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Virtual Jewish World:
Maryland, United States


Virtual Jewish World: Table of Contents | North America | United States


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A one-crop tobacco economy and the existence of few major towns caused Jews, with rare exceptions, to avoid the colony during the first century and half after its establishment in 1634. David Fereira, a Jewish tobacco trader from New Amsterdam, appeared in Maryland as early as 1657 and later the same year colonial records mention a Jewish physician, Jacob Lumbrozo, who was also engaged in trade. Lumbrozo, a colorful figure who was often in conflict with his neighbors, was arrested in 1658 for blasphemy after offending Christians colonists during a conversation about religion. He was released before trial, however, due to the proclamation of a general amnesty. After the 1740s, with the growth of commerce in the colony, individual Jews appeared in Annapolis, Fredericktown (now Frederick), and few other towns, but a Jewish community with supporting institutions did not emerge until the period of the American Revolution, when Baltimore became one of the region's leading ports and attracted several Jewish families. By 1825, there were about 150 Jews in the new state. Although Baltimore Jews like Solomon Etting and Jacob I. Cohen , Jr., achieved a degree of prominence in the larger, non-Jewish community, the state constitution barred them from holding public office unless they would submit to a Christian oath. This requirement was finally removed with the passage of the 1826 "Jew Bill," which was championed by the non-Jewish legislator Thomas Kennedy.

Between 1830 and 1870 over 10,000 Jews, primarily from Germany and other areas of Central Europe, settled in the state. Eastern European Jews began to trickle into Maryland during the 1850s and arrived in large numbers from the 1880s. While the vast majority of Jewish immigrants were drawn to Baltimore, Jews also settled in smaller towns as peddlers and merchants. In 1853, the first congregation outside Baltimore was established in Cumberland, an important trading and transportation center in the western part of the state. By the time mass immigration ended in the mid-1920s, there also existed congregations in Frederick, Hagerstown, Annapolis, Frostburg, Brunswick, and Salisbury. Statewide, the Jewish population reached about 40,000 in 1900 and grew to 65,000 by the end of the immigrant period.

In the years following World War II, Jews entered more fully into the life of the general community and were among the state's top officeholders. Marvin Mandel , a Baltimore native, served as governor from 1969 to 1979. This period was one of great demographic change, with more than 50,000 Jews from Washington, D.C., settling in the nearby Maryland suburbs of Montgomery and Prince Georges counties. By 1998, this region was home to 104,500 Jews and had come to rival Baltimore and its surroundings (Jewish population 94,500) as the state's largest Jewish population center. Jews also increasingly established themselves in areas outside the Washington suburbs and Baltimore, with 10,000 residing in Howard County, almost 2,000 in Annapolis, and more than 1,000 in Frederick and in Harford County.

As of 2013, Maryland's Jewish population was approximately 238,200 people.


Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved. E.L. Goldstein, Traders and Transports: The Jews of Colonial Maryland (1993); K. Falk and A. Decter, eds., We Call This Place Home: Jews in Maryland's Small Towns (2002); I.M. Fein, The Making of an American Jewish Community: The History of Baltimore Jewry from 1773 to 1920 (1971).

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