Accession No.: 2011.22 Donor: Frank H. Rich, Sr. Description: In 1974, Frank H. Rich (1921–2015) ran for D.C. City Council. His involvement in politics began after the 1968 riots following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.
A Washington Institution
Frank Rich’s family had deep roots in Washington. His maternal great grandfather, Abraham Hart, was a volunteer in the Union Army in the Civil War and was on the Board of Education in Washington, D.C. Frank’s paternal ancestors belonged to Washington Hebrew Congregation in the 19th century, and his great-grandfather Bernard Rich, was a founder of Adas Israel Congregation in 1869. That same year, Bernard founded a men's clothing store, B. Rich & Sons, at 7th and O Streets, NW. Bernard’s sons, Max and Louis, later took over the store and decided to specialize in shoes. In 1919, they moved the business into a four-story building at 10th and F Streets, NW.
Max had three sons, Edwin, Herbert, and Melvin, and two daughters, Ernestine and Fanny. Herbert took over the family business and married Rosa Hart Frank, the granddaughter of Abraham Hart. (A scrapbook in JHSGW’s collection chronicles the Hart and Rich families from the 1860s-1960s).
Frank Hart Rich
Herbert and Rosa’s son, Frank, grew up on Buchanan Street, off 16th Street, NW. In 1942, after earning a degree in business administration at Lehigh University, he enlisted in the army and worked in administration for the Army Air Corps (precursor to the Air Force) in Assam, India. He supported flights over “The Hump,” the dangerous air crossing over the Himalayas to resupply U.S. air bases and aid the Chinese war effort against Japan. He distinguished himself and quickly rose to become a major.
Frank returned to the U.S. in 1946. In a 2011 interview, he told the Society that he was desperate for a new pair of shoes: “My shoes were in such terrible shape from the monsoons and everything. They were terrible.” But he could not simply pick up a new pair from his family’s business. Because of wartime rationing of materials like rubber and leather, Frank had to first go to Wilmington, Delaware, to get a document from the army allowing him to obtain the shoes.
After his return to Washington, Frank found a job as an assistant buyer at the Hecht Company’s shoe department. Soon thereafter, Frank’s father Herbert invited him to work for Rich’s Shoes. Frank agreed.
Frank set to work expanding the business to serve postwar Washington’s growing population in the 1940s and 1950s. He renovated Rich’s Shoes’ iconic 10th and F Street, NW, location. He also focused on cutting-edge trends that appealed to young shoppers and opened a new store at 1516 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, in Georgetown in 1953, followed more than a decade later by the Gaminerie, a boutique modeled after a shop with the same name he had visited in Paris. In 1955, he opened a spacious location in a new shopping center in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The business continued to expand. In 1961, Frank sold the family’s building on 10th and F and moved the business to 1319-21 F Street, NW. Every new location was a hit.
Frank translated his business success into a variety of civic activities. As president of the National Shoe Retailers Association, he testified and wrote op-eds for The Washington Post against low-cost and low-quality shoe imports from abroad. He was a board member of several local organizations, including the Washington Performing Arts Society and a founding board member of Temple Sinai.
Perhaps his greatest civic activism came in the aftermath of the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968. Looting caused $50,000 (in 1960s dollars) in damage to Rich’s Shoes downtown location. In his interview with the Society, Frank recalled, “I came downtown and, of course, all of the windows were out. The store was full of tear-gas [canisters]. Everything was upside down.” Within a few days, the business was up and running, but Frank felt the need to help the greater downtown business community. He started Project Progress, an employment organization focused on helping unemployed African-American residents of D.C.
He soon joined the Metropolitan Washington Urban Coalition, a group of business owners and city officials who sought to rebuild D.C.’s decimated downtown. He was the organization’s president from 1969-1971. John W. Hechinger, a former City Council Chairman and owner of a regional chain of hardware stores, said that Frank used his relationship with business leaders across the city “to get to know the leaders of the black community, as well as the frustrations of the rank and file of the black community. His earnestness advanced interracial harmony.”
Frank saw home rule as the key to improving the city, particularly for African Americans, which represented the majority of D.C.’s residents. In 1970, he testified before the Senate District Committee in favor of home rule for the nation’s capital. He later noted that the committee was hostile and “generally [was] against what I was there for.” In 1974, Frank ran as an at-large candidate for the D.C. City Council. He ran, he said at the time, because “this is the first city government and, if home rule is to survive, we need responsible people [who can manage].” He narrowly lost the election.
Frank Rich’s dedication to revitalizing D.C. led to his involvement in a range of civic activities. He was an outspoken advocate for redevelopment of F Street, NW (where his store was located), preservation of the Willard Hotel, and expansion of the Metro system – the construction of which paradoxically hurt his business, turning F Street into a perennial construction site that deterred most shoppers.
Rich’s Shoes was the longest-operating family business in D.C. when Frank and his youngest son Ned closed it in 1987. The course toward the 1990s revitalization of downtown Washington came too late to save Rich’s Shoes.
