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Pop Quiz: U.S. Presidents and Washington’s Jewish Community 0 Comment(s)

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.

(Other answer options: Alexander Hecht and Max Lansburgh)

 

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.

(Other answer options: Adas Israel Congregation and Kesher Israel)

 

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)

An Exploratory Trip 0 Comment(s)

Our curator Christiane Bauer recently went on an inspirational trip to New York City and came back with lots of new ideas for our museum planning -- and exhibition recommendations!

First, she visited the Leo Baeck Institute where the Stolen Heart: The Theft of Jewish Property in Berlin’s Historic Center, 1933–1945 exhibition hosts an innovative 3D video map by C&G Partners. This amazing feature incorporates archival images and topographic time-lapse elements.

Photos 3D interactive map video

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.

On the Anniversary of the End of Prohibition 0 Comment(s)

"The Milton S. Kronheim, Sr. Collection: Celebrity and Friendship"

By Margery Elsberg

Editor’s Note:  This article was originally published in JHSGW's journal, The Record, in 1999 in celebration of the donation of more than 400 photographs from Milton S. Kronheim, Sr.’s famed lunchroom walls to our archival collections, through the generosity of the Kronheim Family. We are sharing it today on the occassion of the anniversary of the end of Prohibition.

For more than a half-century, Milton S. Kronheim’s treasured photographs lined the walls of his company lunchroom, a testimony to his longevity and success. Row after row of famous likenesses ensured an air of celebrity and friendship, power and triumph. They made the room inviting and exciting, easy to fill with laughter and conversation.

Black and white photograph of 11 men at a lunch table.

Chief Justice Earl Warren's birthday party in the dining room at Milton S. Kronheim's warehouse, early 1970s.
From left (sitting): Associate Justice William O. Douglas, Judge Simon Sobeloff, Milton S. Kronheim, Sr., Chief Justice Earl Warren, and Associate Justice Thurgood S. Marshall. Standing from left are Milton King, Judge David L. Bazelon, former Maryland Governor Theodore R. McKeldin, Stanley Rosenzweig, Judge J. Skelly Wright, and Associate Justice William E. Brennan, Jr.

JHSGW Collection. Gift of Milton S. Kronheim Estate.

And filled it was, day after day, week after week, decade after decade. From around 1928, when Mr. Kronheim was about 40, until a few years before he died in 1986 at the age of 97, this Washington legend hosted lunches for an extraordinary array of friends:  presidents and diplomats, justices and judges, senators and congressmen, lawyers, doctors, businessmen and boxers—surrounded always by those fabulous photos.

President Harry Truman was there, on the wall and in the flesh. So was Chief Justice Earl Warren and Associate Justices Thurgood Marshall, William J. Brennan, Jr., William O. Douglas and Sandra Day O’Connor. U.S. District Court Judge John J. Sirica, who presided over the Watergate trials, was one of Mr. Kronheim’s oldest cronies. The two men had met during Prohibition, when Mr. Kronheim was a bail bondsman and John Sirica was a young lawyer. That was before Mr. Kronheim returned to his first career, selling wine and spirits to a capital city where social calendars are filled with diplomatic and lobbyists’ receptions.

Mr. Kronheim was born in his parents’ home at K and 4½ Streets, SW, in the midst of Washington’s Jewish community. Arena Stage and Waterside Mall help fill that neighborhood now. In 1903, when he was just 14, young Milton dropped out of Business High and opened his first liquor store at 3218 M Street, NW. Married to the former Meryl Goldsmith (the marriage ended in divorce), Mr. Kronheim had two children, Judge Milton Kronheim, Jr. and Judith Stahl. For the last third of his life, he lived at the Mayflower Hotel. 

Except for the Prohibition years, Mr. Kronheim stayed in the liquor business—and remained a teetotaler—building the largest wholesale distributorship in the Washington-Baltimore area and amassing a fortune in money, friendships and influence.

Every Sunday, Milton Kronheim pitched for his baseball team, the Kronheim A.C. Bearcats, until his arm gave out when he was in his mid-eighties. He played handball well after that. He loved his city, was loyal to his friends, fought against racial and religious prejudice and shared his wealth with the poor.

Milton S. Kronheim, Sr. with Bess and President Harry S. Truman. Tell us if you know whose hand he's shaking!

JHSGW Collection. Gift of Milton S. Kronheim Estate.

