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Pop Quiz: U.S. Presidents and Washington’s Jewish Community 0 Comment(s)

Here are the answers to the quiz we published earlier this week. Over 100 people participated in the quiz, with only a handful answering all eight questions correctly! Thank you so much for your responses, and enjoy learning about the relationships and experiences between U.S. presidents and Washington's Jewish community. 

 

1.  This U.S. president promised religious freedom and intolerance in a now famous letter to the Jews of Newport.


President George Washington issued a short but immensely important letter to the Hebrew Congregations of Newport, Rhode Island promising that this new government will give "to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance."

(Other answer options: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson)

 

 

2.  Why was President Ulysses S. Grant's attendance at the dedication service for our historic synagogue (Original Adas Israel) in 1876 so significant?

 

President Ulysses S. Grant attended the dedication of the Adas Israel synagogue (now the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum) on June 9, 1876. Grant remained for the entire three-hour service and gave a $10 donation to the synagogue building fund. During the Civil War, then General Grant had issued General Order 11, which expelled Jews "as a class" from the Department of Tennessee. Grant's attendance at Adas Israel may have served as an act of contrition. 

(All of the above)

 

3.  Which president spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Jewish Community Center on 16th Street, NW?

 

President Calvin Coolidge addressed the crowd in 1925 and closed his remarks by saying, "As those who come and go shall gaze upon this civic landmark, may it be a constant reminder of the inspiring service that has been rendered to civilization by men and women of the Jewish faith."

(Other answer options: Woodrow Wilson and Warren G. Harding)

 

4.  Who was the first Jewish candidate on a major-party presidential ticket?

 

Senator Joseph Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew who did not campaign on the Sabbath, was Senator Al Gore’s running mate in 2000.

(Other answer options: Jacob K. Javits and Abraham Ribicoff)

 

5.  What enterprising Washington businessman provided lumber to build the inaugural stands for Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, and Dwight D. Eisenhower?

 

Sidney Hechinger first donated lumber to build the inaugural platform in front of the Capitol in 1933. After the ceremonies, he dismantled the stand and sold pieces cut from the wood as inaugural souvenirs.

(Other answer options: Alexander Hecht and Max Lansburgh)

 

6.  Which congregation is named in an Act signed into law by President Franklin Pierce that entitles Jewish congregations in Washington, D.C. to the same rights and privileges as churches?

 

President Franklin Pierce signed “An Act for the Benefit of the Hebrew Congregation in the city of Washington” on June 2, 1856. Washington Hebrew had petitioned Congress for legislation to ensure its right to own property in the city.

(Other answer options: Adas Israel Congregation and Kesher Israel)

 

7.  Which President sent his Jewish chiropodist (foot doctor) on a secret wartime peace mission?

 

Isachar Zacharie tended the feet of President Abraham Lincoln and several other Cabinet officials during the Civil War. In 1863 Lincoln sent him to Richmond to meet with Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin to propose peace negotiations.  The errand was unsuccessful.

(Other answer options: Theodore Roosevelt and James Monroe)

 

8.  This prominent Jewish Washingtonian formed close relationships with every U.S. president from Abraham Lincoln to Woodrow Wilson, and was appointed Consul General to Egypt. 

 

Simon Wolf's 1918 autobiography was aptly named Presidents I Have Known. For Wolf's 70th birthday, his daughter, Florence Gotthold, compiled three books filled with over 400 personal messages from leaders of the day -- including several presidents, politicians, authors, and supreme court justices!

(Other answer options: Alfred Mordechai and Bendiza Behrend)

Major Building Updates! 0 Comment(s)

Introducing the New Museum Exterior Concept!

SmithGroup JJR

We're thrilled to publicly debut the conceptual rendering for the exterior of the new museum by our architects SmithGroup JJR.

The facility will feature an airy lobby, multipurpose room, three exhibition galleries, office suite, and program spaces.

We look forward to sharing more with you! 

Major Progress on Capitol Crossing

In mid-June, Capitol Crossing, the $1.3-billion mixed-used project adjacent to the Lillian & Albert Small Museum, finished the highway deck on which the first of five planned buildings will be erected.

