A Brief History of “Hertzberg’s”
Sometime after the end of World War II, a group of men decided that it would be desirable to have a shtiebel-type shul in the Forest Park area, which was rapidly becoming the center of the Baltimore Jewish community. They were all friends and admirers of Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Hertzberg, z’l, who at the time was giving a daily Gemorah shiur at the Shomrei Mishmeres shul in East Baltimore. They both respected the Rebbe for his Torah scholarship, and admired him and the Rebbetzin for their warm personalities and exemplary middos. After a series of meetings, their plans came to fruition in 1946 with the purchase of a large frame house at 3900 Maine Avenue. The downstairs was converted into a shul – Beth Abraham – and the second and third floors became living quarters for the Rebbe and his family.
The congregation that formed was diverse and interesting. At this time a number of refugees from Eastern Europe had begun to arrive in Baltimore , fresh from the horrors of the Holocaust. Many of these homeless victims found a home, love, and understanding with the Hertzbergs – who provided meals, found jobs, and made shidduchim (many weddings took place in the Rebbe’s living room, with the Rebbetzin as caterer).
Hertzberg’s was also an open house where mishulochim came and stayed for indefinite periods, and where Chassidic rebbes were treated as honored guests. A meal at the Hertzberg table was always vibrant and enlightening. Guests would range from the Sadigerer Rebbe to Noah Nachbush, a former star of the VilnaArt Theatre, to Dr. Isaac Fein, an accomplished maskil and father of the noted Jewish publicist, Leonard Fein.
By the end of the 1950’s, Orthodox Jewry had begun shifting from Forest Park to the Upper Park Heights area. A search began for a new location for the shul. A house with a large adjacent lot was found on Wallis Avenue between Pinkney and Strathmore. In January of 1966, Hertzberg’s was relocated. Services were temporarily held in the upstairs of the house, while a shul building was planned for the adjacent lot, and then constructed.
In January of 1968, the congregation was saddened by the sudden and untimely death of the beloved Rebbetzin, and again in 1971 by the loss of the Rebbe. Some felt that Hertzberg’s would not survive, but loyalty to the memory of their beloved Rebbe and mentor has kept the congregation flourishing.
Feeling the need to reinforce and strengthen the shul’s Torah values, in 1998 the congregation secured the services of Rabbi Dovid Katz to serve as spiritual leader. Under his leadership, the shul has increasingly become a Makom Torah.
The shul building remained basically unchanged until the summer of 2000, when new furniture (benches, a Bimah, and an Aron Kodesh – all custom-made by Kibbutz Lavi in Israel) was installed. A modest expansion of the facilities – including a kiddush room, succoh deck, and enlarged kitchen – was completed in 2005.
With the help of Hashem, may we continue to grow from strength to strength.