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B'nai Spotlight - Ann Shinnar

B'nai Spotlight will highlight a range of members of the B'nai Israel family who have a long and deep history with the shul. A new profile will be published at least monthly. Every person has incredible stories. Here you will find a few.  Each profile tells the reader something about the member who heads up the profile and offers interesting stories of their family connection to B'nai Israel or shul history.  The profile also provides their insights on "belonging" to a community - in short, their "My B'nai Story".  We hope you enjoy B'nai Spotlight.

Ann E. Shinnar, PhD, is a college chemistry professor.  Ann is now a grandmother, and has taken the title of Baba.  Her husband, Meir Shinnar, is an expert Ba’al Koreh.  All three of their children attended yeshiva day schools in the modern orthodox community; each knows how to layn.  Starting in 1987, Ann learned how to layn Megillat Esther and since then has been reading at least a perek each year for women.  She is also a regular reader of Megillat Eicha in her local women’s tefillah group. When Ann reads from a klaf (parchment) with ta’amei hamikrah, she often thinks of her Zaide Faiman and hopes that he would be proud that she is carrying on the tradition.


Solomon and Chaika Faiman, my maternal grandparents, arrived in Baltimore in May 1922.  Born in the 1890s in towns near Kiev, they fled Russia in 1920 after Chaika’s parents were murdered during a local pogrom perpetrated by Cossacks on a Shabbos night.  Soon thereafter, Solomon and Chaika made a treacherous trip by wagon across borders to Bucharest, Romania and wrote to relatives on both sides of their family who had already settled in America.  They chose Baltimore, where Chaika had an aunt and uncle who could vouch for them.

To earn a meager living, Solomon began as a peddler, walking many miles to sell needles and thread, etc door-to-door.  He conversed in Yiddish and maybe Russian, but learned English along the way.  Through a family connection, Chaika had a job sewing buttons on clothing in a factory.

In June 1923 their American daughter Fradl was born in an apartment on South Exeter Street.  Home births were quite common then.  The Faiman’s earliest apartments did not have an indoor bathtub.  In her childhood, my mother went weekly with my grandmother to the local bathhouse for a thorough washing, most likely close to Shabbos.

By 1935, the Faimans moved to 1139 East Lombard Street, just around the corner from Lloyd Street. The first floor of this narrow 3-story building had a dry goods (clothing) store.  My grandparents’s home occupied the 2nd and 3rd floors, where they lived for the rest of their lives.

The store name was Faiman’s, etched in glass with a distinctive cobalt blue color. Their clothing business was open Sunday morning through Friday afternoon, until Shabbat, and then again Saturday night (Motzei Shabbat) in the winter months.  My grandmother (who I called Baba) waited on customers and worked the cash register.  My grandfather (who I called Zaide) learned to drive “the machine” (car) so that he could acquire merchandise. Their store was in operation until 1980 and my grandparents remained strictly Shomer Shabbos throughout.

Faiman’s store was just a few doors away from Stone’s Bakery, Attman’s, and Smelkinson’s dairy store, etc., each with enticing aromas of fresh, European-style food.  Lombard Street was a bustling place for many immigrants, especially Jewish, Italian, and Polish residents of East Baltimore.  In the summers, produce arrived from the farmlands surrounding Baltimore.  Before Yom Tov, my Baba patronized Tulkoff’s and brought us freshly grated horseradish in a glass Mason jar, not in the retail bottle.

Before and after WWII, East Baltimore had several dozen shuls.  For (15) years, Solomon Faiman routinely walked to Anshe Sphard, a shul located at 4 North Broadway (which later merged to become Ohr Knesseth Israel-Anshe Sphard and became the Rogers Avenue Synagogue in northwest Baltimore).  As a merchant, my grandfather was instrumental in raising funds for the establishment of Ner Yisrael, the now famed rabbinical school founded in 1933. Solomon Faiman was also affiliated with Shomer Mishmeres HaKodesh, the orthodox shul that occupied the building at 15 Lloyd Street (The Lloyd Street Synagogue, formerly The Baltimore Hebrew Congregation).  In the early 1960s, my grandfather handed over the key to the building (to Rabbi Morris Lieberman), as the building transitioned to the Jewish Historical Society of Maryland.

Sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s, Solomon Faiman became a more regular attendee at B’nai Israel, just around the corner from his store on Lombard Street.  At B’nai Israel, my Zaide was an active member, serving regularly for davening (Ba’al Tefillah), layning (Ba’al Koreh), and shofar blowing (Ba’al Tokeah) for the Yomim Noraim.  Before Rosh HaShanah, the local newspapers often published feature articles about the New Year.  In 1979, the Baltimore Sun article entitled “Solomon Faiman Is Still Davening” appeared with an interview of my Zaide. In the accompanying photograph (1960s), my grandfather is seen blowing the shofar, posing during a weekday interview, not on Yom Tov itself.

Solomon Faiman blowing the shofar at B'nai Israel


From the 1950s onward, the number of Jewish residents in the East Baltimore neighborhood declined, as people relocated to Northwest Baltimore and Pikesville.  After the riots of 1968, the neighborhood was deeply scared and scarred.  Somehow a small minyan continued at B’nai Israel.  (Some people drove just to attend the Shabbat davening and layning that they enjoyed.)

When I got married in 1979, I was privileged to have my Zaide recite the seventh of the Sheva Brachot at our chupah ceremony in my parents’ shul.  His voice was strong and melodious.  In September 1980, Solomon Faiman had a stroke and then resided at Levindale until his passing in March 1981.  He could not attend the funeral (levaya) of my grandmother who pre-deceased him in December 1980.

Solomon and Chaika had been partners throughout their lives  


Mon, December 11 2023 28 Kislev 5784