B'nai Israel Congregation

B’nai Israel was one of a handful of synagogues founded to meet the needs of Jewish families moving north from downtown in the inter-war years.

In 1925, the Orthodox congregation, many of whom were from Poland, refitted a frame house at 4708 Georgia Avenue, NW. Three years later members adapted a church on 14th and Emerson Streets, NW.

Increased membership propelled a move to a new, larger synagogue at 16th and Crittenden Streets, NW, in 1951. With the move, the congregation affiliated with the Conservative movement.

Like a number of other congregations, B’nai Israel launched a school in suburban Maryland to meet the needs of families moving farther north. The Paul Himelfarb Hebrew School on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring opened in 1967.

When congregants moved to Rockville, B’nai Israel followed. It constructed a new synagogue on Montrose Road in 1976. Recent renovations and new additions accommodate B’nai Israel’s membership of 1,200 households.

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4708 Georgia Avenue, N.W.

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1. 4708 Georgia Avenue, NW

The original congregation met in this converted house from 1926 until 1929. Founding members adopted Sephardic melodies, part of the Chasidic tradition prevalent in their Southern Polish homeland.

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14th and Emerson Streets, N.W.

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2. 14th and Emerson Streets, NW

B’nai Israel’s officers bought the Hamline Methodist Episcopal Church at 14th and Emerson Streets, N.W., at auction in 1929. After extensively renovating the building, the congregation remained here for twenty-two years. Although it is now occupied by St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church, a stained-glass Star of David remains over the front door.

Photograph by Jeremy Goldberg
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Dedication, 16th and Crittenden Streets synagogue, 1951

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3. Dedication, 16th and Crittenden Streets synagogue, 1951

Former B’nai Israel President William Sachs speaks at the dedication of the 16th and Crittenden synagogue building.

B’nai Israel Collections
16th and Crittenden Streets synagogue

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4. 16th and Crittenden Streets synagogue

The exterior of this Alabama limestone structure, designed by the local architectural firm of Brandt, Waronoff and Westric, featured a Star of David and a carved inscription, “To the Glory of God and the Brotherhood of Man.” Although the 19th Street Baptist Church now worships here, the inscription remains. Small Stars of David are still visible in the filigree around the globe lights at the entrance.

Photograph by Jeremy Goldberg
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B’nai Israel, Montrose Road Complex

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5. B’nai Israel, Montrose Road Complex

In 2003, B’nai Israel opened the Thelma and Melvin Lenkin Education and Activities Center, a multipurpose wing architecturally integrated into its 1976 building.

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