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“Thanksgiving—A Holiday of Family and Foods” 0 Comment(s)

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Lenore & Sol Gnatt.

A 1975 cookbook published by the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, Jewish Creative Cooking: 200 Years of Jewish Cooking in American -- With Over 4000 Years of Heritage includes a section called "Thanksgiving Around Our Table." It may be surprising to find such a section in a Jewish cookbook, but the introduction by Marcia Weinberg makes the connection:

Thanksgiving - A Holiday of Family and Foods

In the autumn of 1621, the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony, grateful for the year they had survived, held a festival to celebrate the harvest. These early settlers, very much influenced by the Old Testament, saw themselves as the Israelites of old establishing a "New Canaan", a Promised Land on American shores. In gratitude and thanksgiving they hearkened to Exodus 23 (14-16) to hold... "a Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year when you gather in the results of your work from the field." Of course, the Fest of Ingathering referred to in Exodus is the festival of Sukkot, thereby giving an early "Jewish flavor" to our oldest American holiday. In fact, the very day of Thanksgiving -- Thursday -- also has its roots in Jewish history. Monday, Thursday and the Sabbath were the days on which the Torah was read in Jewish tradition. The pilgrims followed the practice of using these same days for religious instruction and meeting. When a day for feasting and thanksgiving was declared, these early settlers decided on Thursday, since it was one of the days which already had religious significance.

And with that, here are a few Thanksgiving recipes compiled in 1975:

Page of Thanksgiving recipes

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Lenore & Sol Gnatt.

Object of the Month: March 2015 0 Comment(s)

Description: Black and white photograph of Justice Arthur Goldberg with Albert and Lillian Small at the 1975 rededication of the historic 1876 Adas Israel Synagogue. Justice Goldberg was an active member of Washington’s Jewish community. For years, he and his wife Dorothy hosted an annual Passover seder with members of Washington's political and intellectual elite as guests.

Arthur Goldberg (1908 – 1990) came to Washington from Chicago in the 1950s. A labor lawyer, he was the general counsel for both the Congress of Industrial Organizations and the United Steelworkers of America, which merged to form the AFL-CIO in 1955. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed him as Secretary of Labor. The following year, Kennedy appointed Goldberg to the Supreme Court, and, in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson appointed him as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

The Goldbergs’ D.C. Seders

Early guest list and draft menu for Goldbergs’ 1961 Seder

Library of Congress

In 1961, just two months after Arthur Goldberg’s appointment as Secretary of Labor, the Goldbergs hosted a Seder attended by national and international leaders. According to a draft guest list in the Arthur J. Goldberg Papers in the Library of Congress, invitees included President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy, Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, Chief Justice Earl Warren, Justice William Brennan, Senator Everett Dirksen, Senator Paul Douglas, AFL-CIO President George Meany, Israeli Labor Attaché Nataan Bar-Yaakov, family, and friends. Ultimately, the President and First Lady did not attend the Seder. JHSGW president, Sam Brylawski, who was then eight years old and whose family were neighbors of the Goldbergs, filled one of the Kennedys' places at the Seder table.

The evening's menu included beef bourguignon, potato kugel, whole hot peaches, prunes, and apricots. According to a draft menu, well-known D.C. Jewish restaurateur Duke Zeibert made matza ball soup based on a “yeshiva chef’s recipe” published in the New York Times.

Throughout the decade, the Goldbergs’ Seders were lively occasions attended by a list of well-known figures. As a law clerk for Justice Goldberg, legal scholar Alan Dershowitz attended. In his memoir Chutzpah, he recalled, “George Meany would sing Irish ballads; Hubert Humphrey would tell stories; and Dorothy Goldberg would sing Yiddish labor union songs.”[1]

The Family’s Haggadah

Page from The Goldberg Haggadah

Library of Congress

Similar to many families, the Goldbergs’ Seder centered on their family Haggadah, which was adapted from various published versions. In The Goldberg Haggadah, as they titled it, the story of the Israelites is a symbol for contemporary struggles like civil rights. Displayed here is a page from the family's Haggadah, with the hosts’ initials next to assigned readings. In the margin is a note from Dorothy Goldberg, reminding her to mention the description of the Exodus in the African-American spiritual “Go down, Moses.”

Their Haggadah is explicitly American in tone, arguing, “Pesach calls us to the eternal pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” In the introduction to her own published Haggadah, Cokie Roberts, journalist and daughter of Congressional Representatives Lindy and Hale Boggs, remembers participating in the Goldbergs’ 1967 Seder “with gusto” when “the crowd started singing freedom songs from the civil rights and labor movements, held over from the days when Goldberg had been a leading labor lawyer.”[2] Brylawski, who went on to work at the Library of Congress, adapted parts of the Haggadah for his family’s Seders. “We used it several years,” he told the Society. “It's wonderful — tying Moses to the contemporary labor movement.”

