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Ben Stein, the Beatles, and 8 Other Things about (Jewish) Washington 0 Comment(s)

Earlier this week, our friends at The Forward published a list of 10 facts about Jewish Washington, D.C. called "Of Goldie Hawn, Theater J and 8 Other Things About (Jewish) Washington D.C." We’re adding our hometown voice with ten things you might not know about Washington’s Jewish history.

1. Home to the Only Congressionally-Chartered Shul

1856: Washington Hebrew—the city’s first Jewish congregation—successfully petitioned Congress (then constitutionally responsible for D.C. law) for legislation ensuring its right to purchase property. 

Facsimile courtesy of Washington Hebrew Congregation. Original in National Archives.

2. The Civil War Couldn’t Keep the Jewish Community Apart

1862: Because Civil War travel restrictions prevented Washingtonian Henry Baum from traveling to his bride, Virginian Bettie Dreifus’s home in Alexandria, the marriage took place in D.C.

Baum-Dreifus ketubah.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Martin Baum and Evelyn Conn.

3. First President to Attend a Synagogue Service

1876: President Ulysses S. Grant attended the three-hour dedication of Adas Israel’s synagogue on June 9, 1876, and even made a gift of $10 to the building fund

Receipt sent to the Executive Mansion for President Grant’s donation.

Library of Congress. 

4. Founder of the First National Jewish Sisterhood Organization

1913: Carrie Simon, founder of Washington Hebrew Congregation’s ladies auxiliary, brought together representatives from sisterhoods across the nation to create Reform Judaism’s National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods (today's Women of Reform Judaism).

Courtesy of Washington Hebrew Congregation. 

5. Jews Played a Big Part in the Alcohol Trade

20th Century: From hundreds of Jewish immigrant-owned "mom and pop" liquor stores to producer-distributor-powerbroker Milton Kronheim, Jewish Washingtonians have helped quench the thirsts of Washington’s denizens for over a century.

Learn about this whisky bottle with caricature of General George Patton commissioned by D.C. liquor store own Harry Slavitt for General Patton, 1940s.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Mitchell Slavitt.

6. First Israeli Flag-Raising on Embassy Row

1948: President Harry Truman’s recognition of Israel’s independence on May 14, 1948, spurred hundreds to stream to Embassy Row to cheer and dance as the new state’s flag was first raised.

Copyright The Washington Post.

7. Ferris Bueller Actor Bar-Mitzvahed in Maryland Suburbs

1957: Years before Ben Stein became a speechwriter for President Nixon, an actor, and game show host, his family sent this invitation to celebrate his bar mitzvah at the Montgomery County Jewish Community Center (today’s Ohr Kodesh Congregation) in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Penny Feuerzeig.

8. The Beatles’ First U.S. Concert

1964: Washington Coliseum owner Harry Lynn hosted the "Fab Four" for their first U.S. concert on February 11, 1964, the day after the band's roaring introduction on the Ed Sullivan Show

Learn about JHSGW’s discovery of this autographed publicity photo of the Beatles to Harry Lynn, 1964.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of John Lynn.

9. Eruv Encloses All Three Branches of the Federal Government

1990: The Kesher Israel Rabbi Philip Rabinowitz Memorial Eruv encloses the White House, U.S. Capitol, and Supreme Court, as well as the Washington Monument and National Mall. 

Courtesy of Kesher Israel Congregation.

10. Home to a Mobile Synagogue

Today: Built in 1876, the historic Adas Israel synagogue was saved from demolition in 1969 by moving it three city blocks, where it now stands as the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum. The synagogue will move again: once to a temporary location, and finally to the corner of 3rd and F Streets, NW, where it will be the focal point for the Society’s new Jewish museum;

JHSGW Collections.

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

Object No.: 2014.32.1
Donor: Sarah Cohen
Description: Artwork film for Tabard Farm Yukon Gold Potato Chips bag featuring the Tabard Inn as a farmhouse, 2014.

Connoisseurs of potato chips are likely familiar with Route 11 potato chips. Route 11 was founded in 1992, and is based in Mount Jackson, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley. Yet the company has its roots in downtown D.C., and the Tabard Inn — the venerable Dupont Circle brunch spot that was among the area’s first farm-to-table restaurants.

In the late 1970s, Edward and Fritzi Cohen, the inn’s owners, started Tabard Farm Potato Chips as a side business. They sold tubs of organic chips to boutique and high-end shops like Williams-Sonoma. In the early 1980s, Tabard Farm began offering seasonal Yukon Gold potato chips. Their expertise went international in 1989 when Tabard Farm began supplying machinery and training to agricultural cooperatives in the Soviet Union.

In 1992, the Cohen’s daughter Sarah spun off the chip-making business and founded Route 11 Potato Chips. Route 11 offers a glimpse (and a taste) of this origin story with their Tabard Farm Yukon Gold Potato Chips. The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington (JHSGW) interviewed Sarah Cohen, Route 11’s proprietor, about her family history and what makes Yukon Gold potatoes so special.

The Tabard Inn, 1739 N Street, NW, south of Dupont Circle.

Wikimedia Commons.

JHSGW: Tabard Farm Yukon Gold chips have their origins with the Tabard Inn, before the founding of Route 11. What’s the story?

Cohen: The prequel to Route 11 starts at the Tabard Inn. Edward and with his wife Fritzi [Cohen], my parents, bought the Tabard Inn in 1975. The purchased the hotel in part to save it from being demolished to make way for a high-rise office building. The restaurant opened a few years later, and Nora Poullion was the first Tabard Chef. She and my father shared the same interest in where food comes from, and how it’s grown. My dad was also an avid gardener, who spent much of his free time in the dirt.

