On Tuesday, we had the pleasure of hosting the inaugural class of the Experiential Education and Jewish Cultural Arts (EE/JCA) program from The George Washington University for an afternoon of artistic, cultural, and historical exploration. Professors Jenna Weissman Joselit and Carol B. Stapp led their students and colleagues into JHSGW’s historic 1876 synagogue (the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum) for the program on the Society today and in the future as it develops into a regional museum. Director of Collections Wendy Turman started by providing the students with basic information about JHSGW, including the history behind the synagogue and the current activities of the Society.
The students appreciated the period-specific layout of the synagogue, from the structure to the life-size Ulysses S. Grant cut-out in the corner to commemorate the president’s visit to the opening in 1876. While life-size Grant never ceases to capture my attention, the EE/JCA students offered valuable insight about the architecture and fine details of the synagogue. Then, everyone had the opportunity to explore the outside grounds and the interior of the building, including the balcony on the second floor where Orthodox Jewish women once prayed, which is usually off-limits to visitors.
Despite the oven-like weather, we all ventured to the future location of the synagogue, which will move down the road in a few years (the second time since 1969). Upon our return, Curator Zachary Paul Levine led a discussion about how the space appears to visitors and how it might appear as part of the Society’s future museum. Students engaged with issues regarding how to arrange information in a museum: chronologically or thematically. Finally, Wendy expanded on current activities of the Society, such as arranging the archives of Rabbi Tzvi Porath and analyzing artifacts, including a bracelet from Camp Louise. For me, the major highlight was Zachary’s presentation of a signed Beatles photograph from the Washingtonian Jew who hosted the first Beatles concert in the United States. This photograph caught my eye online when I was applying to summer internships, so it was amazing to see it up close in person (and I got to carry it back to the office).
I am thoroughly enjoying my internship at JHSGW, and I loved learning more about the Society through the eyes of the EE/JCA students. We were only one stop on their busy schedule, but it was a fantastic afternoon.
Rebecca Brenner is a senior at Mount Holyoke College, working on a B.A. in History and Philosophy.
We are delighted to announce that Ohev Sholom – The National Synagogue has donated the synagogue’s extensive historical records to the JHSGW archives.
Board minutes, membership files, financial books, cemetery records, photographs, and other memorabilia reveal the synagogue's long and rich history.
In the coming months, our archivists will work to catalog and re-house the records in archival, acid-free boxes and folders to ensure their long-term preservation. In the meantime, join us on a sneak peek into the history of the third oldest congregation in Washington, D.C.
Newly arrived Russian immigrants founded Ohev Sholom in 1886 and rented temporary quarters on 7th Street, NW. In 1906, the congregation moved into a former church at 5th and I Streets, NW (left). Across town, residents of Southwest founded Talmud Torah Congregation in 1887 and built a new synagogue on E Street, SW (right).
Minute books handwritten in Yiddish detail Talmud Torah's daily life in 1905, while a meeting notice for Ohev Sholom documents the congregation's efforts to hire a new cantor in 1927.
During World War II, Ohev Sholom supported Russian War Relief with a donation of $105 in 1942. A few years later, in 1948, Talmud Torah Congregation gathered in the sanctuary to accept a new American flag.
The city's two oldest orthodox congregations merged in 1958 to become Ohev Sholom Talmud Torah Congregation, and in 1960 the newly combined congregation moved into a new white limestone synagogue at 16th and Jonquil Streets, NW.
An extensive series of newsletters and anniversary booklets traces the synagogue's history and growth from the 1960s through the 1990s.
In 1994, the synagogue established a branch in Olney, Maryland. By 2006, the branch had become fully independent and the original congregation had officially changed its name to become Ohev Sholom - The National Synagogue.
We are grateful to the congregation for this opportunity to help preserve the community's history.
Longtime JHSGW member Paul Pascal led a tour of the history of Union Terminal Market and former sites of Jewish merchants. Check out the pictures! We plan to offer this tour again soon, so keep an eye out.
If you attended the tour, please comment here or email to tell what you thought! If a friend was on the tour, please share this request.
We want to share a terrific feature on the Washington Jewish Community that appears in this month’s issue of Moment Magazine in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month.
The article, “Jewish Routes,” highlights Washington’s Jewish community and features images from our collection and content from interviews with me and others on our staff. In addition to the main article, there is a list of local Jewish American Heritage sites and profiles of community members, who share memories of growing up and their lives in Washington. Included are Society members Josephine Ammerman, Lois England, Irene Kaplan, Robert Kogod, Albert Small, and David Bruce Smith. You can download all of it here. Bonus content, a Jewish D.C. reading list, was posted on Moment's blog.
As we continue to plan for the future move of the synagogue and the building of a new Jewish museum in Washington, we are honored to have our role featured in Moment Magazine—a national publication of Jewish thought and culture.