Beth Am is an urban synagogue located in Baltimore’s historic Reservoir Hill neighborhood. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the residents of the blocks surrounding Beth Am were predominantly Jewish. Many current Beth Am members grew up here.
Today Reservoir Hill is an economically and racially integrated community, and Beth Am is an important participant in community activities. Beth Am belongs to the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council, partners with the John Eager Howard Elementary School, and is active in the Lakeside Neighbors Coalition, which has played a vital part in the revitalization of northern Reservoir Hill, including by helping to purchase and rehab abandoned homes and resell them to homeowners.. Community groups use the synagogue for meetings, voting, and social events. Social action is an important piece of Beth Am’s identity as a congregation.
In For Of, Inc. (IFO, Inc.)
In For Of, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that was created by the Beth Am Board in 2013 to increase and deepen relationships between Beth Am members and Reservoir Hill residents. It seeks to make the synagogue in, for and of Reservoir Hill by promoting and supporting inclusive and sustainable community revitalization, as well as supporting the renovation and preservation of Beth Am’s building to serve both congregation and community.
Some highlights over the past year include: participating in the Fall Harvest Festival with the kugel cook-off competition; raising $15,000 to hire a part-time community organizer through the UMBC Shriver Center’s Peace Worker Program; winning a $5,000 planning grant from Gendler Grapevine Project to develop a curriculum for Jewish and Reservoir Hill pre-teens around coming-of-age rituals; expanding the IFO Board to 15 members, 6 of whom are Reservoir Hill residents; helping the John Eager Howard Elementary School community bring its needs and desires for the school’s renovation to school officials; participating in Community Partners, a collaborative of Reservoir Hill organizations, which help coordinate programs; and securing a $50,000 state bond in support of The Campaign for Beth Am, Tradition and Transformation.
Oral Histories of Reservoir Hill Neighbors
Past and present residents of Reservoir Hill shared their recollections of the neighborhood on November 1, 2015 in a well-attended program sponsored by IFO. Congregant Stuart Schoenfeld, a professor of sociology, set the stage with an overview of Jewish migrations in Baltimore and other cities. A moderated discussion followed. Aaron Levin recorded the program for posterity: