The Baltimore Experience Virtual Itineraries Jewish Baltimore
Baltimore's Jewish Heritage
The Jewish settlement of Baltimore predates the beginning of the Revolutionary War in 1775. The city’s Jewish population grew immensely during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to become a significant cultural influence. The early establishment of Jewish congregations in the city led to many impressively designed synagogues and cemeteries. Other historic buildings, memorials, and monuments representing Jewish businesses, organizations, and events can be seen throughout Baltimore.
- Begin your exploration of Baltimore’s Jewish heritage at the Jewish Museum of Maryland's Herbert Bearman Campus. The museum–the largest regional museum of Jewish life, culture, and history—includes a museum building with changing exhibit galleries and two historic synagogues. The Greek Revival style Lloyd Street Synagogue was built in 1845 and is the oldest synagogue in Maryland and the third oldest in the country. The basement holds the exhibit “The Synagogue Speaks” that examines the history of the building and its congregations. The Moorish Revival style B’nai Israel Synagogue, still home to a thriving congregation, was originally built by the Chizuk Amuno Congregation in 1876 and was later sold to the B’nai Israel Congregation in 1895.
- Eating at Attman's Delicatessan is the most delicious part of touring historic Jewish Baltimore. Founded by Harry Attman in 1915, the deli is located on a length of East Lombard known as Baltimore’s Corned Beef Row, which historically was the bustling market center of Baltimore’s Jewish immigrant neighborhood. Harry Attman passed down operation of the deli to his son Seymour Attman, who has in turn passed the business on to his son Marc Attman, the current owner. Today, Attman’s can still be found in its original historic location and still serves its famous hot delicatessen sandwiches.
- Along Baltimore’s North Avenue is the Etting Family Cemetery, the oldest existing Jewish cemetery in the city. In 1799, Solomon Etting and his family established the cemetery on North Avenue to bury their infant daughter Rebecca. The small private Jewish family cemetery includes about 25 graves of members from the prestigious family of Baltimore. The Hebrew Burial and Social Services Society currently maintains the site.
- Since 1849, the Hewbrew Friendship Cemetery of East Baltimore has provided a beautiful resting place and was originally established for the Fell’s Point Hebrew Friendship Congregation. The stone gatehouse at the entrance of the cemetery was built in 1870 and was once used as a chapel. Today the gatehouse serves as the home of the grounds’ superintendent, who looks after the cemetery and also assists families and individuals with genealogical research. The site has remained in impeccable condition as one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Maryland.
- The Hutzler’s Palace and Hutzler’s Tower buildings are great historic remnants of Baltimore’s once booming department store district in downtown’s westside. In July 1858, Abram Hutzler, with credit extended to him by his father Moses Hutzler, opened a retail and wholesale store on Howard Street. Abram originally called his store M. Hutzler & Son, and soon brought his two brothers, Charles and David, into the business. The original Howard Street building expanded with the addition of the two adjacent storefronts to become a department store, but was razed in 1888 to be replaced by the neoclassical Hutzler's Palace Building. The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The department store again expanded in 1932 with the construction of the Hutzler's Tower Building, an Art Moderne skyscraper.
- The Eutaw Place Temple, built by the Oheb Shalom Congregation in 1892 to accommodate its growing membership, is arguably the most monumental synagogue of the city. The building was designed by Baltimore architect Joseph Evans Sperry in the Moorish Revival style to resemble the Great Synagogue of Florence, Italy. In 1960, the Oheb Shalom Congregation sold Eutaw Place Temple to the current owners, the Prince Hall Masons.
- The Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Synagogue, today known as Berea Temple Seventh Day Adventist Church, rivals the Eutaw Place Temple in its architectural splendor. The massive size and lavish detail of the building reflect the financial successes of the congregation, made up of immigrants who prospered in Baltimore’s economic rise in the late 19th century. Built in 1890, the temple is a Byzantine Revival structure of ashlar gray granite from Port Deposit, Maryland. The synagogue features a large, 40-foot-diameter central dome and two tall octagonal towers flanking the main entrance. The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
- Reservoir Hill’s Beth Am Synagogue, formerly known as the Chizuk Amuno Synagogue, represents the northwest movement of Baltimore’s Jewish population in the late 19th and 20th centuries. In 1920, after the Chizuk Amuno Congregation sold its Lloyd Street location and outgrew a second larger facility on McCulloh Street, a decision was made to construct this stone synagogue near Druid Hill Park at 2501 Eutaw Place. In 1974, the synagogue was sold to the Beth Am Congregation, which continues to operate and hold religious services in the building.
