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

Save the Synagogue Mural at 415 M Street

Recieved: $19,318 / $20,000

A fragment of the only known synagogue mural in Washington may be lost.

Painted almost 90 years ago, this mural decorated the sanctuary of Shomrei Shabbos, a small orthodox community in downtown Washington.

The mural is the remaining portion of a larger piece that once surrounded the synagogue's ark. In 1993, as if peeling back layers of time, the then-owner rediscovered the mural hidden beneath layers of old paint and wallpaper. With help from an artist and guidance from the Jewish Historical Society, she worked to restore the celestial scene, Jewish star, and a portion of the biblical quote that encircled the ark – and added a winged lion. In 2013, BlackRock Holdings, a custom-home building company based in McLean, VA, purchased the building and will convert the property into a multi-family condominium later this summer.

JHSGW and BlackRock Holdings hope to save this unique piece of Washington, DC Jewish history before construction starts in July. We have a proposal in hand from a conservation firm to remove and conserve the mural. But we need to act quickly to raise at least $20,000 to remove and preserve the mural. Your donation will make it possible for the Jewish Society of Greater Washington to preserve this remnant of our past for generations to come.


Download Press Release (PDF)

In the media:
Washington Jewish Week | PreservationNation | The Forward
WAMU 88.5 FM | The Intowner | Boundary Stones (WETA)
From Under the Fig Tree | District Source

Exterior of 415 M St NW
About 415 M Street, NW

415 M Street is one of five former synagogues clustered in the Penn Quarter and Mount Vernon Square neighborhoods, the historic heart of Washington's Jewish community.  For about a century, the downtown Jewish community was part of a diverse, polyglot population that included Germans, Chinese, African Americans, and others.

Built in the 1860s, the story of 415 M is the story of the many communities that have made Washington, D.C., home. Originally a private house, the building became the Young Men's Hebrew Association in 1914, and, from 1915-1925, the first Hebrew Home for the Aged. After Shomrei Shabbos, the Jewish congregation, left in the 1930s, the Baptist Church of Jesus Christ made 415 M its home, and in 1984 the Metropolitan Community Church, a ministry to the LGBT community, took over the space. In 1993, the building once again became a private home, and has since been added to the Mount Vernon Square Historic District.

415 M, film produced by former building resident and filmmaker Stephanie Slewka

Photo courtesy of princeofpetworth/