To celebrate this work, developer Property Group Partners released this time-lapse video of this phase of construction. Directly center and toward the back of the frame sits our historic synagogue, witness to the project.

In the coming months, the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum will become more than just a witness, but rather a participant in the project. It will be picked up and moved to a temporary location for a few years until its new site at Third & F Streets, NW, is ready. We anticipate the first move will occur by the end of the year.

Preparing For The Synagogue Move

The chandelier coming down in the sanctuary

The first big step in the move of the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum -- emptying the building -- is complete.

For seven days, a team specializing in relocating museum collections took great care packing the following into a truck:

  • 567 artifacts
  • 500 linear feet of archival documents, photographs, and scrapbooks
  • 153 oversized documents and photos in flat-file cases
  • 45 textiles
  • 6 original pews from Adas Israel, Ohev Sholom, Washington Hebrew, and Ohr Kodesh

As well as furnishings including:

  • 20 metal shelving units
  • 28 light fixtures
  • 6 reproduction pews
  • 2 custom-made museum-quality cabinets
  • 2 bimah chairs

All of these items are now stored by a museum-services company in a controlled-access vault in a secure facility with fire protection and 24/7 climate control. Our staff will be able to access and work with the collections at any time.

Taking down the plaques

Benches with blue blankets on them inside a cargo truck

Pews covered in protective blankets in the truck

*See More Photos*   Album 1 | Album 2

Learning About and Sharing D.C.‘s Jewish History 0 Comment(s)

Training to lead the walking tour of Arlington National Cemetery

In the spring of 2015, I started to volunteer with the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington (JHSGW) to learn more about DC’s Jewish history and to receive hands-on experience in a Jewish historical institution that provides museum education. I helped with educational programs that included curriculum-based education in the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum for students, as well as walking tours and educational programming for the public at large.

Now, in the spring of 2016, I’m nearing the official end of my internship with JHSGW. During my 20-hour-per-week internship, from January 2016 through May 31, 2016, my responsibilities in educational and public programming have expanded and I have received substantive work experiences in other facets of JHSGW's work. All of these experiences have prepared me for a future career in the history and museum world, and the internship combined well with my program in Experiential Education and Jewish Cultural Arts (EE/JCA) at The George Washington University.

One important facet of an educational walking tour is to connect participants with the environment and topography that is under study. My internship allowed me to utilize what I was learning in the EE/JCA program, receive guidance and mentorship from the JHSGW staff, and enhance my role as a public-facing educator. Some settings where I facilitated learning experiences for participants included the downtown walking tour in 7th Street, NW, area of Washington, DC, as well as tours of H Street, NE, and Arlington National Cemetery. The mentorship and classwork allowed me to deliver the best walking tour possible, as well as learn how to situate Jewish history in the broader context of DC history and related historical events.

In addition to presenting history, my internship also allowed me to help preserve history. One snowy January afternoon, I traveled to Arlington, Virginia, to meet Dr. Sholom Friedman and his daughter, Karen. While sitting in Dr. Friedman’s Public Shoe Store, which has recently closed, his answers to my questions covered his family’s arrival in the United States from Tsarist Russia, the beginning of Etz Hayim Congregation, and how consumer trends in the latter half of the 20th century affected what was bought and sold at Public Shoe Store. This oral history is now saved in the JHSGW collection.

I also added Washington Jewish Week articles about DC’s Jewish community to the archivists’ reference files, and I like to think of these articles and the oral history I conducted like the stops on the walking tours -- many sites on the walking tours were forgotten by the community for a long time. Today, however, hundreds of Hebrew school students, as well as visitors from all over the world of all different faiths and affiliations, come to JHSGW to learn and to retrace the steps of D.C.’s Jewish history.

And like the walking tour locations, perhaps one day, the articles or Dr. Friedman’s oral history will be used in an exhibit in JHSGW’s upcoming museum or used as part of a mosaic of sources in a groundbreaking study of the Washington, DC, area. Only time will tell how these sources will be used, but one thing has been clear from the first day that I volunteered -- JHSGW is an integral part of a network of academic, cultural and historical institutions in Washington, DC, that provide sophisticated programming that allows our community to be more historically and culturally literate. I’m proud to have been a part of it.

