B’nai Israel Event to Explore Synagogue’s Long History


Baltimore historian Fred Shoken will lead “B’nai Israel-Going on 150: What is the secret to our longevity?” online Wednesday, Sept. 2 from 7-8:30 p.m to explore B’nai Israel’s long history.

B’nai Israel, a synagogue in downtown Baltimore, is not only one of the oldest Jewish congregations in Baltimore, but one of the few active congregations in the country holding regular services in a synagogue built before 1880. As both the congregation and synagogue building approach 150 years later this decade, Shoken will discuss how it has achieved this feat and what lessons others can learn from it.

Shoken has worked in historic preservation for more than 40 years and served as president of Baltimore Heritage, a nonprofit city-wide historic preservation organization. He is a member of the synagogue, which had its start in 1873.

According to their website’s history page, B’nai Israel may have originated when Russian and Polish Jews living in close proximity davened together for the sake of convenience. Beginning in the 1890s, some earlier synagogues in the area moved away. “In rapid succession, Baltimore Hebrew (1891), Oheb Shalom (1893), Har Sinai (1894) and Chizuk Amuno (1895) moved to the near Northwest section from Lanvale Street to North Avenue, McCulloh Street to Bolton Street,” the website states. “This exodus allowed B’nai Israel to expand by purchasing the former home of Chizuk Amuno on Lloyd Street.”

Another interesting note from B’nai Israel’s history is that in 1898 its leaders helped found the Orthodox Union.

Today, the synagogue claims a membership of more than 200 families. It recently promoted an eruv extension to welcome more members to move to the community.

You can join the event via Facebook: Facebook.com/events/683483188901943W.

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