Founded on May 15, 1842, Har Sinai Congregation is the oldest continuously Reform Jewish Congregation in the United States. During its first year, regular services were conducted at the home of Moses Hutzler on Exeter Street and Eastern Avenue in Baltimore.
Abram Hutzler, who had become a bar mitzvah in a temporary meeting-place, describes Har Sinai Congregation’s early practice as “almost orthodox, with covered heads, the separation of the sexes, and the use of ‘a Shabbos goy’to light the fires.”
As moderate as their Reform innovations had been, Har Sinai Congregation’s 17 founding Congregants felt isolated from the other groups in the Jewish community, who resented even the most minute deviation from ancient practice. But the erection of their own temple on High Street in 1849, as well as the acquisition of their own cemetery, gave Har Sinai Congregation full status as a Congregation in the community of Israel. This sense of purpose was heightened by the Reform advance in other American cities.
On September 29, 1855, David Einhorn (1809-79) became Har Sinai Congregation’s first Rabbi. A native German, Rabbi Einhorn continued the spirit of modern Reform Judaism at Har Sinai Congregation. In February of 1856, he established the German language magazine “Sinai” to further the Reform movement. Later that year, Einhorn published a prayerbook, “Olath Tamid.” In 1894 it was chosen as the model for the Union Prayer Book. Sometimes embroiled in controversy with more conservative Jewish leaders, Rabbi Einhorn always remained consistent with his doctrine of a Reform Congregation for Har Sinai Congregation.
Now, for over 160 years, Har Sinai Congregation continues the Reform traditions as it moves forward, never forgetting its rich heritage as an integral part of Baltimore Jewry and the Reform movement in the United States.