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

Collections: Objects of the Month

September 2011:
Flier for Aleph Zadik Aleph's Yom Kippur dance, 1939

Photograph of Mayor Walter Washington dancing the hora with Isaac Franck, 1973 Archives Record
Object #: 2001.07.1
Donor: Sol Lynn
Description: Flier for Aleph Zadik Aleph's Yom Kippur dance, 1939

Background: Starting in 1933, the local Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA), a Jewish boys' fraternity affiliated with B'nai B'rith, sponsored an annual post-Yom Kippur Dance. AZA was one of one of the more than 60 fraternities, sororities, clubs, and Zionist youth groups around which the social lives of Washington's Jewish teenagers revolved for nearly half a century. These organizations provided settings where teens could mingle and forge an American identity. Jewish teens canoed on the Potomac, danced in Glen Echo's pavilion, and organized Purim Balls at the Jewish Community Center.

Excluded from the sororities, fraternities, and clubs of their non-Jewish classmates, Jewish teenagers created their own social sphere blending their Jewish identity with secular activities. AZA's mission was "to provide athletic, social, and educational programs, to serve both community and Judaic interest, and to host oratory and debate competitions." Members met on Sunday afternoons at the Jewish Community Center at 16th & Q Streets, NW.

In 1934, the local AZA hosted more than 500 members from across the country at the 11th annual national convention at the Willard Hotel. Six years later, they welcomed some 300 members from neighboring states to the nation's capital for a conference and party at the Raleigh Hotel (12th & Pennsylvania Ave, NW). The four-day event included oratorical and debate contests and bowling and basketball tournaments, as well as a banquet and dance.

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