Accession Number: 1994.11.02
Donor: Amy Nordlinger Behrend Goldstein
Description: machine-typed copy of original letter, April 27, 1917
One hundred years ago, on April 27, 1917, Rudolph Behrend, a prominent member of the Jewish community in Washington, D.C., sent this letter to the White House offering farmland owned by his mother for the use by the U.S. Army. Only three weeks earlier, President Woodrow Wilson had declared war on Germany and the whole country was preparing to send troops to Europe.
Jewish Washingtonians joined forces and supported the war effort in many ways. Rudolph Behrend himself offered his volunteer services to the United States "in any capacity". His mother Sarah, at the time 64-years-old, did so in giving her son permission to offer her parcel of land, marked P186/1 on the map, to the government with "... no condition annexed to this donation, excepting that the tract of land be used in the interest of the United Government during the War period."
Just a day later, Behrend received a response from the White House. Our research is still ongoing whether the government in fact used the parcel for farming, accommodation, or the like. Yet the offer itself and the prompt presidential thank-you is a wonderful way to commemorate Jewish Washingtonians' engagement during World War I.
These letters are part of a bigger collection of one of the founding families of the Jewish community in Washington, D.C. The Behrend family arrived in the mid-19th century from Germany and settled as merchants on 7th Street. Some of their members were influential in the founding of the Adas Israel Congregation and our historic synagogue building.
On Wednesday, March 29 a standing room-only crowd attended the premiere of a new documentary, produced by Society board member Alex Horowitz, about the life of Marione Ingram. The video includes footage from an oral history conducted by our staff in 2016.
At the program, Marione spoke about her experiences as a Holocaust survivor and civil rights activist in conversation with Dr. Lauren B. Strauss, Scholar in Residence at American University and former Executive Director of the Foundation for Jewish Studies.
We plan to share stories of activism like Marione's at our new museum.
Missed the program? Watch the short documentary now!
Special thanks to the Foundation for Jewish Studies and our hosts at the Tenley-Friendship Library for partnering with us on this public program.
Looking at a collection for the first time is like fishing in deep water; you dive into unknown depths and you never know what you're going to get. It's one of the most exciting things about working with a new collection.
I invite you to take a look at what caught my eye while exploring the Jewish Historical Society archives in my first year at the JHS.
- Christiane Bauer, Curator
Accession No.: 2017.01
Donor: Andrea Choobineh
Description: 40"x40" neon-tube store sign, ca. 1966
This flashy neon sign from a Jewish book store in Wheaton, MD dates back to the 1960s. Abe's Jewish Book and Gift Store was founded by Abe Jacovsky (1914-1972) and carried books as well as Judaica and Jewish memorabilia. It moved to Wheaton in 1968 from its original location on Kennedy Street, NW. With its catchy motto, the only Jewish bookstore in the area catered to individual customers, the local Hebrew schools, and in 1970 even received an order from the White House for two leather Torah reproductions.
Abe Jacovsky's granddaughter Andrea Choobineh donated this sign, the first addition to our collection this year. The first "curator's catch" of 2017 could not illuminate our message better: "If it's Jewish, we have it!" describes perfectly what the Jewish Historical Society and our future museum are about.
Here are the answers to the quiz we published earlier this week. Over 100 people participated in the quiz, with only a handful answering all eight questions correctly! Thank you so much for your responses, and enjoy learning about the relationships and experiences between U.S. presidents and Washington's Jewish community.
1. This U.S. president promised religious freedom and intolerance in a now famous letter to the Jews of Newport.
President George Washington issued a short but immensely important letter to the Hebrew Congregations of Newport, Rhode Island promising that this new government will give "to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance."
(Other answer options: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson)
2. Why was President Ulysses S. Grant's attendance at the dedication service for our historic synagogue (Original Adas Israel) in 1876 so significant?
President Ulysses S. Grant attended the dedication of the Adas Israel synagogue (now the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum) on June 9, 1876. Grant remained for the entire three-hour service and gave a $10 donation to the synagogue building fund. During the Civil War, then General Grant had issued General Order 11, which expelled Jews "as a class" from the Department of Tennessee. Grant's attendance at Adas Israel may have served as an act of contrition.
(All of the above)
3. Which president spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Jewish Community Center on 16th Street, NW?
President Calvin Coolidge addressed the crowd in 1925 and closed his remarks by saying, "As those who come and go shall gaze upon this civic landmark, may it be a constant reminder of the inspiring service that has been rendered to civilization by men and women of the Jewish faith."
(Other answer options: Woodrow Wilson and Warren G. Harding)
4. Who was the first Jewish candidate on a major-party presidential ticket?
Senator Joseph Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew who did not campaign on the Sabbath, was Senator Al Gore’s running mate in 2000.
(Other answer options: Jacob K. Javits and Abraham Ribicoff)
5. What enterprising Washington businessman provided lumber to build the inaugural stands for Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, and Dwight D. Eisenhower?
Sidney Hechinger first donated lumber to build the inaugural platform in front of the Capitol in 1933. After the ceremonies, he dismantled the stand and sold pieces cut from the wood as inaugural souvenirs.
6. Which congregation is named in an Act signed into law by President Franklin Pierce that entitles Jewish congregations in Washington, D.C. to the same rights and privileges as churches?
President Franklin Pierce signed “An Act for the Benefit of the Hebrew Congregation in the city of Washington” on June 2, 1856. Washington Hebrew had petitioned Congress for legislation to ensure its right to own property in the city.
7. Which President sent his Jewish chiropodist (foot doctor) on a secret wartime peace mission?
Isachar Zacharie tended the feet of President Abraham Lincoln and several other Cabinet officials during the Civil War. In 1863 Lincoln sent him to Richmond to meet with Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin to propose peace negotiations. The errand was unsuccessful.
(Other answer options: Theodore Roosevelt and James Monroe)
8. This prominent Jewish Washingtonian formed close relationships with every U.S. president from Abraham Lincoln to Woodrow Wilson, and was appointed Consul General to Egypt.
Simon Wolf's 1918 autobiography was aptly named Presidents I Have Known. For Wolf's 70th birthday, his daughter, Florence Gotthold, compiled three books filled with over 400 personal messages from leaders of the day -- including several presidents, politicians, authors, and supreme court justices!
(Other answer options: Alfred Mordechai and Bendiza Behrend)
Christiane's next stop was The Jewish Museum's exhibition, Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design. This exhibition about the French architect uses many new technologies -- high-tech projections, virtual reality, and state-of-the-art installations. Get wowed by the innovative features that point to a new direction in exhibition design and interpretation!
Lastly, Christiane explored the New-York Historical Society's temporary exhibit The First Jewish Americans: Freedom and Culture in the New World, which offers an insight into the beginnings of the Jewish experience in America. They address topics similar to those planned for our new museum -- for example, how Judaism reinvented itself in the unique setting of America -- except in an earlier era of American history. Check out the museum's accompanying programs, especially the one on February 15 where many issues and people with Washington, D.C., connections will be discussed.