Mr. Kronheim was a major supporter of the Democratic Party (he gave more than $100,000 to the Democrats the year Truman won the White House) as well as to the State of Israel, Georgetown University, St. John’s College High School and the Little Sisters of the Poor. As his photographs document, he was honored by the National Conference of Christians and Jews (now the National Conference for Community and Justice), Washington Hebrew Congregation, the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Washington Knights of Columbus. For years, he served on the advisory council of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

 The Kronheim photographs are both a pictorial biography and a who’s who of Washington throughout most of the 20th century. The following pages contain a few of the thousands of photographs that lined the walls of the Milton S. Kronheim Company dining room on V Street in Northeast for so many years. That’s where the plastic chairs were stackable, the food was delicious but plain, and the host was Washington’s best.

Jewish Women and the Civil Rights Movement 0 Comment(s)

As part of my internship at JHSGW, I helped with research for the creation of the core exhibition for the Society’s future museum with our curator, Christiane. With Christiane’s guidance, I conducted research that both helps the society and interests me -- on women in Washington, D.C. who contributed to the civil rights movement. The American civil rights movement received support from diverse communities and individuals across the country. Washington, D.C. played an important role in the movement as a border between North and South and as the nation’s capital. Jewish women participated in this movement in various ways. Here, I highlight three of the women I have come across in my research to provide a glimpse at the different population of Jewish women in the civil rights movement.

The Activist

Marione Ingram, 1963

Courtesy of Marione Ingram

Marione Ingram (b. 1935) is a Holocaust survivor from Hamburg who immigrated to New York City in 1952. In 1960, she moved to D.C., where she observed the racist policies in place in the American South. She identified with these struggles, particularly the education system’s poor treatment of African Americans, which she compared to the discrimination she faced as a Jewish survivor in German schools after the war.[1] Ingram became involved in Washington’s civil rights movement through the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). This led her to volunteer at the March on Washington and eventually join the Freedom Summer project in Mississippi in 1964.[2] By establishing a Freedom School for black students, teaching classes focused on passing literacy tests, and providing transportation for voters, she fought voter discrimination. She eventually faced legal trouble when she was falsely charged with a variety of minor offenses in a police attempt to quell her activism.[3] Following this, Marione Ingram returned to the capital where her activism for local and national issues has never stopped. She has been fighting for D.C. Home Rule, campaigning for Barack Obama, and protesting against gun violence. Her devotion to civil rights is strongly tied to her experiences of exclusion, discrimination, and persecution in Nazi and post-war Germany. Marione Ingram once stated, “My first journey to Mississippi began in Hamburg, where my father…instilled in me the idea that because I survived the Nazi era, it was my sacred duty to oppose racism wherever I encountered it.”[4]

The Politician

Bella Abzug, 1972

Library of Congress

Bella Abzug (1920-1998) was a congresswoman from New York from 1971 to 1977, fighting for many causes, including civil rights, women’s rights, and gay rights.[5] Bella Abzug was known as a defender of civil rights before her tenure in the United States Congress due to her legal defense of Willie McGee in the 1940s and 1950s. McGee was a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman in Mississippi, and the case exposed Abzug to the role of racism in the Deep South. She received death threats and observed the degree of violence and discrimination to which African Americans were subjected.[6] These experiences strengthened her commitment to civil rights, a cause she took with her to Washington two decades later. She was one of few women in the U.S. House of Representatives, and “established a standard of integrity and chutzpah…that challenges us all to tell the truth and to fight back.”[7] Bella Abzug’s dedication to civil rights was accompanied by a belief in the rights of all oppressed groups, and as a lawyer she struggled, “for the rights of all people…who [had] been attacked by reason of their religion, their beliefs, their sex, their sexual preference, [or] their race.”[8]

The Artist

An Orthodox Jewish woman born in Philadelphia to Russian immigrant parents, Eve Arnold (1912-2012) rose to prominence as a photographer with the global photographic cooperative Magnum Photos. Throughout her career her goal remained steady: “to get to the core of things.”[9] During her long and varied career, she spent time in Washington and Virginia capturing photos of the civil rights movement and the integration process. In 1958, she documented the integration crisis in the area with images of prominent political figures like Thurgood Marshall as well as photos of more casual situations like black and white children at a party to introduce students of different races to one another. This collection reveals Eve Arnold’s awareness of the movement in the Washington area at both a political and social level and indicates her desire to display these elements to the American people through her art. You can view Eve Arnold’s photos of the 1958 Integration Crisis and the Non-Violence movement in Virginia on the official Magnum Photos website.
 

