Baltimore’s historic Lloyd Street Synagogue celebrated the 50th anniversary of the rededication of its downtown Greek Revival building.
Dubbed Synagogue Night, the Nov. 6 event drew 40 community members to a presentation given by Gary Zolah, executive director of the American Jewish Archives, titled “Profiles in American Jewish Courage.”
In 1959, the city made plans to demolish the decaying building on Lloyd Street and put in its place a parking lot. Determined to save the oldest synagogue in Maryland, the Jewish community banded together to rescue and restore the historic building.
The newly restored synagogue opened to public view on Nov. 8, 1964. Today, it stands as a cornerstone of the Jewish Museum of Maryland with the popular “The Synagogue Speaks” exhibit.
Anniversary festivities continued the following Sunday with the debut of a new tour titled “Technology in the Temple.” The tour, available Mondays and Sundays at 3 p.m. through June, touches on the technological innovations that swept the city when the synagogue was built in 1845 and expanded in 1860.
Ilene Dackman-Alon, the museum’s director of education, led a group of 20 people through the basement displays and mikvah area of the synagogue, then up into the sanctuary, pointing to the wooden pews, women’s balcony and iconic stained-glass windows the former Jewish Historical Society of Maryland had restored.
Standing before the ark, a reproduction of the original, Dackman-Alon quoted E.B. Hirsch, who wrote of the restoration project, “The holes where the colored stained glass windows fit had been boarded up. They despaired of knowing exactly what the colors would be. But in cleaning out the building they found a bushel basket full of broken glass. And they pieced all of it together, and then they could have it restored.”
Because the rededication anniversary coincided with Kristallnacht, the museum invited artist Marty Levin to display his meticulously crafted miniature facades of former European synagogues. Added to the collection was a miniature Lloyd Street Synagogue and its neighbor down the block, B’nai Israel.
As for the future of the building, museum executive director Marvin Pinkert said increased accessibility, additional audio aids and an expansion of virtual technology experiences were on the horizon.
“If I look 50 years ahead, I think this will remain a hallowed space,” said Pinkert. “There’s a continuity here … a time capsule of Jewish Baltimore history, from the earliest German Jewish immigrants to 1950s life downtown to the formation of the historic society to now. It’s a long chain.”