Founded in 1729, the city of Baltimore, Maryland was established before the United States gained its independence from Great Britain in 1776, thus making it an old city according to U.S. standards. Unsurprisingly, then, Baltimore has the third oldest surviving synagogue building in the United States. Although the Lloyd St. Synagogue, located on Lloyd St. in downtown Baltimore, no longer houses a specific congregation, people do occasionally host special events there, such as Bar Mitzvahs. However, most of Lloyd St. Synagogue’s visitors today are people taking a tour of it through the Jewish Museum of Maryland.
The Jewish Historical Society of Maryland, which became the Jewish Museum of Maryland, was founded in 1960. Its original goal was to save the deteriorating Lloyd St. Synagogue. The Lloyd St. Synagogue was built in 1845 to house the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, a congregation of German-Jewish immigrants. However, in 1889, the congregation moved to a larger building, so sold their Greek Revival-style building on Lloyd St. to the St. John the Baptist Lithuanian Catholic Church. This church remained in the building until 1905 and added a bell tower to the roof. However, after the church moved out, an Eastern European-Jewish congregation called Shomrei Mishmeres Ha-Kodesh owned it, until they sold it to the Jewish Historical Society of Maryland in 1960.
Today, the Jewish Museum of Maryland not only provides tours of the Lloyd St. Synagogue, located on its left, but also provides tours of the B’nai Israel Synagogue, located on its right. The B’nai Israel Synagogue is a Moorish Revival-style building that was built in 1876 to house Congregation Chizuk Amuno. The members of Congregation Chizuk Amuno originally attended Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, but they did not like how the latter congregation was steering toward Reform Judaism, so decided to start their own Orthodox Jewish congregation. After worshiping for twenty years in their Moorish Revival-style building on Lloyd St., Congregation Chizuk Amuno moved to the suburbs, and sold their building to a Russian-Jewish congregation called B’nai Israel. B’nai Israel Synagogue has been worshiping at this same building since 1895.
In addition to providing synagogue tours, the Jewish Museum of Maryland also has its own museum. The museum’s main exhibit is called “Voices of Lombard Street,” and chronologically documents the history of Baltimore’s Jewish community from the late nineteenth century until the present day. Although most of Baltimore’s Jewish population lives in the suburbs today, a few Jewish delis still exist in downtown Baltimore.
To learn more about Moorish Revival-style synagogues, check out my previous post about the synagogue KAM Isaiah Israel in Chicago.
Sources and Further Reading
“About Us.” Bnai Israel: The Downtown Synagogue. (accessed March 28, 2021).
https://www.jewishdowntown.org/about.html (accessed March 28, 2021).
“Historic Synagogue Video Tour.” Jewish Museum of Maryland. https://jewishmuseummd.org/jmm-synagogues-video-tour/ (accessed March 28, 2021).
“History of B’nai Israel Synagogue.” Jewish Museum of Maryland. September 15, 2020. https://jewishmuseummd.org/history-of-bnai-israel-synagogue/ (accessed March 28, 2021).
“History of the Lloyd St. Synagogue.” Jewish Museum of Maryland. https://jewishmuseummd.org/explore-our-stories/lloyd-st-synagogue-history/ (accessed March 28, 2021).