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We were saddened to learn of the death of Hyman Bookbinder this past Thursday, at the age of 95.
Bookie, as he was known, was a lion of the Jewish community and of the Washington area. He served as the American Jewish Committee's Washington representative, a lobbyist for the AFL-CIO, assistant director of the U.S. Office on Economic Opportunity, and an adviser to Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, among many other accomplishments. His donation of mementoes marking his active participation in the Civil Rights movement are among the most cherished in the communal archive of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington.
In a 1986 interview with The Washington Post, Bookbinder commented that his "most cherished possession" was a banner reading "I Was There" at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. At the 1963 rally, Bookbinder stood near Dr. Martin Luther King as he gave the famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial.
Bookbinder graciously donated the banner to the Jewish Historical Society for display in our Jewish Washington exhibition at the National Building Museum, where it helped to recount Jewish participation in civil rights. Just last year, the pennant was featured as our inaugural Object of the Month, which showcases notable items in the Society’s collection.
Another notable contribution Bookie made to the Society’s archives was a photograph of himself among other activists protesting segregation at Maryland's Glen Echo Park in 1960. Bookie is in the center of the above photo.
Our condolences to the friends and family of Hyman Bookbinder. He will be sorely missed. May his memory be for a blessing.
Today, more than 30 people came to our historic synagogue to learn about our new online archival catalog. Our archivist, Wendy, didn't just show everyone how to navigate the catalog, but also some of the treasures in our collections.
Among those who braved the heat were staff members from some of our sister organizations, including the National Building Museum, German-American Heritage Museum, Montgomery County Historical Society, and Library of Congress. The event was also a special tribute to Janice Goldblum, our volunteer Collections Committee Chair and an archivist for the National Academies of Science. We were proud to honor Janice's 20 years of service!
Miss the event? Never to fear -- I live-tweeted it, so you can catch up here.
Today I had the privilege of showing the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum to a group from Australia! Thirty students from Notre Dame University in Freemantle, Australia, are here in Washington for three weeks, studying American politics and D.C. history at the Catholic University of America. Their professor, Leslie Woodcock Tentler from Catholic University, brought them to Washington's oldest synagogue after they toured other parts of the neighborhood.
I explained the building's unique history--and how it fits into the history of this neighborhood, the Jewish community, and the city writ large. The picture shows students examining what the synagogue looked like just after its move in 1969.
We love to have classes -- from kindergarten to college, from our city or from another hemisphere -- come by our building and learn about Washington's Jewish history. At the university level, it's perfect for a D.C. history, urban history, or American Jewish history class.
Want to bring your group by? Click here for more information!
Object #: 2011.7
Donor: Leo M. Bernstein Family Foundation
Description: Leo M. Bernstein Archival Collection, which includes biographical materials, correspondence, family history, professional & community recognition, photographs, scrapbooks, and other memorabilia about the life and work of Leo M. Bernstein, D.C. banker, real estate broker, Zionist, civil rights promoter, philanthropist, American history enthusiast and collector.
Born in Washington, D.C. in 1915, Leo Bernstein graduated from the city’s Central High School. He received an informal education in real estate while working with his father’s real estate investments. The 1906 deed for his grandfather’s kosher butcher shop and home at 816 Sixth Street, NW, is in the collection. He founded his own real estate company at age 18. Within a year, Bernstein challenged racial and religious covenants, which barred the sale of properties to persons of color or to Jews, selling a house in a “whites only” neighborhood near Howard University to an African-American professor.
Jewish Community Involvement
Bernstein’s involvement in Jewish causes and organizations was local, national, and international. These included Adas Israel Congregation, United Jewish Appeal, Hebrew Academy of Greater Washington, American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science, Anti-Defamation League, and Yeshiva University. Bernstein served on the board of the Jewish Historical Society for nine years in the 1970s and ‘80s. This 1983 certificate of appreciation from the D.C. Section of the National Council of Jewish Women was awarded for his support on the occasion of NCJW’s 90th birthday in 1983.
As a young man, Bernstein was active locally in the cause of Zionism. In a 1999 oral history, Bernstein told of secret meetings attended by community leaders like Abraham Kay, Joe Cherner, and Morris Pollin: “Before Israel was a state, we had many Haganah meetings. We were getting ready to help Jews get into Palestine. They needed money for guns, ammunition and ships. We met at my office at 718 Fifth Street.” One highlight of the collection is a 1948 letter from Joseph Cherner, president of the Louis D. Brandeis District of the Zionist Organization of America, appointing Bernstein chair of the Embassy Building Committee, charged with finding a suitable building for the first Israeli Embassy.
Do you have material documenting local Jewish individual that you’d like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society’s collection? Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 789-0900.