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Object of the Month: January 2013 0 Comment(s)

Description: Photograph of Louis and Frayda Klivitsky outside their store, 1702 Seventh Street, NW. An "EAT MORNING STAR BREAD" advertisement is across the top of the display window, 1918

Background: The Klivitzkys left Russia for Baltimore in the first years of the 20th century. They moved to Washington, D.C., and ran a grocery and kosher butcher shop on Seventh Street, NW, for decades. The business was one of many that carried Morning Star bread.

The owners of Morning Star Bakery, like the Klivitzkys, were European immigrants who first lived in Baltimore and then relocated to Washington. After operating a few small bakeries in different parts of the city, they settled on 4-½ Street, SW, one of D.C.'s Jewish neighborhoods. The Morgensteins' bakery and retail shop took up the first floor of the building at 613 4-½ Street and the family lived upstairs.

The bakery's name, Morning Star, held special meaning. When Harry's oldest brother arrived in Baltimore from Austria, the Immigration official mistook the penultimate letter of the family name, Morgenstern, which means "morning star", changing the family name to Morgenstein. All Morgenstern brothers who followed to the United States took on the new name.

In 1924, the Morgensteins expanded and renovated the bakery. Then, under rabbinical supervision, Morning Star began using an oven for Passover cakes and macaroons. The Jewish community previously had to import Passover foods from Baltimore and New York.

Much of the bread used by the Jewish Foster Home in Georgetown and the Hebrew Home for the Aged, then on Spring Road, NW, was donated by Morning Star. During the Depression, the bakery contributed much of its sliced white bread to food lines and various institutions throughout the city.

By 1934 when the Morgensteins sold the bakery, the business included several trucks delivering bakery goods to many Jewish butcher shops, delicatessens, grocery stores, and even private homes.

Do you have materials you would like to donate to the archives that document a local Jewish-owned business? Please contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

This year, in conjunction with the Jewish Food Experience, our Objects of the Month feature DC’s rich Jewish food history. For stories about this history and the latest on the local Jewish food scene – recipes, restaurants, chefs, events, and volunteer opportunities – visit jewishfoodexperience.com.

Kaddish for America’s First Jewish Aviator 0 Comment(s)

Last week, a crowd recited the Kaddish in memory of an unlikely aviation pioneer—a Jewish immigrant from Russia named Arthur L. Welsh. The occasion was the centennial of his tragic death at the College Park Airfield. Among those gathered were great grand-nieces and nephews of the little-known pioneering aviator. On June 11, 1912, Welsh was killed while testing a Wright-designed plane for military use.

The notion of a Jewish immigrant penetrating the Wright brothers’ inner circle seems improbable. Yet Welsh distinguished himself as one of the earliest and most respected pilots in our country. Unlike the Wright brothers, whose ancestors arrived in Massachusetts just 20 years after the Pilgrims, Al Welsh’s story began as one typical of a working class Jewish immigrant.

America’s first Jewish airman was born Laibel Willcher in Russia, where he lived until he came to this country with his parents as a boy. The family settled in Philadelphia. Shortly after Laibel's father died, his mother remarried.

In 1898, the family moved to Washington’s 4 ½ Street, Southwest, neighborhood—home to a small enclave of Jewish immigrants at the turn of the last century. This was the same neighborhood where another young Jewish immigrant was growing up—Asa Yoelson, a cantor's son who later changed his name to Al Jolson.

Like so many other Jewish families, Laibel and his family lived above the grocery store that his mother ran. His stepfather worked as a cutter in a tailor shop.

When Laibel joined the Navy in 1901, he gave his name as Arthur L. Welsh—perhaps to escape anti-Semitism. After his honorable discharge, Welsh returned to Washington and worked as a bookkeeper. He attended meetings of the Young Zionist Union, where he met his future bride, Anna Harmel. Their 1907 wedding was the first held at the then-Orthodox Adas Israel’s second synagogue at 6th and I Streets.

When the Wright brothers came to Fort Myer in 1908 and 1909, Al Welsh was among the throng who watched in fascination as the famous brothers tested their military flier.

Welsh chased and realized his dream of flying with the Wright brothers. Though he did not have the mechanical knowledge required, he embarked on a letter-writing campaign to gain the attention of the Wrights. After initial rejection, Welsh traveled to Dayton, Ohio, to appeal to the Wrights in person.

Arthur Welsh at the controls of a Wright C Flyer at College Park, MD, 1912.

Photo courtesy of College Park Aviation Museum, Jesse Ayer Collection

His persistence eventually overcame his lack of qualifications. Welsh trained directly under Orville Wright and became a trusted and skilled pilot—a notable achievement given the difficulties of flying a Wright plane. This young Jewish immigrant also gave lessons to the first military pilots, including the famed Henry "Hap" Arnold, later a five-star general and U.S. Army Air Chief of Staff during World War II.

In 1912, the Wrights sent Welsh home to test a new military plane at College Park Airport. He lived with his in-laws in his Southwest neighborhood, commuting on the streetcar from the family home on H Street.

During a test flight on June 11, 1912, Welsh and Lieutenant Leighton Hazlehurst crashed into a field of daisies. Both died instantly.

The funeral service, held at the Harmel family home, was delayed so Orville Wright and his sister Katherine would have time to arrive from Dayton. Orville served as a pallbearer, along with Hap Arnold and several of Welsh’s Jewish friends from the neighborhood. His coffin was draped in a silken tallis. The Yiddish newspaper The Forward reported, “All present were in tears including Mr. Orville Wright and his sister who were doing all they could to console the wife and mother of the deceased.”

Welsh was buried in the Adas Israel Cemetery in Anacostia. Welsh's wife Anna died in 1925 “of a broken heart,” as the family remembered. Their daughter, just two years old at the time of her father’s death, grew up in Southwest and later moved to London.

In the early 1930s, Welsh’s sister, Clara Wiseman, campaigned to gain public recognition for her brother. She urged the military to name an airfield in his honor, as they had done for Welsh’s copilot. But since Welsh had flown as a civilian, no such honor was forthcoming.

Today, perhaps her efforts have been vindicated. Last week the College Park Aviation Museum unveiled a new interpretive sign telling Welsh's story at the edge of the airfield where this young Jewish immigrant turned pioneer pilot lost his life a century ago.