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.
Last week, Washington's Jewish community lost two pillars of life and culture in our region and beyond.
We remember Elie Wiesel and Max Ticktin's lasting legacies.
Elie Wiesel (1928-2016)
Holocaust survivor, author, Nobel laureate, and human rights activist Elie Wiesel was perhaps the world's most well-known Holocaust survivor. He dedicated his life to combating hate and remembering the Holocaust. A frequent visitor to Washington, he made a lasting impact on our community.
In 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed Wiesel chairman of the Presidential Commission on the Holocaust. Wiesel's efforts at the commission led to the establishment of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, where his words greet visitors at the entrance: "For the dead and the living, we must bear witness."
Wiesel and his wife traveled to Washington in 1981 as part of a three-day conference that he organized to record the horrors of the Holocaust for posterity. During the conference, the Wiesels participated in a reunion of Holocaust survivors and liberators at U.S. State Department.
Among Wiesel's many social justice causes was the movement to free Soviet Jewry. Twenty years after his book, The Jews of Silence, raised public awareness of the plight of Soviet Jews, Wiesel addressed the crowd at the 1987 Freedom Sunday rally on the National Mall. "If I had three days, I would read the name of every Jew refused permission to leave the Soviet Union," he said. "All these names must be known."
Max Ticktin, an ordained rabbi, was one of the most influential and beloved professionals at Hillel and a longtime professor of Yiddish and Hebrew Literature at The George Washington University. After transforming several Hillel Foundations in the Midwest, his talents brought him to Washington as associate national director of Hillel. He was also an active member at Washington's Fabrangen and Yiddish of Greater Washington.
Last fall, our staff had the opportunity to conduct an oral history of Max Ticktin in partnership with the Washington Jewish Week. This interview was funded by a grant from the Koster Foundation. Below are several excerpts.
About his professional calling
"So, it's the teacher in me, it's the piece of me that feels I was put on this Earth to somehow to try to make some contacts with things that will survive my life and will be part of a consensus. A consensus, at the moment we are talking about a Jewish consensus. But it's obviously a Jewish consensus of commitments within a larger world, a larger politics."
On his passion for the Hebrew language
"The development of the Hebrew language in my lifetime is a miracle. A miracle in the sense that one has to realize that one becomes a wandering Jew, here's a bad pun, a wondering Jew instead of a wandering Jew. It's a matter of wonder and miracle that this is the only place on Earth where a language and a big part of culture was born out of suffering and pain and disruption and survived."
Object No: 2012.21 Donor: Andrew Ammerman Description: Typed note in German, Albert Einstein to H. Max Ammerman, March 1938.
26 March 1938
112 Mercer Street
Princeton, New Jersey, U.S.
Dear Mr. Ammerman:
Mr. Fritz Moses told me that you have kindly agreed to assist me with my small assistance effort.
Thank you and best regards.
In October 1933, Albert Einstein permanently settled in the United States where he accepted a position at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University. The rise of the Nazi Party to power in Germany earlier that year, and its subsequent exclusion of Jews from universities, led Einstein to renounce his German citizenship.
Even before settling in the U.S., Einstein began a tireless campaign to assist Jews and other "enemies" of the Nazi government find positions in universities in Great Britain and outside of Europe. He was part of an international network that raised money and advocated with government bureaucrats to obtain visas for refugee academics, as well as family and friends.
In this brief message on his personal, embossed stationery, Einstein thanks Washington attorney H. Max Ammerman for helping with a "small assistance effort." Ammerman worked in the law office of Louis Ottenberg, who facilitated immigrant proceedings for many Jewish refugees.
Searching through the catalogue records of the Einstein Archives of Hebrew University provided a clue to Einstein's reference to a "small assistance matter." Companion correspondence in the University archives reveals Einstein's concern for Margarete "Grete" Lebach.
Lebach and Einstein were close acquaintances from his time in Berlin. She was a frequent visitor to his cabin in the countryside until Einstein emigrated from Germany in 1933. Lebach appears with Einstein in this photograph taken in 1937 in Huntington, New York by famed portraitist Lotte Jacobi.
At the time Einstein wrote this letter in March 1938, Lebach was in Vienna suffering from cancer and in dire need of surgery. Perhaps because of her relationship with Einstein, Nazi authorities denied Lebach the surgery. If the "small assistance effort" was to help Lebach, then it was unsuccessful. Lebach died in Vienna in August 1938.
We've wrapped up another successful Jewish American Heritage Month, again showing our role as the source for community history!
You may have seen Arthur Welsh, the first American Jewish aviator, featured in the "Flashbacks" comic in the Sunday Washington Post. Our efforts led to this feature and the Society was mentioned in the final strip! You can now view the entire six-part series.
Executive Director Laura Apelbaum and board member Diane Wattenberg were featured in The Federation's Jewish Food Experience blog -- read the post about the winning National Spelling Bee word: knaidel.
We partnered again this year with the National Archives on a very special program featuring Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissman Klein.
We were also featured in Moment Magazine (download article) and we were out in the community a great deal:
In April 1943, official Washington was alerted to the Nazi massacre of Europe's Jews when the pageant We Will Never Die was presented at Constitution Hall. Controversial activist Peter Bergson collaborated with Hollywood's leading screenwriter Ben Hecht to create the pageant. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was among the dignitaries who attended the Washington performance.
Recreation of Portions of the Pageant "Prayer": Cantor Arianne Brown, Adas Israel Congregation "Corregidor": Paul R. Tetreault, Director, Ford's Theatre "Remember Us": Meredith Jacobs, Managing Editor, Washington Jewish Week "Words for Washington": The Hon. Jack Evans, D.C. Councilmember