Articles by Ruby Katz

My Shtetl Baltimore by Eli W. Schlossberg : A Book Review

my shtetel

At his annual teshuva drasha, on the Thursday evening before Yom Kippur, Rabbi Yissachar Frand thanked Eli Schlossberg for his work in bringing the yearly lecture to the community. Then he congratulated Eli on his new book, My Shtetl Baltimore. “It’s always a great pleasure to take a walk down memory lane,” said Rabbi Frand.

I would add that this book – 557 generous pages of reminiscence, nostalgia, history, and memoir – is definitely a pleasure to read, even for someone who didn’t grow up in Baltimore’s frum community. Raised in the ’40s and ’50s on Shirley Avenue in lower Park Heights, I wasn’t frum (yet). But in those days, traditional Judaism influenced the whole community – even the non-observant. Perhaps that’s why Eli Schlossberg’s memories spark mine.

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A Window on Baltimore’s Sukkahs


I was about 10 years old when my Great-Aunt Cele led me into Congregation Beth Jacob’s sukkah on Park Heights Avenue. It was my first time in a sukkah, and, even as a child, I knew that this was a special place. Streams of sunlight shone on tables laden with fruit. More fruit hung from above. But what I remember the most was an indescribably sweet smell. Today, I think of that sukkah as a window on Gan Eden.

“Any sukkah by definition is special because it’s a very holy atmosphere of complete kedusha,” says Rabbi Menachem Goldberger, Rav of Congregation Tiferes Yisroel. Yet making a sukkah more beautiful lies within the domain of hidur mitzva, according to Rabbi Goldberger. He quotes a passage from Az Yashir (Song at the Sea): “Zeh Kaili ve’anvaihu – This is my G-d and I will adorn him.”

Read More:A Window on Baltimore’s Sukkahs