D.C. Jewish History Blog Subscribe via RSS

Object of the Month: March 2015 0 Comment(s)

Description: Black and white photograph of Justice Arthur Goldberg with Albert and Lillian Small at the 1975 rededication of the historic 1876 Adas Israel Synagogue. Justice Goldberg was an active member of Washington’s Jewish community. For years, he and his wife Dorothy hosted an annual Passover seder with members of Washington's political and intellectual elite as guests.

Arthur Goldberg (1908 – 1990) came to Washington from Chicago in the 1950s. A labor lawyer, he was the general counsel for both the Congress of Industrial Organizations and the United Steelworkers of America, which merged to form the AFL-CIO in 1955. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed him as Secretary of Labor. The following year, Kennedy appointed Goldberg to the Supreme Court, and, in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson appointed him as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

The Goldbergs’ D.C. Seders

Early guest list and draft menu for Goldbergs’ 1961 Seder

Library of Congress

In 1961, just two months after Arthur Goldberg’s appointment as Secretary of Labor, the Goldbergs hosted a Seder attended by national and international leaders. According to a draft guest list in the Arthur J. Goldberg Papers in the Library of Congress, invitees included President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy, Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, Chief Justice Earl Warren, Justice William Brennan, Senator Everett Dirksen, Senator Paul Douglas, AFL-CIO President George Meany, Israeli Labor Attaché Nataan Bar-Yaakov, family, and friends. Ultimately, the President and First Lady did not attend the Seder. JHSGW president, Sam Brylawski, who was then eight years old and whose family were neighbors of the Goldbergs, filled one of the Kennedys' places at the Seder table.

The evening's menu included beef bourguignon, potato kugel, whole hot peaches, prunes, and apricots. According to a draft menu, well-known D.C. Jewish restaurateur Duke Zeibert made matza ball soup based on a “yeshiva chef’s recipe” published in the New York Times.

Throughout the decade, the Goldbergs’ Seders were lively occasions attended by a list of well-known figures. As a law clerk for Justice Goldberg, legal scholar Alan Dershowitz attended. In his memoir Chutzpah, he recalled, “George Meany would sing Irish ballads; Hubert Humphrey would tell stories; and Dorothy Goldberg would sing Yiddish labor union songs.”[1]

The Family’s Haggadah

Page from The Goldberg Haggadah

Library of Congress

Similar to many families, the Goldbergs’ Seder centered on their family Haggadah, which was adapted from various published versions. In The Goldberg Haggadah, as they titled it, the story of the Israelites is a symbol for contemporary struggles like civil rights. Displayed here is a page from the family's Haggadah, with the hosts’ initials next to assigned readings. In the margin is a note from Dorothy Goldberg, reminding her to mention the description of the Exodus in the African-American spiritual “Go down, Moses.”

Their Haggadah is explicitly American in tone, arguing, “Pesach calls us to the eternal pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” In the introduction to her own published Haggadah, Cokie Roberts, journalist and daughter of Congressional Representatives Lindy and Hale Boggs, remembers participating in the Goldbergs’ 1967 Seder “with gusto” when “the crowd started singing freedom songs from the civil rights and labor movements, held over from the days when Goldberg had been a leading labor lawyer.”[2] Brylawski, who went on to work at the Library of Congress, adapted parts of the Haggadah for his family’s Seders. “We used it several years,” he told the Society. “It's wonderful — tying Moses to the contemporary labor movement.”

Creating a Home with the Seder

Georgetown Law Center professor and another former Goldberg clerk, Peter Edelman, well-known for his legal career and public service, also attended the Goldberg Seders. In a lecture on Goldberg’s legal achievements, Edelman reminisced, “You went to Passover Seder; it didn't matter whether you were Jewish or not — you came to Passover Seder at his house. The crowd just got bigger and bigger. That's probably why he had to leave Chicago — because he needed to start a new crowd in Washington.”[3]

And that he did, both in future Seders at home and for the wider Jewish community. In 1964, Goldberg participated in a model Seder at Washington Hebrew Congregation to show Jewish students how Seders should be conducted. After leaving Washington for New York, Goldberg continued to host an annual Seder at his home in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Goldberg returned to Washington in 1971 and continued this tradition.


