The National and International Arena

Washington’s confluence of religious, civic, and political life and its status as international capital have made it a fitting backdrop for the national Jewish dialogue.

National Jewish organizations have long recognized the importance of Washington in the American Jewish political and cultural landscape. Lobbyists, activists, dignitaries, and philanthropists convene in Washington to discuss support for Israel and legislative issues of concern to the American Jewish community.

Israeli Embassy officials have made their mark on the local Jewish community, too. They join local synagogues, send their children to Jewish day schools, and volunteer on behalf of the community.

photo of Sy Alpert & wife in receiving line

1961: Since 1956, the annual Ambassador’s Ball has raised funds for Israel Bonds in honor of the anniversary of the State of Israel. Shown here at the 13th anniversary “Bar Mitzvah” Ball are Event Chairman Dr. Seymour Alpert and his wife, Cecile (back right) alongside Israeli Ambassador Avraham and Zena Harman. They are greeting Morris and Jennie Pollin.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Seymour Alpert. 2005.11

Photo of Rabin entering Adas

1969: Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. from 1968-73, was the best-known Israeli official to reside in Washington. Rabin is shown here arriving at Adas Israel Congregation in Cleveland Park for the bar mitzvah of Gideon Argov, son of an Israeli Embassy official. In front, from left to right, are: Rabbi Stanley Rabinowitz, Ambassador Rabin, Prime Minister Golda Meir, and Simcha Dinitz, later Israel’s Ambassador to the United States.

Courtesy of Adas Israel Congregation. Photograph by Mel Chamowitz.

Zubin Mehta photo

1971: Rabin and his wife, Leah, became ambassadors of Israeli culture as well as politics, promoting Israeli artists and musicians and attending local Jewish functions. When the Israel Philharmonic premiered at the Kennedy Center, the local Jewish community sponsored the event. These “American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic” were treated to a reception at the Israeli Embassy. Shown here from left to right are Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin, Conductor Zubin Mehta, Norman Bernstein, and David Lloyd Kreeger.

Courtesy of Norman Bernstein.

Near East Report, August 1967

1953: I.L. Kenen founded the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Kenen worked to strengthen support for Israel on Capitol Hill and began publishing the bi-weekly “Near East Report” containing legislative updates on events affecting the U.S.-Israel relationship. AIPAC grew in numbers and influence in the 1960s and 1970, becoming a strong voice for Israel with thousands of members engaged in grassroots lobbying efforts.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Ruth White. 2002.19

photo from Religious Action Center of protesters w/signs

1962: The Union of American Hebrew Congregations opened the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism along Embassy Row to educate and mobilize American Jews on legislative issues and social concerns. Shown here are participants in the 1963 March on Washington.

Courtesy of Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

cover of The National Jewish Monthly

1977: Washington’s symbolic role as a center for national Jewish life was highlighted when a small group from the Hanafi Muslim sect took over the B’nai B’rith International headquarters building at 17th and Rhode Island Avenues, NW. For over 39 hours, 100 employees were held hostage. Hostages were also taken at the Islamic Center and D.C. City Council Chambers, where a reporter was killed.

After diplomats from Egypt, Iran, and Pakistan joined the police negotiations, the hostages were released. Following the incident, messages of support for B’nai B’rith poured in from around the world.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Hadassah Thursz. 2001.15

photo of Sy Alpert & wife in receiving line
Photo of Rabin entering Adas
Zubin Mehta photo
Near East Report, August 1967
photo from Religious Action Center of protesters w/signs
cover of The National Jewish Monthly