Creating a Home with the Seder

Georgetown Law Center professor and another former Goldberg clerk, Peter Edelman, well-known for his legal career and public service, also attended the Goldberg Seders. In a lecture on Goldberg’s legal achievements, Edelman reminisced, “You went to Passover Seder; it didn't matter whether you were Jewish or not — you came to Passover Seder at his house. The crowd just got bigger and bigger. That's probably why he had to leave Chicago — because he needed to start a new crowd in Washington.”[3]

And that he did, both in future Seders at home and for the wider Jewish community. In 1964, Goldberg participated in a model Seder at Washington Hebrew Congregation to show Jewish students how Seders should be conducted. After leaving Washington for New York, Goldberg continued to host an annual Seder at his home in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Goldberg returned to Washington in 1971 and continued this tradition.

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This is the kind of story that you will encounter in the Society’s future museum showcasing the Washington region’s Jewish life and heritage.

Do you have a uniquely Washington Seder? Tell us about your Passover traditions.

 

[1] Alan Dershowitz, Chutzpah  (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992) p. 61.
[2] Cokie Roberts and Steven V. Roberts, Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families (New York: Harper, 2011) p. xxxv.
[3] Peter Edelman, “Arthur J. Goldberg’s Legacies to American Labor Relations,” John Marshall Law Review, Volume 32, Issue 4 (1999) p. 676.

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

Object No: 2012.30.1
Donor: Froma Sandler
Description: World War II ration book for Jacob Sandler, age 35, 5221 Chevy Chase Parkway, Washington, D.C., early 1940s.

Ration stamps in Lena Chidakel’s ration book.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Edith and Charles Pascal

During World War II, Washington’s Jewish community supported American troops both at home and abroad. Wartime food shortages required Washingtonians to save and reuse everything. To limit consumption of products like butter, coffee, liquor, and sugar, the U.S. Office of Price Administration distributed ration books to individuals and families. Households exchanged specific ration stamps for limited amounts of a given food item at grocery stores. Rationing at home enabled more food to be diverted to the war effort. Hardships at home were a low price to pay if they led to victory in Europe and the well-being of American soldiers.

As American factories shifted their attention to manufacturing goods to support the war effort, production of liquor, like other luxuries, slowed. "There were always shortages," recalled Washington liquorman Milton Kronheim in an oral history, "[It] became difficult to get the popular brands we were selling."

Fred Kolker (center) ran a poultry business at 1263 4th Street, NE. Shown here with cantor and shochet (ritual butcher) Moshe Yoelson.

Courtesy of Brenda and Paul Pascal.

Local businesses also supported troops overseas with food from home. Fred Kolker's wholesale poultry business at Union Terminal Market sold to the U.S. Army during the war. In his oral history, Kolker remembered fondly, “My chicken went to our soldiers who were located all over the world…Boys from Washington, D.C. wrote me letters thanking me for the good poultry they received.”

Washington's Jewish community also welcomed soldiers and war workers who flocked to the city to work in the war effort. When severe housing shortages forced workers to share scarce rooms in boarding houses and private homes, the Jewish Community Center provided housing references to thousands of newly arrived "government girls" through a Room Registry. Roselyn Dresbold Silverman came to Washington in 1941 to work for the Navy Department. She lived at Dissin's Guest House, a boarding house in Dupont Circle that catered to young Jewish women. Each month, Roselyn paid $35 for her room, two kosher-style meals a day, and maid service.

Ninth Annual Passover Seder by the Army and Navy Committee of the Jewish Welfare Board and the Jewish War Veterans of the United States. Willard Hotel, April 19, 1943. 

JHSGW Collections.

The Jewish War Veterans' Washington Post No. 58 and the Jewish Welfare Board sponsored High Holiday services and Passover seders for military personnel stationed far from their families. The Jewish Community Center at 16th & Q Streets, NW offered a full program of activities including daytime jitterbug contests for nighttime shift workers. Its policy was: "Your uniform is your admission to all activities and facilities."

Washington's Jewish community was very much a part of the war effort. As Henry Gichner said when he accepted an award for exceptional efficiency and production on behalf of Gichner Iron Works, "Let's keep right on going until we get the V-Flag for Victory."

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.

Chanukah with the DC Council 0 Comment(s)

L to R: JHS Executive Director Laura Apelbaum, JCRC's Debbie Linick, D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan, and City Council Chairman Kwame Brown

The Jewish Historical Society celebrated the first night of Chanukah at City Hall with the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and D.C. City Councilmembers.  Blessings were said, candles lit, colorful dreidels twirled, and best of all, jelly doughnuts eaten.  Attendees had a special opportunity to see two menorahs from our collection up close, including one handcrafted out of tin in Russia and brought to the U.S. in the 1880s.  If you missed your chance to snack on jelly doughnuts, join the JCRC at City Hall on the last night of Chanukah, Tuesday, December 27th, when they'll repeat the festivities.

More photos from the event!