As an added bonus, JHSGW underwrote a pizza party for my last day!

Michael A. Morris is a Master’s student in Experiential Education and Jewish Cultural Arts at The George Washington University.

On the Road: Moving the Archives 0 Comment(s)

You've probably heard the historic synagogue is moving again -- but did you know the Society's archival collections need to move first? The collections will remain off-site for several years while the synagogue is relocated to its new home and we build our new museum facility.

How do you move an archive?

For the last several months, staff and volunteers have been conducting inventories, updating catalog records, preparing detailed condition reports and photographs of all the objects, and re-housing and packing collections in acid-free storage boxes.

What is moving?

More than 500 linear feet of archival documents, 500 historic artifacts, 5,000 photographs, 75 scrapbooks, and historic furnishings including stained glass windows, synagogue pews, light fixtures, and even the chandelier in the sanctuary will be moved out of the synagogue.

How will the collections be moved?

The collections will be packed by experienced art handlers and transported in a climate-controlled, air-ride truck.

Acid-free document boxes house the archival collections. The boxes will be placed in commercial bins lined with special archival foam for extra cushioning during transit, and then set on shelving in the storage facility.

Large items including historic pews and stained glass windows will be soft-packed using a combination of virgin polyethylene, cardboard, bubble wrap, and blankets.

Where will the collections be housed?

Collections Committee touring the off-site storage facility

A museum-services company will store the collections in their facility with museum-level security, fire protection, and 24/7 climate control. The collections will be kept in a controlled-access storage vault where our staff will be able to access and work with the collections at any time.

After visiting the facility earlier this year, Merrill Lavine, a museum registrar and Collections Committee member, reported, "I've worked with collections at several local fine arts companies and none of them are close to what this company offers in terms of professionalism, service, attention to detail, and personal pride in their business."

Will the archives be accessible to researchers?

The archives will be closed beginning May 10, 2016. Limited research service via telephone and email may be available in the next several months while we complete the move. We plan to re-open to researchers in September 2016, but anticipate that research requests will require several days advance notice to allow for retrieval of materials. Please check our website for updates.

Close-up of iron gate outside the historic synagogue

What will happen to the fence, our only outdoor collection item, that surrounds the synagogue?

Designed and built by Gichner Ironworks in 1975, the beautiful iron fence will be removed, restored, and a portion re-installed at the synagogue's eventual new site at 3rd and F Streets.

We're very excited to set this move in motion and progress along towards building our new museum!

Making a Museum - Issue 4 0 Comment(s)

Have you heard? We're building a new museum!
The 1876 synagogue is moving a block south to Third & F Streets, NW, where the Society will build an adjacent, state-of-the-art Jewish museum.
The new complex will anchor a $1.3-billion mixed-used project called Capitol Crossing — a five-building office, retail, and residential complex developed by Property Group Partners — which will extend onto a newly-built platform over Interstate 395.

On Site

The synagogue’s streetscape has been permanently altered – the trees on the adjacent sidewalk were removed in August. Around the construction zone, utilities continue to be relocated, including the installation of the new water main along Third Street. Down on I-395, crews have been installing deep foundation columns and walls and excavating the Second Street retaining wall.

For more information, visit www.3rdsttunnel.com.

A New Jewish Museum

Excerpt from SmithGroup JJR presentation to the JHSGW Board of Directors.

In late October, the Board of Directors selected SmithGroup JJR as architects for the new museum.

The selection process began with sending a Request for Qualifications to approximately 20 firms with experience in additions to historic buildings, museum design, and complex projects in Washington, D.C. After receiving packages from 12 firms, the Museum Steering Committee invited five firms for interviews. Three of the five were asked to submit fee proposals and participate in a design exercise and additional interview. The Steering Committee then visited local projects designed by the two finalists.

This decision to engage SmithGroup JJR took into account the firm’s extensive museum experience, attention to value engineering, and pricing.