Soon after the Tabard Inn’s kitchen started serving meals, my dad found a piece of property near Front Royal, Virginia, and also found a genius, bio-dynamic farmer named Susan [Peterson] to run the farm, which grew food for the Inn. This was the beginning of Tabard Farm. Tabard Farm grew vegetables for the Tabard Inn and also delivered to about 20 restaurants in D.C.

One day, a neighboring organic farmer told my dad a story about how he’d planted all these potatoes for two brothers, and that the brothers just got arrested for dealing cocaine and put in prison. He had just planted all these potatoes and didn’t know what he was going to do. My dad got a big smile and a sparkle in his eye, and knew that he wanted to do. MAKE POTATO CHIPS!

My dad was also potato-obsessed in general, and [a few years later] when the Yukon Gold potato began to appear in seed catalogs, he thought it would be great to try those as chips. And, they were INCREDIBLE!!

The Tabard Inn depicted as a farmhouse on a bag of Tabard Farm Yukon Gold potato chips.

JHSGW: The image on the bag presents the iconic Inn near Dupont Circle as a farm house. Where did the idea for that image come from, and who created it?

Cohen: The image on the bag of the Tabard in a potato field, was the original artwork for the Yukon Gold bag done [for Tabard Farm Potato Chips] in the early 1980s. It was done by the sister of a sous chef in the Tabard Kitchen.

JHSGW: Many Washington-area Jews have a mom-and-pop grocery or some other shop as part of their family history. I often hear wonderful stories about the fun and warmth of growing up living over, and in many ways, in the store. What was it like growing up with/in the Tabard Inn?

Cohen: My two brothers and I worked at the Tabard as we grew up... me from the age of 12, and then my brothers into adulthood, and up until very recently. My parents never really related to the idea of a mom-and-pop business. They were very political and cerebral, and from the get-go hired great people, who helped grow the Tabard into the icon that it is today.

My parents definitely set the tone for the place. It was never your typical corporate, cookie-cutter hotel. Neither of them ever worked the front lines of the business. But, the Tabard is what it is because of their original vision [to offer organic, farm-to-table food] and the great staff that it attracted over the years. It was an awesome and fun business to grow up in.

JHSGW: These chips are more than just a nod to Route 11’s roots in your parents’ business. How do you characterize your contribution to your family’s culinary and entrepreneurial history? Are there certain values or a spirit that flows through it all?

Sarah Cohen and fellow chipmakers.

Courtesy Sarah Cohen and Route 11.

Cohen: Route 11 very much reflects the values and spirit of my family’s relationship with food and hospitality. My dad loved to grow vegetables, and my mom is a great cook. Tabard has an authenticity that is hard to find these days. I would say the same for Route 11.

There are so many smoke and mirrors in the world of food, and we’re producing this product ourselves, working closely with several growers, forging relationships with our fans, and inviting people to come see how the chips are made. It’s the real deal. The true inspiration for Route 11 was to try and make a really, really good potato chip without cutting the corners on ingredients or methods that happen so often with most snack foods.

Chips coming out of the cooker at Route 11’s factory in the Shenandoah Valley.

Courtesy Sarah Cohen and Route 11.

JHSGW: So, what makes Yukon Gold potatoes so special?

Cohen: The Yukon Golds are a yellow flesh potato with a buttery flavor built in. Who doesn’t love butter? When we’re cooking them, our factory smells like buttered popcorn.

JHSGW: I’m not asking you to give up any secrets, but is there a trick to making the perfect Yukon Gold chip?

Cohen: The Yukon Golds are seasonal, August-October. They can’t be stored year round and still make a GREAT potato chip. They’re best made from fresh-dug Yukons.

JHSGW: What burning question have I missed?

Cohen: Tabard Farm Yukon Gold Potato Chips were the first Yukon Gold Potato Chip ever marketed. That’s pretty cool. I don’t think many people know that.

Celebrating the Historic Synagogue 0 Comment(s)

On June 9, 2015, we celebrated the 139th anniversary of the historic 1876 synagogue with Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Councilmembers Jack Evans, Brianne Nadeau, and Elissa Silverman (seen below left).

The program included historic readings from the original dedication service, which was attended by President Ulysses S. Grant, making him the first U.S. president to ever attend a synagogue service. Participants included several descendants of former congregants who prayed in the building and three local rabbis: Rabbi Bruce Lustig (Washington Hebrew Congregation), Rabbi Gil Steinlauf (Adas Israel Congregation), and Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff (Captain, Chaplain Corps, USN, retired).


Part of our "Last Call" series of programs in the 1876 synagogue before it is moved--for the second time--as part of the Capitol Crossing development. 

Learn more about the move

Remembering Henry Brylawski 0 Comment(s)

Speaking at the rededication of the synagogue, 1975

JHSGW Collections

Please join us in remembering the life of former JHSGW president Henry Brylawski. Henry passed away on June 2, 2015, just a few days shy of his 102nd birthday.  

A lifelong resident of Washington, D.C., Henry graduated from Central High School before receiving his law degree from National University Law School (now George Washington University). Following military service during World War II, Henry worked as an attorney in private practice in Washington for over 50 years.

Henry served as president of the Society from 1969-1971 and was instrumental in our work to save and move the synagogue in 1969. He later chaired the D.C. Joint Committee on Landmarks, the predecessor of the Historic Preservation Review Board. There, he had a major hand in D.C.'s earliest preservation laws.

In honor of his 100th birthday in 2013, Mayor Vincent Gray proclaimed the date “Mr. Henry Brylawski Day,” and the Washington Jewish Week wrote an article.

Services will be held on Sunday, June 7, 9:30 a.m., at Washington Hebrew Congregation, 3935 Macomb Street, NW, Washington, D.C., with a reception to follow.

Read Washington Post obituary