Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum

Collections: Objects of the Month

May 2011: Photograph of Mayor Walter Washington dancing the hora with Isaac Franck, 1973

Photograph of Mayor Walter Washington dancing the hora with Isaac Franck, 1973 Archives Record
Object #: 1999.13.1
Donor: Pearl Franck
Description: Celebration for the 25th Anniversary of the State of Israel, May 1973.
L to R: Bernie Rosenberg (celebration chair for Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington), D.C. Mayor Walter Washington, and Isaac Franck (executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington).

Background: Isaac Franck became executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington in 1949. Franck, working with such influential Council presidents as Rabbi Isadore Breslau, Aaron Goldman, Albert E. Arent, Louis Grossberg, and Seymour D. Wolf, led the Community Council as it addressed a wide range of social and political problems.

1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Isaac Franck (lower right) at the
1963 March for Jobs and Freedom

While the Council was formed to serve the local Jewish community, it did not shy away from issues that affected the greater good. Among these were issues of civil rights and desegregation, education, assistance to the poor, separation of church and state, equal opportunity, and Home Rule for the District of Columbia. For example, in 1953, the Council lent its name to the Thompson's Restaurant court case, decided by the Supreme Court. The case ended segregation in public accommodations in Washington, D.C. Following desegregation of public schools the subsequent year, the Council worked with city and religious leaders to encourage a peaceful transition. In 1963, Franck arranged for Martin Luther King, Jr., to address a citywide meeting at Adas Israel. That August, King returned to Washington to give his "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The Council coordinated local Jewish involvement in the historic event.

When Isaac Franck retired in 1973, Jewish Community Council membership had more than tripled. The Washington Post wrote that he "gave [the Jewish community] not only a degree of cohesion, he also sought for it a special place because of its location in the nation's capital." During Franck's tenure, the Council grew dramatically and worked with other organizations and faiths. He enabled 173 local organizations to speak as one while taking action on a wide range of community matters.

Today, the Council continues its important work with a new organizational name, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.

Do you have any material documenting local social justice movements that you'd like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society? Contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.