B’nai Israel, Baltimore, Maryland, United States


In the Torah portion of Mishpatim (מִּשְׁפָּטִים – laws, Exodus 21:1-24:18), following the revelation at Sinai, The Lord establishes laws regarding the release of slaves, loans, justice, the treatment of strangers, observance of festivals, and agricultural offerings. God also promises to guide Israel to the Holy Land and warns against pagan practices. The people commit to following these commandments, and as a sign of this commitment, Moses ascends Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. The haftarah (Jeremiah 34:8-22 & 33:25-26) also deals with the release of slaves.

Jeremiah 34:10
וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ כָל-הַשָּׂרִים וְכָל-הָעָם אֲשֶׁר-בָּאוּ בַבְּרִית, לְשַׁלַּח אִישׁ אֶת-עַבְדּוֹ וְאִישׁ אֶת-שִׁפְחָתוֹ חָפְשִׁים,
לְבִלְתִּי עֲבָד-בָּם, עוֹד; וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ, וַיְשַׁלֵּחוּ.

And all the princes and all the people hearkened, that had entered into the covenant to let every one his man-servant, and every one his maid-servant, go free, and not to make bondmen of them any more; they hearkened, and let them go.

The B’nai Israel Synagogue:
The Chizuk Amuno(1) congregation, founded in 1871 in Baltimore, Maryland, experienced a split in 1873 when a group of newly arrived Russian Jews, stricter in their practices, formed the B’nai Israel congregation. In 1895, B’nai Israel acquired the building that the Chizuk Amuno congregation had constructed in 1876. The B’nai Israel Synagogue is distinguished by its neo-Moorish architectural style and its Ark, carved from wood and flanked by two minarets. In 1973, B’nai Israel embarked on a restoration project for the synagogue, which was officially designated a historic monument by the city of Baltimore in 1977. It remains one of the oldest Orthodox synagogues still in operation in the United States.

Freedom Park:
In 1975, the B’nai Israel community donated land to the city of Baltimore for the construction of a park, named Freedom Park. This park, dedicated to the liberation of all victims of oppression, reflects the B’nai Israel community’s commitment to the values of freedom and justice.

(1) Chizuk Amuno is the Ashkenazi pronunciation of Hazak Emunah (חזוק אמונה – strengthening faith).

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