Onward to Suburbia

The promise of new suburban housing, spacious lawns and new schools, coupled with discriminatory housing practices that prevented Jews from living in certain neighborhoods, shaped the migration to northwest Baltimore in the second half of the century.

In 1959 the JCC was built on Park Heights Avenue, anticipating further northwestardly Jewish migration to Upper Park Heights and beyond. Other organizations within the Associated would soon follow, including CHAI (Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc), the Center for Jewish Education, Jewish Volunteer Connection, Jewish Community Services, and the Baltimore Jewish Council, among others.

By the 1960s, many residents were moving even farther out of the city to Randallstown and the Liberty Road area. Leaving the city then was a sign of prosperity and “white flight” became the norm. Pikesville, Owings Mills and Reisterstown began to boom, as synagogues and the entire infrastructure of the Jewish community moved to the suburbs. By the mid-1970s, more than 85 percent of Baltimore’s Jewish population was clustered within just seven northwestern postal zones.

Recognizing this movement, in 1978, The Associated opened the Dalshiemer Youth Center with the surrounding Jacob S. and Rose Shapiro Recreational Park on Gwynnbrook Avenue in Owings Mills to attract more children to the JCC, while serving the needs of Baltimore’s growing suburban Jewish community.

“During the first years, the Owings Mills JCC was opened, it was not well received. We struggled to get people to go out there. There were some doubters who said we built to far out, we built in the wrong part of the county, and this was going to be a white elephant. I understand today that it’s a tremendous success…..I think to myself that there’s a lesson here: maybe we did build a few years ahead of the population, but the population caught up with the facility,” said Stephen D. Solender in an oral history he recorded in 1992.

But in the last 20 years, Baltimore’s Jewish population has once again been on the move. While three-quarters of all Baltimore Jews now live in five contiguous zip codes–Pikesville, Park Heights, Owings Mills, Reisterstown, and Mt. Washington—more than 40 percent of Jews with young children live in the I-83 corridor, stretching from downtown north to Timonium. The number of Jewish households have also been increasing in Carroll and Howard counties. As this trend continues, The Associated will continue to serve whichever areas Baltimore’s Jewish population calls home.

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