bell tour in the building. You’ll also find out about the third congregation, Shomrei Mishmeres HaKodesh (1905 – 1963) that prayed, studied, and gathered in this historic place, and about their “Chief Rabbi of East Baltimore”.
This tour includes the story of how the synagogue was acquired and restored by the Jewish Historical Society of Maryland, which became the Jewish Museum of Maryland. We also include a peek into archeological discoveries we’ve made, including the 1845 mikvah, the oldest known Jewish ritual bath in the US!
B’nai Israel Synagogue
On our regular tour, you’ll be brought to B’nai Israel synagogue, originally built by Chizuk Amuno congregation in 1876. This group actually split with Baltimore Hebrew Congregation as Baltimore Hebrew grew more reformed and less traditional. Wanting to hold onto Orthodox Jewish tradition, the group rented out spaces to pray separately, before finally building their own synagogue down the street. This was the last synagogue built by the German-Jewish immigrant community in Baltimore.
While on tour, the docent will tell you how the building was sold to B’nai Israel congregation in 1895, who worships there to this day, and how the congregation advocated for the building to be bought and restored by the Jewish Museum of Maryland. The tour includes a look into the beautiful main sanctuary upstairs, featuring a magnificent, hand-carved holy ark.
Interested in exploring more stories about the Lloyd Street Synagogue and other Maryland synagogues? Visit our Synagogues Stories page.