This is the kind of story that you will encounter in the Society’s future museum showcasing the Washington region’s Jewish life and heritage.

Do you have a uniquely Washington Seder? Tell us about your Passover traditions.


[1] Alan Dershowitz, Chutzpah  (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992) p. 61.
[2] Cokie Roberts and Steven V. Roberts, Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families (New York: Harper, 2011) p. xxxv.
[3] Peter Edelman, “Arthur J. Goldberg’s Legacies to American Labor Relations,” John Marshall Law Review, Volume 32, Issue 4 (1999) p. 676.

Remembering Purim in Selma 0 Comment(s)

In honor of this week’s 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” and the following successful march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, we share this highlight from our archives. In this booklet, Rabbi Joseph Weinberg z’l reflects on his dramatic experiences during the civil rights demonstrations in Selma – including how he celebrated Purim in jail with several other clergy after their arrest. 

On March 7, 1965, some 600 civil rights marchers in Alabama attempted to march from Selma to the state capital, Montgomery. Only six blocks into the journey, the marchers were brutally attacked by law enforcement officials at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The event came to be called “Bloody Sunday.”

Soon after, Martin Luther King, Jr. put out a call to clergy of every faith to join a court-protected march a few weeks later. Rabbi Joseph Weinberg, then serving a San Francisco congregation, traveled to Selma, Alabama, with a delegation of northern California rabbis.

The rabbis arrived a week before the march and, upon arrival, they joined a larger group of clergy in a peaceful picket in a white neighborhood close to the home of Mayor Joe Smitherman. The goal was to directly present the civil rights struggle to the town’s white residents. The 39 clergy were immediately arrested, 21 of which spent the night in the local jail.

It was the eve of Purim, and so the rabbis began to plan a service, inviting the Christian ministers to join them. As Rabbi Weinberg recounts:

“I followed Rabbi Saul Berman, reading some selections of the story of Esther in English, and concluded with a closing prayer, the theme of which was that Haman was not a man who lived long ago, but rather an idea that finds its embodiment in every age against which men must struggle and against which we were presently engaged in bearing witness.”

Rabbi Weinberg’s recounting of the following days describe further demonstrations and clashes with the police, futile attempts to speak with the mayor, and community meetings. On March 21, 1965, Rabbi Weinberg joined Reverend King and thousands of others in Selma to start the historic march to Montgomery. Weinberg remembers:

And so I marched that warm Sunday afternoon down a highway in Alabama, arm in arm with Black, Chinese, Christian, Jew, and Buddhist. All of us were marching to testify that in our generation we, too, would participate in the redemption of our brethren from the land of Egypt.

A few years later, Rabbi Joseph Weinberg moved to Washington, D.C., where he served Washington Hebrew Congregation from 1969 to 1999. His children reprinted his Selma recollections in this special booklet for Father’s Day 1992. We are grateful to his widow, Marcia Weinberg, for contributing it to our archives earlier this year.

In Memory of Rev. John Steinbruck 0 Comment(s)

Rev. Steinbruck in front of Luther Place Memorial Church

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Jewish Community Relations Council.

We mourn the loss of Reverend John Steinbruck who died yesterday at the age of 84.

Pastor at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington DC from 1970 to 1997, Reverend Steinbruck was a staunch advocate for the Soviet Jewry movement. He regularly attended the daily vigil outside the Soviet Embassy (1970-1991)and recruited his parishioners and other Christian clergy to attend the vigil on Jewish holidays. He traveled to the Soviet Union to meet with refuseniks and was part of Jewish Community Council’s delegations to the World Conferences on Soviet Jewry.

We were honored to include Reverend Steinbruck’s recollections of his Soviet Jewry advocacy in our Voices of the Vigil exhibition and website

Reverend Steinbruck will be added to the Roll of Honor of the Archive of the American Soviet Jewry Movement at the American Jewish Historical Society.