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Historical society to restore baths in Baltimore synagogue

Baltimore Jewish Times
BALTIMORE, April 7 (JTA) — The ritual baths at the third-oldest continuously operating synagogue in the United States are soon to be restored. The Jewish Historical Society of Maryland recently decided to restore the mikvahs in the basement of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, Baltimore’s oldest synagogue. The mikvahs — which were last used in the early 1960s when the 152-year-old synagogue became a museum — are no longer functioning and have been left in a deteriorating condition for years. The restoration would not make the mikvahs usable, said Bernard Fishman, the historical society’s executive director. Instead, he said, the society will strive to make the baths historically accurate and accessible to the public for educational purposes. Funding for this project comes from a $12,500 grant from the Maryland Historical Trust, as well as $5,000 from the Jewish Historical Society. Fishman said he hoped to complete the project in the next six months. The mikvahs were built around the turn of the century and have been redecorated at least three times over the years. Fishman said they are likely to be restored to their condition in he early 1900s, when they were last used regularly by a congregation. Roger Katzenberg, an architect who has previously worked on the Lloyd Street Synagogue, was hired to direct the restoration. Restoration decisions will be based on what information Katzenberg and the historical society can obtain through historical and technical research of the baths. At this point, no one is even sure when exactly the mikvahs were built, or how else the room was used. “Right now, we’re trying to put together a sequence of how everything happened,” Katzenberg said. “It’s like detective work. Sometimes you can solve the mystery, and sometimes you’re left with more questions.”