These women represent only a small segment of the Jewish women who interacted with the civil rights movement in Washington, D.C. Jewish women came to the movement from all walks of life and contributed to the cause in a wide variety of ways.
 

We are creating the core exhibition for our new museum in which we would like to give women’s stories like these a prominent place. Do you have any objects in your personal collection from the civil rights movement or do you know any Jewish women who were involved in it? Please contact us at CBauer@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

Rebecca Friedman is a rising senior at Johns Hopkins University, working on a B.A. in History with minors in Jewish Studies and The Program in Museums and Society.

 

[1] Marione Ingram, The Hands of Peace (New York: Skyhouse Publishing, 2015), 27.
[2] Ibid., 81.
[3] Ibid., 128.
[4] Ibid., 9.
[5] Patricia Bosworth, “Bella Abzug,” Nation 277, no. 3 (July 21, 2003): 20.
[6] Leandra Zarnow, “Braving Jim Crow to Save Willie McGee: Bella Abzug, the Legal Left, and Civil Rights Innovation, 1948-1951,” Law & Social Inquiry 33, no. 4 (Fall 2008): 1003.
[7] Debra L. Schultz, Going South: Jewish Women in the Civil Rights Movement (New York: New York University Press, 2001), xiii.
[8] Jewish Women's Archive, "Bella Abzug Explains her View of Feminism," (Viewed on July 27, 2016) <http://jwa.org/media/abzug-explains-her-view-of-feminism-as-vision-of-what-we-love>.
[9] Bret Senft, “Eve Arnold: In Retrospect,” Photo District News 15, no. 10 (September 1995): 30.

Reflections on a Summer with JHSGW 0 Comment(s)

Rebecca researching at DC Library's Washingtonian Collection

During my interview for this internship, our program and outreach manager, Sam Abramson, mentioned that the Society’s historic synagogue – the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum – would be closing its doors at the beginning of the summer in preparation for it to be moved a few blocks away as part of a new building project. When I began my internship a few months later, I was excited to see how this change would impact my summer with the Society. The museum’s upcoming move ultimately provided me with an exciting and unique experience that I can’t imagine getting anywhere else. Over the course of my internship, I have worked with every member of the Society’s small and dedicated staff on a wide range of projects, many (but not all) somehow relating to the synagogue’s move and the planning of the new museum.

I worked with Sam to create a brand new volunteer manual, reach out to schools about educational programs, and set up for the final events hosted in the historic synagogue before its closing. Earlier this summer, I helped Wendy Turman, our director of collections, update entries in our collections database to ensure that all of our holdings were accounted for as the archives were packed up. I later photographed professional movers as they wrapped up some of these items to move them to a storage facility. I spent time with our curator Christiane Bauer, conducting research for the new museum’s core exhibition. We went to the DC Library to research primary sources about an organization called Neighbors, Inc. We went through boxes of documents ranging from fliers for book fairs to invitations for luncheons with diplomats, looking for connections to D.C.’s Jewish community. Under Christiane’s supervision, I also undertook a major research project on the involvement of Jewish women in D.C. during the Civil Rights Movement. I eventually used some of this research to write a blog article (stay tuned!) discussing a few of the amazing women I’d learned about and asked readers for artifacts and interviews relating to their own experiences with the movement. With these projects and the other tasks I performed during my internship, I was able both to learn and to feel like I was making a meaningful contribution to the development of the new museum and its exhibitions.

Previously, most of my knowledge of the museum field came from classes and lectures. This summer, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of museum work with the help of a kind and supportive staff. As our collections were moved into storage, I was able to participate in and understand collections management at a new level as I tagged items with their accession numbers and watched as shelves of archival boxes were carefully marked and put into a truck. Sifting through piles of documents in the library and sitting in on meetings about plans for the new museum’s exhibitions allowed me to see the huge amount of work and planning that goes into content creation for museums. As I leave my internship I am excited to apply everything I’ve learned here to my studies and future work, and I am looking forward to staying in contact with the Society and one day walking through their new museum.

Rebecca Friedman is a rising senior at Johns Hopkins University, working on a B.A. in History with minors in Jewish Studies and The Program in Museums and Society.