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The (Jewish) Father of Federal Indian Law 0 Comment(s)

We finished our 50th Anniversary Salon Series on a high note December 1, when Dalia Tsuk Mitchell told the story of Felix Cohen, the "Father of Federal Indian Law" (1907-1953).

The program was a collaboration between the Society and the Interior Museum, and took place at the Department of the Interior's magnificent New Deal-era auditorium. We learned about the evolution of Cohen's views on legal pluralism and the place of Native Americans and other minority groups in the United States, and how Cohen's experiences as a Jewish American shaped those views. Cohen is most known for his Handbook of Federal Indian law, still the standard source in its field today.

A diverse group came out on a cold, cloudy day -- including many Interior Department employees, a group from Temple Beth Ami, other people from our and the Interior Museum's mailing lists, and even a man who once worked with Cohen.

At the end of the talk, Professor Mitchell read a famous line that pretty much sums up Cohen's philosophy:

"The Indian plays much the same role in our American society that the Jews played in Germany. Like the miner's canary, the Indian marks the shifts from fresh air to poison gas in our political atmosphere; and our treatment of Indians, even more than our treatment of other minorities, reflects the rise and fall in our democratic faith."

Special thanks to Diana Ziegler (pictured at left, with me and Professor Mitchell) from the Interior Museum for making this program possible.

Check out Architect of Justice: Felix S. Cohen and the Founding of American Legal Pluralism, Professor Mitchell's award-winning biography, to learn more.

Annual Meeting (or, JHSGW, you don’t look a day over 50!) 0 Comment(s)

On June 9, 1960, ten Jewish Washingtonians met in a living room to discuss founding a historical society that would help preserve the story of Jewish life in Washington. Each year since, the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington has held an annual meeting, an open session of the executive board. This year’s annual meeting, convened on November 14, was a particularly special one, as we celebrated our 50th anniversary.

The Society used the meeting and the lovely space at Congregation Adas Israel, as an opportunity to showcase our progress over the past fifty years to the hundred and fifty members and guests who attended. Through banners, posters, photo albums, and objects, we looked back at some of our favorite exhibitions, guest speakers, and programs, as well as looked ahead at the impending synagogue move and where the Society is headed in its next 50 years. I certainly learned a lot in researching and reading the materials, and, judging by the lively conversation that followed the meeting, many of our guests were intrigued as well.

We were fortunate this year to be joined by Marvin Kalb (pictured left), host of The Kalb Report and the last newsman hired by the incomparable Edward R. Murrow. In his keynote address, Kalb discussed the changes he’s seen in the Washington, DC area and in the journalism profession in the last 50 years. Most notably to his eye, the profession has been diverted from a focus on reporting news with honesty and respect to a focus on taking sides and being the first to break a story.

During the board meeting portion of the afternoon’s festivities, we did take care of some necessary business, including voting on by-laws about the size of the board and term limits for the board president. We also elected a new slate of board members, appointed honorary directors, and bid a fond farewell to the departing members of the board.

Following the official proceedings, all in attendance partook of a delectable spread, including a giant, amply-frosted cake, which I had the joyous—and messy—task of slicing and serving. (For the 51st, I’ll remember to bring an apron!)

We look forward to seeing you at next year’s meeting—and to sharing the Society’s next 50 years with you!

Anthony Cohen Speaks at Historic Synagogue 0 Comment(s)

Last week, Tony Cohen, Founder and President of the Menare Foundation, came by the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum to talk about his and his ancestors' journeys along the Underground Railroad. We were thrilled to attract 50 people at lunchtime on a Tuesday -- D.C. and Maryland primary day at that!

Tony riveted our guests with stories about retracing the Underground Railroad, tracking his family's Jewish-Indian-African roots, and his work -- even with Oprah Winfrey(!) -- on preserving the Underground Railroad's legacy. Even though it was the lunch hour, few people left early -- a testament to Tony's skills as a storyteller.

If you missed it, never to fear -- you can watch it on the Forum Network's website.

We hope to see you at an upcoming program!

Third Salon a Touchdown! 0 Comment(s)

Yesterday the Society held the third of our series of salons, this one featuring sportswriter David Elfin. Twenty-seven people braved a rainy day to come to the home of our executive director, Laura Cohen Apelbaum.

David has written for the Philadelphia Bulletin, Syracuse Post-Standard, Washington Post, and Washington Times, and served as president of Congregation Beth Chai. He regaled us with stories of his career in sports—including how he got Darrell Green, Art Monk, and Russ Grimm into the NFL Hall of Fame—recapped the Redskins’ 2009 season, and looked into the Burgundy and Gold’s future. After the lecture, everyone stayed around for a kosher tailgate meal. All in all, a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

We still have plenty of other salons coming up, and we’d love to see you at a future event!

1st Salon a Hit! 0 Comment(s)

Fans of Broadway and musical theater gathered in the warm and inviting living room of members Arlene & David Epstein yesterday to hear Murray Horwitz, actor, entertainer, and playwright recount how his hit Broadway show, Ain't Misbehavin' became a Broadway standard.

The salon was a hit itself-- completely sold out and with a waiting list that would have filled another living room!

Here's a photo of me at the far left standing next to Murray and our hosts the Epsteins.

Murray held our rapt attention as he recalled listening to records borrowed from the Dayton Public Library as a kid and discovering Fats Waller's music. He began a personal quest to learn everything he could about Waller and his unique style of playing swing music.

We listened to a bit of Waller music and heard about Murray's experience writing a show that was first performed in a small cabaret and then moved to Broadway where it won a Tony-- all in four months.

Special thanks to our hosts and guest speaker for setting such a high bar with our new series of monthly salons in celebration of our 50th Anniversary.