Har Sinai - Oheb Shalom

About Us

Our congregation seeks to serve God and the Jewish people through Torah (study), Avodah (worship), and G’milut Chasadim (deeds of loving kindness).

Torah – We focus on providing life-long learning for congregants of all ages. Beginning with our superb childcare center and pre-school, the Learning Ladder, and extending through senior programming, learning is at the heart of our Congregation. From Shabbat Torah study, our Beit Midrash programs in the Religious School and adult learning opportunities, Oheb Shalom is a congregation of learners.

Avodah – We strive to provide a loving, caring, spiritual community where people of all faiths feel welcomed and engaged in our Progressive Jewish worship. Our various service styles offer a variety of ways for us to connect with God.

G’milut Chasadim – We continually work to make Baltimore a better place for all people. We help feed the hungry through food drives and the planting and harvesting of Gan Chiae, our community garden. We warm the homeless with hand knitted blankets, teach students of all ages, visit the sick and support our fellow Jews wherever they may be.

Oheb Shalom History

EutawEstablished in 1853 by twenty-one young German Jews, Temple Oheb Shalom was originally located on Hanover Street near present day Camden Yards. “Oheb Shalom” means “Lover of Peace.” It was founded as a religious home for the majority of Jews in Baltimore who did not want to attend the Orthodox Baltimore Hebrew Congregation (1830) or the radical Reform Har Sinai (1846). When the Jewish population moved northwest, our congregation relocated to its second home in 1892 and became known as the “Eutaw Place Temple.” Modeled after the Great Synagogue of Florence, Italy, this magnificent building still anchors Baltimore’s Westside. During our centennial year, 1953, we acquired the present site in Pikesville and completed the move to Park Heights Avenue in 1960. Our building was designed by the world renowned founder of the Bauhaus school of architecture, Walter Gropius. Recognized as an example of great synagogue architecture, our facility was completely renovated by Levin-Brown Architects in 2002. The American Institute of Architects gave Oheb Shalom its award for Interior Religious Design in 2004 for the Greenebaum Sanctuary ark.

Temple Oheb Shalom is noteworthy in that only five senior rabbis and six cantors have served the congregation during its entire existence. Its clergy are among the most eminent in American Jewish life. Our first senior rabbi, Rabbi Benjamin Szold (1859-1892), was one of the leaders of 19th century American Jewish community. His daughter, Henrietta Szold, was the founder of Hadassah and one of the most distinguished Jews our country has ever produced. Rabbi William Rosenau (1892-1940), Rabbi Abraham Shaw (1940-1976), Rabbi Donald Berlin (1976-1999), and Rabbi Steven M. Fink (1999-2018) have each added to the legacy of this historic congregation. Our cantors, Alois Kaiser (1866-1908), Jacob Schuman (1908-1941), Benjamin Grobani (1941-1967), Melvin Luterman (1967-2003), Lisa Levine (2003-2006), and Renata Braun (2007-2018) have added immeasurably to the body of American synagogue music. They have brought beauty and meaning to our worship throughout their more than a century and a half of service.

Temple Oheb Shalom prides itself on its history and tradition while concurrently being among the most innovative congregations in the country.

Har Sinai History

Founded on May 15, 1842, Har Sinai Congregation is the oldest continuously Reform Jewish Congregation in the United States. During its first year, regular services were conducted at the home of Moses Hutzler on Exeter Street and Eastern Avenue in Baltimore.

Abram Hutzler, who had become a bar mitzvah in a temporary meeting-place, describes Har Sinai Congregation’s early practice as “almost orthodox, with covered heads, the separation of the sexes, and the use of ‘a Shabbos goy’to light the fires.”

As moderate as their Reform innovations had been, Har Sinai Congregation’s 17 founding Congregants felt isolated from the other groups in the Jewish community, who resented even the most minute deviation from ancient practice. But the erection of their own temple on High Street in 1849, as well as the acquisition of their own cemetery, gave Har Sinai Congregation full status as a Congregation in the community of Israel. This sense of purpose was heightened by the Reform advance in other American cities.

On September 29, 1855, David Einhorn (1809-79) became Har Sinai Congregation’s first Rabbi. A native German, Rabbi Einhorn continued the spirit of modern Reform Judaism at Har Sinai Congregation. In February of 1856, he established the German language magazine “Sinai” to further the Reform movement. Later that year, Einhorn published a prayerbook, “Olath Tamid.” In 1894 it was chosen as the model for the Union Prayer Book. Sometimes embroiled in controversy with more conservative Jewish leaders, Rabbi Einhorn always remained consistent with his doctrine of a Reform Congregation for Har Sinai Congregation.

Now, Har Sinai Congregation continues the Reform traditions as it moves forward, never forgetting its rich heritage as an integral part of Baltimore Jewry and the Reform movement in the United States.

Our Mission

We are a Reform Jewish congregation dedicated to nurturing future generations of Jews by sustaining and strengthening Jewish life through sacred experiences and lifelong learning.