Putting Down Roots

Baltimore’s earliest Jewish immigrants–mainly from Germany and then from Russia and Eastern Europe–primarily settled in Fells Point, South Baltimore and East Baltimore, where they established homes, business, schools and synagogues. East Baltimore quickly became one of Baltimore’s first distinctly Jewish communities. And that’s where the Jewish schools, synagogues and AJC’s agencies concentrated.

But after a generation, the city’s Jewish population began moving northwest, first to Eutaw Place–where the Associated Jewish Charities moved its headquarters in 1931–and then to parts of the city beyond Cold Spring Lane. At the time, a legacy of discrimination shaped the choices of Jewish home-seekers: traditionally shut out of many areas, Jews had filled neighborhoods west and northwest of downtown.

In the late 1940s, that northwesterly movement continued along the area’s major corridors, Park Heights, Liberty Road, Reisterstown Road and Greenspring Avenue.

“It was real nice,” recalls Melvin Kerber in an oral history about growing up in Park Heights. “As children, we had a lot of freedom. We used to play ball on the street down there because there were not any automobiles … beyond that, there was a lot of wooded area. We used to go up there and roast marshmallows and put potatoes in the fire.”

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