A New Home for an Old Synagogue

In the city’s first synagogue building, today’s Washingtonians celebrate and learn.

“This restoration is important to the culture of our people, because we have always considered the synagogue as the backbone of Jewish life. This first synagogue is a keepsake for all the people of Washington . . .”

Albert Small, Interview, 1974

move photo

1969: In 1968, construction of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority headquarters at 6th and G Streets, NW, threatened the city’s oldest synagogue building. The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington mobilized the community and saved the original 1876 Adas Israel synagogue with assistance from the local and federal governments. On a frigid December day, building engineers hoisted the more-than-270-ton synagogue onto a pair of dollies and moved the building three blocks east.

Copyright Washington Post; reprinted by permission of the DC Public Library.

New foundation for city’s first synagogue building

1970: The synagogue is shown here on its new foundation at 3rd and G Street, NW, shortly after the move. The building, maintained by the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, is listed on the Washington D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places.

JHSGW Collections.

photo of L& A Small w/Arthur Goldberg

1974: Community contributions and a gift from Lillian and Albert Small, seen here at the rededication ceremony with Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, helped to restore the synagogue. Albert Small grew up two blocks away on 5th Street, NW. His father, Isadore, worshipped in the building.

JHSGW Collections.

Wedding

2009: The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington maintains the historic synagogue as the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum. The sanctuary is now used for educational programs and life cycle events, like this 2009 wedding of Jeff Kaplan and Hitomi Komatsu.

JHSGW Collections.

kids holding tzedakah boxes

2003: At a Jewish Historical Society school program, first graders from Kehila Chadasha Congregation in Maryland created these tzedakah boxes modeled after the historic synagogue.

JHSGW Collections.

move photo
New foundation for city’s first synagogue building
photo of L& A Small w/Arthur Goldberg
Wedding
kids holding tzedakah boxes