Catching Up With… Lief Dormsjo, Director, District Department of Transportation

Nominated by Mayor Muriel Bowser soon after she took office, Leif Dormsjo was confirmed as director of the District of Columbia Department of Transportation in March. Making a Museum spoke with Dormsjo, who was previously deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation, about the Third Street Tunnel Project, the first phase of Capitol Crossing.

MaM: When you came to DDOT, how much did you know about Capitol Crossing?

Dormsjo: I knew about the project mainly from the concerns raised about some of the traffic impacts. Shortly before Mayor Bowser came into office, there was a story about the idea that 395 would be closed permanently during the construction period. And that generated a lot of severe reaction from the Congressional delegations. I know Senator [Mark] Warner and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton intervened pretty rapidly to try to halt any plans associated with that.

MaM: What’s happening now and what is DDOT’s involvement?

Dormsjo: As you can see from the site right now, they’re working on those caissons. So you’ve got a lot of heavy equipment, you’ve got a lot of personnel out on the job site. We’ve got to keep them safe… And then we’re also looking very closely at the travel experience: whether or not we have clear signage and we’ve got clear markings on the road, or the Jersey barriers have been set up appropriately. So far we haven’t had any issues on the safety front. It is slower travel through there, without a doubt—that kind of is the price of progress—but it’s safe travel.

MaM: Is this the biggest transportation-related project in the District right now?

Dormsjo: This is the Big Kahuna in terms of real-estate development in the city. It’s three whole city blocks. So the development program is really exciting and will generate a lot of activity in this area. The infrastructure piece is $200 million. That’s a big-ticket project, but—as far as our transportation program—the South Capitol Bridge project is north of $500 million. Now, the construction here is being done by the private company. It’s not a government project. There’s no government money in the project, which is pretty phenomenal… And it’s great that they’re actually going to be making some improvements that the public will benefit from on the transportation side. They’re going to replace all the ventilation systems, give us a brand new tunnel ventilation system.

MaM: So that part of the highway will not only be decked over, but upgraded.

Dormsjo: We’re going to be the beneficiary of new equipment, new systems, and hopefully a ventilation system that’s durable for the long haul. The highway system helps us support commerce and commuting. You’ve got to have a roadway system that works not just for the District residents, but also our visitors and employees coming from Virginia, Maryland, and elsewhere. So this is a great example of us reinvesting in the Eisenhower Highway System, but at the same time not being held back by those original transportation-planning decisions. We’re able to kind of remake history a bit here and retrofit a highway that’s served its purpose, and will continue to serve its purpose. But the 1950s and ’60s style of transportation planning—neighborhood connectivity, urban planning principles, walkable green neighborhoods was not in their vocabulary.

MaM: How does transit-oriented thinking fit into the project?

Dormsjo: When you look at a project you normally want to see what percentage of your trips are going to be auto category vs. transit vs. pedestrian… They’re got a very healthy percentage that’s in that transit-pedestrian-and-bike category. Development that’s emphasizing those categories of travel are the ones that we really want to support. Certainly there’s good bus service running through there—not just the Metro, but we have our Circulator bus that comes through there as well.

Collection Connections

From left to right, then-JHSGW President Henry Brylawski, Rep. Fred Schwengel—also president of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, and Rabbi Stanley Rabinowitz look at the model at a fundraising event, 1969

Bernard Glassman, who was featured in a previous issue of Making a Museum, contributed this scale model of the historic synagogue to use in meetings between the Jewish Historical Society and government agencies during the efforts to preserve the building in the late 1960s. The model is now on display in the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum.

Did You Know?

Page from HABS architectural drawings. 

Library of Congress.

Due to its significance as the first synagogue erected in Washington, DC, the 1876 building is included in the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS).

HABS, the National Park Service’s effort to document the country’s architecture, is the federal government’s oldest historic preservation program. HABS’s records are housed at the Library of Congress and the synagogue’s documentation, which includes photographs, a detailed description of the building and its history, and architectural drawings, can be accessed online.

The material was prepared in 1969 before the synagogue was moved and was updated later to indicate the new location. The architectural drawings depict the synagogue’s interior and exterior prior to the restoration work, which was completed five years after the move. Four of five accompanying photographs show the building at Sixth & G Street, NW. The fifth depicts the building moving down G Street, NW.