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Marione Ingram Program & New Documentary Short 0 Comment(s)

On Wednesday, March 29 a standing room-only crowd attended the premiere of a new documentary, produced by Society board member Alex Horowitz, about the life of Marione Ingram. The video includes footage from an oral history conducted by our staff in 2016.

At the program, Marione spoke about her experiences as a Holocaust survivor and civil rights activist in conversation with Dr. Lauren B. Strauss, Scholar in Residence at American University and former Executive Director of the Foundation for Jewish Studies.

We plan to share stories of activism like Marione's at our new museum. 

Missed the program? Watch the short documentary now!

 

Special thanks to the Foundation for Jewish Studies and our hosts at the Tenley-Friendship Library for partnering with us on this public program. 

Jewish Women and the Civil Rights Movement 0 Comment(s)

As part of my internship at JHSGW, I helped with research for the creation of the core exhibition for the Society’s future museum with our curator, Christiane. With Christiane’s guidance, I conducted research that both helps the society and interests me -- on women in Washington, D.C. who contributed to the civil rights movement. The American civil rights movement received support from diverse communities and individuals across the country. Washington, D.C. played an important role in the movement as a border between North and South and as the nation’s capital. Jewish women participated in this movement in various ways. Here, I highlight three of the women I have come across in my research to provide a glimpse at the different population of Jewish women in the civil rights movement.

The Activist

Marione Ingram, 1963

Courtesy of Marione Ingram

Marione Ingram (b. 1935) is a Holocaust survivor from Hamburg who immigrated to New York City in 1952. In 1960, she moved to D.C., where she observed the racist policies in place in the American South. She identified with these struggles, particularly the education system’s poor treatment of African Americans, which she compared to the discrimination she faced as a Jewish survivor in German schools after the war.[1] Ingram became involved in Washington’s civil rights movement through the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). This led her to volunteer at the March on Washington and eventually join the Freedom Summer project in Mississippi in 1964.[2] By establishing a Freedom School for black students, teaching classes focused on passing literacy tests, and providing transportation for voters, she fought voter discrimination. She eventually faced legal trouble when she was falsely charged with a variety of minor offenses in a police attempt to quell her activism.[3] Following this, Marione Ingram returned to the capital where her activism for local and national issues has never stopped. She has been fighting for D.C. Home Rule, campaigning for Barack Obama, and protesting against gun violence. Her devotion to civil rights is strongly tied to her experiences of exclusion, discrimination, and persecution in Nazi and post-war Germany. Marione Ingram once stated, “My first journey to Mississippi began in Hamburg, where my father…instilled in me the idea that because I survived the Nazi era, it was my sacred duty to oppose racism wherever I encountered it.”[4]

The Politician

Bella Abzug, 1972

Library of Congress

Bella Abzug (1920-1998) was a congresswoman from New York from 1971 to 1977, fighting for many causes, including civil rights, women’s rights, and gay rights.[5] Bella Abzug was known as a defender of civil rights before her tenure in the United States Congress due to her legal defense of Willie McGee in the 1940s and 1950s. McGee was a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman in Mississippi, and the case exposed Abzug to the role of racism in the Deep South. She received death threats and observed the degree of violence and discrimination to which African Americans were subjected.[6] These experiences strengthened her commitment to civil rights, a cause she took with her to Washington two decades later. She was one of few women in the U.S. House of Representatives, and “established a standard of integrity and chutzpah…that challenges us all to tell the truth and to fight back.”[7] Bella Abzug’s dedication to civil rights was accompanied by a belief in the rights of all oppressed groups, and as a lawyer she struggled, “for the rights of all people…who [had] been attacked by reason of their religion, their beliefs, their sex, their sexual preference, [or] their race.”[8]

The Artist

An Orthodox Jewish woman born in Philadelphia to Russian immigrant parents, Eve Arnold (1912-2012) rose to prominence as a photographer with the global photographic cooperative Magnum Photos. Throughout her career her goal remained steady: “to get to the core of things.”[9] During her long and varied career, she spent time in Washington and Virginia capturing photos of the civil rights movement and the integration process. In 1958, she documented the integration crisis in the area with images of prominent political figures like Thurgood Marshall as well as photos of more casual situations like black and white children at a party to introduce students of different races to one another. This collection reveals Eve Arnold’s awareness of the movement in the Washington area at both a political and social level and indicates her desire to display these elements to the American people through her art. You can view Eve Arnold’s photos of the 1958 Integration Crisis and the Non-Violence movement in Virginia on the official Magnum Photos website.
 