Frank remained a steadfast and outspoken advocate for his hometown, and especially for home rule. In 2012, a D.C. City Council proclamation recognizing Frank’s contributions as a business and civic leader quoted him: “I always tried, wherever I was or whatever I was doing, to give my empathy to people who deserve more out of life than what they are getting – whether voting rights or job opportunities.” When he passed away earlier this year, DC Vote, an organization for which Frank volunteered weekly for more than a decade, described him as “a symbol of what D.C. had contributed to the nation.”
 Melvin Rich was a civil engineer who worked on numerous D.C.-area structures, including the British Embassy, the Kennedy-Warren apartments, and the refurbishment of the Washington Monument in 1934.
Object No.: 1998.58.31 Donor: Ida Jervis Description: In this photograph by Ida Jervis, women supporting the feminist Jewish publication Lilith magazine rally on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol, supporting ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (E.R.A.) to the U.S. Constitution. One holds a sign that, reading right-to-left as if written in Hebrew, mixes symbols to represent Jewish women: the Jewish six-pointed star and symbol of Venus commonly used by many feminist groups.
Background: As the nation’s capital, Washington is the destination for people from all over the country to voice their opinions on critical issues in American life. Rallies and protests with tens-of-thousands of people marching through city streets are part of the fabric of life in this city.
For decades, Washington-area photographer Ida Jervis (1917-2014) captured this quality of Washington-area life. Her focus was the local Jewish community and Jews who came to Washington for specific events and causes. From the 1960s through 1980s, Jervis documented seemingly every aspect of Jewish political and social life in the Washington region: civil rights marches, Soviet Jewry rallies, Israel Independence Day celebrations, Holocaust commemorations, exhibition openings, folk concerts, artists at work, and other political and cultural events.
Jervis photographed civic activism around Jewish causes, as well as Jews who were active for other causes. For her, these were all part of the Jewish community’s participation in American civic and political life. “I was a witness as the American Jewish community found its voice,” Jervis noted in a 1989 interview with The Washington Post.
In 2009, Jervis donated the largest collection of her photos to JHSGW (view a sample!). In 2013, her daughter, Margie Jervis, organized a campaign to better preserve the Society’s Ida Jervis Collection including to purchase a fireproof cabinet to house them. Other collections of Jervis’s work and papers are in the American Jewish Archives and the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art.
Capturing the 1978 E.R.A. March on Washington, D.C.
Of the many demonstrations that Jervis documented was the E.R.A. March on Washington, D.C. in July 1978.1 Among the 325 delegations to the march were several Jewish organizations, including the National Council of Jewish Women and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Some Jewish participants in other delegations self-identified by wearing patches or buttons with Jewish symbols like this woman from Illinois University.
At that time, it was the largest women’s-rights demonstration in U.S. history. Over 100,000 people representing different ethnic and religious communities from across the country marched down Constitution Avenue to the Capitol Building in support of the amendment.
The E.R.A. mandates legal equality for all sexes: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
These participants were among the many first- and second- generation American Jewish women who were attracted to the feminist movement of the 1960s-1970s. They wanted to break down socially-accepted gender norms that hampered women’s equality in American life. They saw one of many solutions to this state of affairs in the creation of federal laws and a constitutional amendment such as the E.R.A., which sought to enshrine equal rights for women in the Constitution.
Emblematic of this group were Susan Weidman Schneider and Aviva Cantor. In 1976, they founded the Jewish feminist journal, Lilith Magazine. Both Schneider and Cantor gravitated toward feminism after childhood involvement in Jewish life. Schneider had been active in her synagogue, Jewish youth groups, Zionist causes, and Yiddish culture in her hometown of Winnipeg, Canada. She attended Brandeis University where she had her “political awakening” about the need to fight for women’s inequality. Cantor, a Bronx, NY, native, grew up attending the orthodox Ramaz Jewish day school. After studying at the Columbia University School of Journalism, she became an active promoter of progressive Jewish causes.
Schneider, Cantor, and their compatriots at the E.R.A. March on Washington were among the millions who help make Washington the stage for national issues. The E.R.A. continues to be one of those issues. Since its introduction in 1923, a succession of representatives has reintroduced the amendment to Congress. Most recently, in 2013, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) reintroduced the E.R.A. in the Senate, and Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) sponsored the amendment in the House of Representatives. In spite of overwhelming positive public opinion for the amendment, the E.R.A. has never been ratified by a sufficient number of state legislatures.
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1. National Woman’s Party’s founder, Alice Paul, wrote the E.R.A. in 1923. That year, the amendment was introduced to Congress, but did not pass. It was re-introduced several times subsequently, and passed by Congress in 1972. Congress gave a seven-year deadline for three-fourths of state legislatures to ratify the amendment – required for amending the Constitution. Demonstrators at the 1978 march called on Congress to extend the 1979 deadline. Congress subsequently extended the deadline to 1982, but no additional states voted for ratification.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
9. Eruv Encloses All Three Branches of the Federal Government
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;
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).
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.