Chizuk Amuno Congregation was founded in Baltimore on April 1, 1871. Twenty-three devoted individuals envisioned that their fledgling new congregation would perpetuate traditional Judaism by strengthening the faith and nurturing the religious development of its members through adherence to Judaism’s central ideals of Torah (learning), Avodah (worship), and Gemilut Hasadim (acts of loving kindness).
On August 18, 1876, Rev. Dr. Henry W. Schneeberger officiated at the dedication of the Congregation’s first permanent synagogue, located on Lloyd Street. Schneeberger, the first American-born, ordained rabbi to serve in the United States, was hired to open a daily religious school for children, deliver sermons on Shabbat and festivals, and conduct adult learning sessions. The Congregation soon outgrew the Lloyd Street building and then a larger facility on McCulloh Street. Rabbi Adolph Coblenz assumed spiritual leadership in 1920 as Chizuk Amuno moved into its new synagogue on Eutaw Place. With Rabbi Coblenz’s support and guidance from Talmudic scholars, in December 1947, congregants voted to adopt mixed seating. Chizuk Amuno is a founding member of the Conservative movement, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
In 1948, Rabbi Israel M. Goldman succeeded the ailing Rabbi Coblenz and established Chizuk Amuno’s first Adult Jewish Institute, Laymen’s Weekend Retreat, and Interfaith Service. Planning a suburban campus large enough to house a Social Center, School Building, and Sanctuary, in 1953 the Congregation purchased a plot of undeveloped land on Stevenson Road in Baltimore County. By 1968, Chizuk Amuno had transitioned all Congregational activities to its current 30-acre complex.
Rabbi Joel H. Zaiman began his tenure at Chizuk Amuno in 1980. Determined to intensify learning opportunities for both children and adults, Rabbi Zaiman expanded adult education programming and initiated the Board’s decision to open a day school in 1981. Following Rabbi Zaiman’s retirement, Rabbi Ronald J. Shulman was elected spiritual leader of Chizuk Amuno in 2004, eager to share his vision for the future of this historic congregation.
Each rabbi’s tenure has been marked by congregational accomplishments in education, communal service, support for the land of Israel, and significant contributions to the Jewish community in Baltimore and around the world. Chizuk Amuno Congregation has made, and continues to make, its mark on the history of American Jewry.
Chizuk Amuno has a long history of proud service to Baltimore’s Jewish community. Dedicated to strengthening faith in our people’s covenant with God, the purpose of Chizuk Amuno Congregation is to create a sacred Jewish community. Here individuals and families can find meaning for their lives from serious engagement with the texts, wisdom, and celebrations of Judaism. Chizuk Amuno is dedicated to perpetuating and affirming Judaism by strengthening the faith and nurturing the religious development of its members. In pursuit of this mission, Chizuk Amuno, guided by its rabbinic and educational staff, and lay leaders, ascribes to the rabbinic teaching: “The world is sustained through Torah, worship and acts of loving kindness.”
Finding Meaning • Strengthening Faith • Creating Community
In Hebrew there are two letters, actually the same letter written twice – kuf, kuf, placed before our synagogue name, Chizuk Amuno Congregation. They stand for Kehilah Kedoshah, Sacred Community.” That description comes first. Before we have a name, we have a purpose – to be a sacred community.
Dedicated to strengthening faith in our people’s covenant with God, the purpose of this synagogue is to create a sacred Jewish community. Here individuals and families can find meaning for their lives from serious engagement with the texts, wisdom, and celebrations of Judaism.
Kadosh means holy, set apart. Membership in this synagogue should not be like belonging to any other organization. Instead, it should reflect that special part of an individual’s personality, experience or story that gets shared in community with others. Members of a sacred community devoted to God, Torah, and each other are part of something larger.
Synagogue membership, as Judaism, is based in covenant – brit, shared responsibilities and privileges. Covenant compels us, and it makes demands of us. Just as God commands our performance of mitzvot as a holy people, so too does belonging to a sacred community require us to observe more than we do now, and to grow toward honoring the highest expectations and standards of Torah.
In a sacred, covenanted community dues are understood as covenant contributions, different offerings of equal significance that sustain the community and provide for every member’s needs.
Drawing closer to God’s presence in celebration and observance at home, as well as in participation at services, in classes, at meetings, and in support of one another are also covenant contributions.
Equality and accessibility are the ethic of membership. The belief that every person is a Tzelem Elohim, an image of God, is the first and fundamental moral claim of Judaism. We believe that and put that into practice. It defines who we are, why what we do here matters, and how we ought to speak to and greet one another respecting every individual.
As manifestations of God no one of us is more entitled to anything at Chizuk Amuno than any other, and all of us are expected to be present, adhering to communal norms of conduct.
We aspire to be inclusive, honoring human dignity and welcoming every person who wants to celebrate as their own the values of Conservative Judaism we practice.
In a Kehilah Kedoshah, a sacred community, sometimes there will be disagreement. A sense of community is not based on unanimity. It is built on the distinctiveness of Jewish identity.
Jewish tradition teaches that proper disagreements, mahloket l’shem Shamayim, are constructive when they reflect mutual respect for those on both sides of the matter at issue. If not, they violate Jewish ethics.
As a synagogue community we experience God’s presence through such sacred conversation, as well as in learning and prayer, service and celebration, ethics and compassion, meeting and participation.
A sacred community is rooted in Torah, but more so, participating in a sacred community inspires us to bring the message and purposes of Torah into our lives and into the world.
This is our vision – to become a Kehilah Kedoshah, for only in this form can be effectively fulfill our congregation’s mission of Torah, Avodah, and Gemilut Hasadim.