B’nai Israel, founded in 1873, has had a presence on Lloyd Street in East Baltimore since 1895. But don’t make the mistake of thinking historic means stodgy.
Rabbi Etan Mintz, B’nai Israel’s spiritual leader, has been keeping the congregation active and engaged with the Baltimore community since he arrived in 2012. His mission of revitalizing the historic Modern Orthodox synagogue (also known as The Downtown Synagogue) has included creating a Baltimore eruv and engaging actively with the surrounding community.
So, with the help of some local sponsors, B’nai Israel is launching Light Up the Night Chanukah menorah lightings this year to help bring Chanukah to downtown Baltimore.
Stops on the Light Up the Night Chanukah menorah trail are to include lightings Wednesday, Dec. 1, at Patterson Park; Thursday, Dec. 2, on the 400 block of Light Street (which includes an indoor post-lighting celebration); and Friday, Dec. 3, outside B’nai Israel and the Jewish Museum of Maryland.
“This is our first year,” Mintz said. “Our intention next year is to light in a different location each night of Chanukah.”
The idea was sparked by a conversation between Mintz and friend and congregant Marc Attman.
“Marc and I often discuss ways to strengthen the downtown Jewish community,” Mintz said. “Marc and his family have been fixtures downtown, as is B’nai Israel, the oldest continuously active Orthodox congregation in Baltimore, established nearly 150 years ago.”
B’nai Israel, part of the Jewish Museum’s Herbert Bearman Campus, is across Lombard Street from Attman’s Authentic New York Delicatessen, the only remaining deli in what was once a thriving Jewish business community. Attman’s has been around for 106 years and has been at the current location at 1019 E. Lombard St. since the 1930s.
Attman said the entire Attman clan got together to help sponsor the menorah lightings, as well as Chanukah gifts for children.
“Rabbi Mintz is a go-getter,” Attman said. “There is a Jewish identity here. There are Jewish people here. So we want them to get involved with the shul.”
Mintz said the synagogue is appreciative of the Attman family’s support.
“We are very grateful to the Attman family for supporting this initiative,” Mintz said. “Baltimore is composed of different neighborhoods, and our goal is to reach even more people by creating small, localized Chanukah celebrations throughout town. We hope to bring the joy of Chanukah right to the doorsteps of those living downtown.”
A few years ago, Attman’s uncle donated a menorah to the Government House in Annapolis, and the family thought they should do the same for B’nai Israel’s downtown Baltimore Jewish community.
“For the Baltimore Jewish community, I wanted to do something special,” Attman said. “It was a good idea. He’s going to be taking the menorah around to different locations in the city. And it will be wonderful. It’ll be nice.”
Attman said charity and philanthropy runs deep in the Attman family.
“We were happy that we can get this going for the kids,” he said. “My grandfather Harry, he said, ‘Marc, you’ll never get poor giving charity.’ We love doing it.”
The B’nai Israel Light Up the Night menorah lightings are planned for these locations and times:
• Wednesday, Dec. 1, at 5 p.m., Patterson Park, corner of Patterson Avenue and East Lombard Street
• Thursday, Dec. 2, at 5 p.m., 414 Light St., lighting followed by indoor celebration
• Friday, Dec. 3, at 4 p.m., B’nai Israel Congregation and Jewish Museum of Maryland, 27 Lloyd St.
In addition to Attman’s sponsorship, partner organizations for Light Up the Night include Community Connectors of the Macks Center for Jewish Education, the Jewish Museum of Maryland and Hadassah of Greater Baltimore.