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:
Last week, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington held its annual meeting and celebrated its 100th anniversary. JHSGW Executive Director Laura Apelbaum spoke at the meeting and recounted a few highlights from the last 100 years of JCC history. Here are some excerpts from her talk:
Among the most treasured objects in our archival collections are 34 scrapbooks documenting the JCC from the 1920s into the 1980s. Each scrapbook is filled with invitations, programs, flyers, and newsclippings, creating a wonderfully colorful and rich compendium of the Center’s activities and our community's history.
Opening the first scrapbook page, we find a photograph of a 3-story brick townhouse at 415 M Street, NW. One hundred years ago, young Jewish men and women wanted to create a place for social interaction, cultural activities, and athletics. They formed the Young Men's and Young Women's Hebrew Associations - predecessors to today's JCC. In 1913, the YMHA purchased this home as their headquarters. They fielded baseball, tennis, and bowling teams, went on picnics and beach trips, held debates and dances, and raised funds for Jewish overseas relief during World War I. In 1914, they sold the building to the newly formed Hebrew Home and moved into other rented facilities.
The next scrapbook opens to a panoramic photograph of President Calvin Coolidge speaking to a crowd assembled at the corner of 16th and Q for the cornerstone laying ceremony of the JCC's new building. The national Jewish Welfare Board provided an initial $50,000, while developer Morris Cafritz and Jewish leader Joseph Wilner led the $500,000 building campaign. In his speech, Coolidge remarked "Hebraic mortar cemented the foundations of American democracy."
Another scrapbook reveals a photograph of young men in uniform dancing cheek to cheek with young women in the JCC's gym during World War II. The Center’s policy "Your uniform is your admission" made the JCC the central place to meet and socialize for Jewish servicemen and women stationed in Washington. Young women called "government girls" were flocking to DC to work in war agencies, and a JCC room registry helped them find housing in Jewish homes that provided kosher meals.
As the Jewish community grew in postwar years and began moving north and west into the suburbs, many Jewish communal organizations and synagogues followed. Turning the page, we find a smiling Charles E. Smith holding a ceremonial shovel alongside the youngest student at the JCC's nursery school and the oldest resident of the Hebrew Home at the 1967 groundbreaking for the new Rockville facility on Montrose Road.
The JCC's history showcases our community's unique relationship as the nation’s capital where presidents attend holiday events and groundbreakings. At the same time, the JCC holds many personal connections and has played a central part in the lives of many families for the past century.
We first learned of Dr. Borish's film when she came to our archives to do research many years ago. In fact, she used some images from Jewish Community Center scrapbooks in the film. The archivists and I cheered when we saw the pictures from our collections!
Drs. Borish and Nadell had a wonderful dynamic during the discussion, enlightening the audience about the achievements and obstacles faced by Jewish women athletes. I learned a lot of new information, and had a lot of food for thought. For example, I found out how quite a few female Jewish athletes boycotted the 1936 Olympics in Berlin--even though it could be their only chance to compete at that level. I learned about the gender, ethnic, and religious issues with which Jewish women athletes grappled.
Afterwards a group of us joined Drs. Borish and Nadell for a lively lunchtime discussion. Miss the program? Never to fear, the Goethe-Institut kindly recorded the audio for us. Listen!
Archives Record Object #: 2002.11.2 Donor: Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington Description: Newsclipping featuring Jewish Community Center women basketball players practicing, February 22, 1935, Washington Times, included in JCC scrapbook. From left to right, Betty Kronman, Alto Schnitzer, Dorothy Shatzman (with ball), Sally Parker, and Helen Bushlow.
Background: This 1935 newsclipping of JCC basketball players is from a collection of scrapbooks that document the JCC at 16th & Q Streets, NW. The scrapbooks date from 1919 to 1941 and include many newsclippings, program invitations, photographs, and calendars of events documenting lectures, music recitals, and sporting events.
The photo in this clipping is featured in a documentary, Jewish Women in American Sport: Settlement Houses to the Olympics. Executive Producer Dr. Linda Borish of Western Michigan University visited our archives while conducting research for the film. We are proud that she selected this photograph for inclusion in the documentary. Join Dr. Borish and the Jewish Historical Society for a noontime screening of the film on Tuesday, March 6, 2012, at the Goethe-Institut.
Do you have material documenting a local Jewish athlete that you’d like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society? Contact us at email@example.com or (202) 789-0900.
Archivist Wendy Turman (wearing the white gloves) gave Jarrod a taste of the archives focusing on some of our items related to the presidency (including a panoramic photo of President Coolidge dedicating the Washington DCJCC in 1925).