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Passover Cooking in the White House 0 Comment(s)

On the way to the Passover cooking demo
with president of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, Duke Zimmerman, and others

I was really honored to be invited to the White House yesterday for a pre-Passover cooking demonstration with Joan Nathan and the WH Pastry Chef. Samples were abundant. The National Endowment for the Humanities and Jewish Museum of Maryland (which has an exhibit funded by NEH now on display about Jewish foodways) cosponsored the event with the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Read reporter Vered Guttman’s article from Haaretz to learn more about the afternoon. It was thrilling to have a content rich event in the President’s House -- or at least his office building -- we were in the Old Executive Office Building!! Have a wonderful Passover.

Object of the Month: November 2011 0 Comment(s)

Object #: 2001.16.6
Donor: Brenda Pascal
Description: Photograph of Fred Kolker holding knife over turkey’s neck, 1948.  Paper label reads "President Truman's Turkey/French World's Champion Bicycle Riders/Washington, D.C.”

Background: Established in 1930 by Fred Kolker, Kolker Poultry became one of the largest wholesale poultry distributors in the region. In fact, during World War II, Kolker sold all his poultry to the U.S. Army.  As Kolker said in an oral history, “My chicken went to our soldiers who were located all over the world… My name, Kolker Poultry Co., was stenciled on each box and the boys from Washington, D.C., wrote me letters, thanking me for the good poultry they received.”

Fred Kolker (wearing hat) and Mayor Marion Barry (right) at the renaming of the market, 1984

The business was located in the Florida Avenue Market, now called the Capital City Market (just east of the intersection of Florida & New York Avenues, NE). At 81 years old, Fred Kolker was called “the self-styled dean of the market” in The Washington Post.  He retired four years later, but remained chairman and president of the company.

The context of the photograph featured here is unknown: Who were these champion cyclists? What was their business with Kolker? What did they have to do with Truman’s turkey? Nonetheless, it is timely for the season.

Do you have material documenting a local Jewish-owned business that you’d like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society’s collection? Please contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

Object of the Month: October 2011 0 Comment(s)

Archives Record

Object #: NNCF48
Description: Photograph of the exterior an early Giant supermarket, 1940s. Courtesy of Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation.
Background: Nehemiah Cohen, a grocery store owner, and Samuel Lehrman, a food distributor, met in Pennsylvania, at Lehrman’s Harrisburg Wholesale Grocery Co. warehouse. Eventually, they partnered to start a supermarket business and chose Washington for their new business venture. They hoped federal workers would provide a strong market even during the Depression.

Samuel Lehrman and Nehemiah Cohen shake hands.

Courtesy of Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation.

Their first Giant supermarket opened at Georgia Avenue & Park Road, NW, in February 1936. Giant Food soon became one of the leading businesses in the Washington region as well a leader in corporate philanthropy. By the 1950s, Giant Food had grown into a regional chain with more than 50 stores in the city and suburbs. Giant remained a locally owned family business until 1998 when it was sold to Royal Ahold, Inc.

Society archivists recently completed a five-year project funded by the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation to preserve the history of Giant Food through oral histories and archival cataloging. The Giant Food Archival Collection includes corporate records, correspondence, marketing and publicity files, and an extensive set of photographs and negatives. The project also includes 17 oral history interviews. A selection of the photographs may be seen on the Jewish Historical Society’s online catalog here.

Birthday cake from Giant’s Heidi Bakery made in celebration of Israel’s bar-mitzvah birthday, 1961

Nehemiah Cohen’s granddaughter Nina Cohen, added Giant material to the Society’s archives earlier this year. Her donation includes papers and photographs (such as the one seen here) documenting the activities and philanthropy of her grandfather as well as her father, Emanuel Cohen.

Join the Society at Adas Israel Congregation on Sunday, November 6, 2011, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., when we will celebrate the Giant Food Archival Project at our annual meeting.