These women represent only a small segment of the Jewish women who interacted with the civil rights movement in Washington, D.C. Jewish women came to the movement from all walks of life and contributed to the cause in a wide variety of ways.
 

We are creating the core exhibition for our new museum in which we would like to give women’s stories like these a prominent place. Do you have any objects in your personal collection from the civil rights movement or do you know any Jewish women who were involved in it? Please contact us at CBauer@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

Rebecca Friedman is a rising senior at Johns Hopkins University, working on a B.A. in History with minors in Jewish Studies and The Program in Museums and Society.

 

[1] Marione Ingram, The Hands of Peace (New York: Skyhouse Publishing, 2015), 27.
[2] Ibid., 81.
[3] Ibid., 128.
[4] Ibid., 9.
[5] Patricia Bosworth, “Bella Abzug,” Nation 277, no. 3 (July 21, 2003): 20.
[6] Leandra Zarnow, “Braving Jim Crow to Save Willie McGee: Bella Abzug, the Legal Left, and Civil Rights Innovation, 1948-1951,” Law & Social Inquiry 33, no. 4 (Fall 2008): 1003.
[7] Debra L. Schultz, Going South: Jewish Women in the Civil Rights Movement (New York: New York University Press, 2001), xiii.
[8] Jewish Women's Archive, "Bella Abzug Explains her View of Feminism," (Viewed on July 27, 2016) <http://jwa.org/media/abzug-explains-her-view-of-feminism-as-vision-of-what-we-love>.
[9] Bret Senft, “Eve Arnold: In Retrospect,” Photo District News 15, no. 10 (September 1995): 30.

Reflections on a Summer with JHSGW 0 Comment(s)

Rebecca researching at DC Library's Washingtonian Collection

During my interview for this internship, our program and outreach manager, Sam Abramson, mentioned that the Society’s historic synagogue – the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum – would be closing its doors at the beginning of the summer in preparation for it to be moved a few blocks away as part of a new building project. When I began my internship a few months later, I was excited to see how this change would impact my summer with the Society. The museum’s upcoming move ultimately provided me with an exciting and unique experience that I can’t imagine getting anywhere else. Over the course of my internship, I have worked with every member of the Society’s small and dedicated staff on a wide range of projects, many (but not all) somehow relating to the synagogue’s move and the planning of the new museum.

I worked with Sam to create a brand new volunteer manual, reach out to schools about educational programs, and set up for the final events hosted in the historic synagogue before its closing. Earlier this summer, I helped Wendy Turman, our director of collections, update entries in our collections database to ensure that all of our holdings were accounted for as the archives were packed up. I later photographed professional movers as they wrapped up some of these items to move them to a storage facility. I spent time with our curator Christiane Bauer, conducting research for the new museum’s core exhibition. We went to the DC Library to research primary sources about an organization called Neighbors, Inc. We went through boxes of documents ranging from fliers for book fairs to invitations for luncheons with diplomats, looking for connections to D.C.’s Jewish community. Under Christiane’s supervision, I also undertook a major research project on the involvement of Jewish women in D.C. during the Civil Rights Movement. I eventually used some of this research to write a blog article (stay tuned!) discussing a few of the amazing women I’d learned about and asked readers for artifacts and interviews relating to their own experiences with the movement. With these projects and the other tasks I performed during my internship, I was able both to learn and to feel like I was making a meaningful contribution to the development of the new museum and its exhibitions.

Previously, most of my knowledge of the museum field came from classes and lectures. This summer, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of museum work with the help of a kind and supportive staff. As our collections were moved into storage, I was able to participate in and understand collections management at a new level as I tagged items with their accession numbers and watched as shelves of archival boxes were carefully marked and put into a truck. Sifting through piles of documents in the library and sitting in on meetings about plans for the new museum’s exhibitions allowed me to see the huge amount of work and planning that goes into content creation for museums. As I leave my internship I am excited to apply everything I’ve learned here to my studies and future work, and I am looking forward to staying in contact with the Society and one day walking through their new museum.

Rebecca Friedman is a rising senior at Johns Hopkins University, working on a B.A. in History with minors in Jewish Studies and The Program in Museums and Society. 

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.

Mourning a lion of the community 0 Comment(s)

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.