In the latest installment of his “Five Minute Histories” video series, Johns W. Hopkins, executive director of the nonprofit Baltimore Heritage, offers an engaging look at Reservoir Hill’s Beth Am Synagogue and a general overview of the history of Baltimore’s Jewish community.
In the clip, Hopkins speaks about the “The Jew Bill” of 1826 that allowed Jews to run for public office in Maryland; the establishment and proliferation of synagogues and temples in Baltimore; and the growth and northwestern migration of local Jewish neighborhoods over the past century.
Built in 1922 by Chizuk Amuno Congregation, the Byzantine-Moorish structure at 2501 Eutaw Place — designed by noted local architect Joseph Evans Sperry — became Beth Am Synagogue in 1974. Led by Rabbi Daniel Cotzin Burg, Beth Am is a Conservative congregation of nearly 500 families and individuals.
Last May, the nine-month renovation and restoration project of the congregational building — which was conducted in 2018-2019 and rededicated last November — was the recipient of a Baltimore Heritage 2020 Preservation Award.
The stone, triple-arched Beth Am building was reportedly modeled after Tempio Maggiore, the Great Synagogue of Florence.
Beth Am’s renovations included the installation of sound and lighting systems, air conditioning in the sanctuary, lobby floors, new restrooms, a fully renovated kitchen and the creation of a social hall on the building’s lower level that can be used for b’nai mitzvah parties and weddings.
In addition, the congregation installed new seat cushions, carpeting, and video streaming and recording from the main sanctuary. There is also now programmatic space for congregants and the general community.
The $5.5 million renovation and overhaul project was part of “Tradition & Transformation: The Campaign for Beth Am,” a major funding initiative that the congregation began in 2012.
During the renovation, Beth Am held services at the nearby Mount Lebanon Baptist Church in Greater Mondawmin.