I first met Harry Kramer when I interviewed him in 2000 for a video we created to accompany our exhibition on Jewish teen life in Washington. A soft-spoken and gentle man, Mr. Kramer spoke movingly about his experiences in the Jewish Lions Club, beginning in the 1930s. He also told me about the banner created by the Club during World War II; as each member entered the service, a white star was sewn onto the banner with the member’s name embroidered on it. All of the Lions Club members who served during the War returned safely home after the war, and they’ve been meeting and holding reunions ever since. The banner hung in our Teen Life exhibition, and we borrowed it again in 2005-2006 to display in our Jewish Washington exhibition at the National Building Museum.
Last year, Mr. Kramer and the Jewish Lions Club formally donated the banner to us to preserve in our archives. We spent a few hours together one day in September, recording the World War II memories of Mr. Kramer and other Club members Dave Gordin, Lou Kornhauser, Sol Gnatt, (seen from left to right; Harry Kramer second from right). Then Mr. Kramer and I carefully packed away the banner in an archival box in acid-free tissue.
When I learned today of Mr. Kramer’s recent death, I was so grateful that we had the chance to know him a bit, and that we are able to care for and preserve the physical artifacts that testify to his and others’ places in our community’s history.
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.