- The extraordinary Shaarei Tfiloh Synagogue is nearly impossible to miss with its heavy stone masonry and copper dome. This beautiful synagogue was constructed within view of the Druid Hill Park between 1921 and 1927 for the Jewish residents of northwest Baltimore. As Baltimore’s Jewish population moved further away from the Druid Hill Park area, Shaarei Tfiloh stopped conducting regular weekly Sabbath services, but continues to hold services for the Jewish High Holy Days and special events. The Shaarei Tfiloh Synagogue was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.
- The Young Men's and Women's Hebrew Association Building is the result of the 1926 merger of the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Associations into one united organization. In 1930, Baltimore architect Joseph Sperry was hired to design the historic recreational facility at 305 West Monument Street. The building boasted a library, gymnasium, billiard room, lounges, classrooms, and a suspended swimming pool on the second floor. The building served the recreational needs of West Baltimore’s Jewish population, while the Jews of the east side went to the Jewish Education Alliance (JEA). In 1951, a merger between the YM/YWHA and the JEA created the Baltimore Jewish Community Center, which today has facilities in northwest Baltimore and Owings Mills, Md. The YM/YWHA Building has since been converted into apartments but retains its exquisite historic exterior.
- The former Associated Jewish Charities Building located near the intersection of Eutaw and West Monument streets was built shortly after the founding of the organization in the early 1920s with the merger of the Federated Jewish Charities and the United Hebrew Charities. The building, although no longer used by the organization, remains a beautiful example of the Art Deco architecture in Baltimore. The current headquarters of the umbrella charity and social service organization, now known as “The Associated,” is located at 101 West Mount Royal Avenue.
- When walking downtown the Holocaust Memorial Park is an essential place to stop and meaningfully reflect on the history and heritage of Jewish people. In 1980, the Baltimore Jewish Council had the original Holocaust Memorial Park site constructed in downtown Baltimore. In 1987, internationally recognized artist Joseph Sheppard was commissioned to create the Holocaust Memorial Park’s sculpture. In 1995, the Baltimore Jewish Council decided to redesign the site. The appropriately bleak design of architect Jonathan Fishman of the firm Richter, Cornbrooks and Gribble was chosen, and the site was dedicated in 1997. The memorial park is adjacent to the Baltimore City Community College, which owns the memorial property and provides an educational Holocaust resource center.
- The Exodus Memorial, located behind the Baltimore World Trade Center, honors the famous Baltimore ship and its key role in modern Jewish history. The Jewish Museum of Maryland and the Baltimore Zionist District erected the memorial commemorating the 50th anniversary of the voyage of SS Exodus. The memorial consists of a historical marker that describes the 1947 use of the Baltimore packet steamer to transport Holocaust survivors past a British blockade to Palestine (now the modern state of Israel). The memorial also commemorates Mose I. Speert who led Baltimore's efforts to assist refugees with transport.
Off the Beaten Path (but Worth a Look)
- With grandiose Victorian detailing, including rows of arched windows and turrets, the Hebrew Orphan Asylum stands as an architectural landmark on Rayner Avenue in West Baltimore. The building also speaks to the history of philanthropy and social service in Baltimore's Jewish community. The current structure was built in 1876 by the Hebrew Benevolent Society of Baltimore to serve as an orphanage for the Jewish community. The orphanage closed in 1923, responding to the larger national trends in foster care and group homes as alternatives to large institutional homes. The building served as a hospital through the late 1980s. The building, which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2010, is vacant; Baltimore Heritage, Inc. and the Coppin Heights Community Development Corporation are engaged in a continuing campaign to preserve and restore this landmark of Baltimore's Jewish history.