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Object of the Month: November 2011 0 Comment(s)

Object #: 2001.16.6
Donor: Brenda Pascal
Description: Photograph of Fred Kolker holding knife over turkey’s neck, 1948.  Paper label reads "President Truman's Turkey/French World's Champion Bicycle Riders/Washington, D.C.”

Background: Established in 1930 by Fred Kolker, Kolker Poultry became one of the largest wholesale poultry distributors in the region. In fact, during World War II, Kolker sold all his poultry to the U.S. Army.  As Kolker said in an oral history, “My chicken went to our soldiers who were located all over the world… My name, Kolker Poultry Co., was stenciled on each box and the boys from Washington, D.C., wrote me letters, thanking me for the good poultry they received.”

Fred Kolker (wearing hat) and Mayor Marion Barry (right) at the renaming of the market, 1984

The business was located in the Florida Avenue Market, now called the Capital City Market (just east of the intersection of Florida & New York Avenues, NE). At 81 years old, Fred Kolker was called “the self-styled dean of the market” in The Washington Post.  He retired four years later, but remained chairman and president of the company.

The context of the photograph featured here is unknown: Who were these champion cyclists? What was their business with Kolker? What did they have to do with Truman’s turkey? Nonetheless, it is timely for the season.

Do you have material documenting a local Jewish-owned business that you’d like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society’s collection? Please contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

In the news: Jewish Chaplains Memorial 0 Comment(s)

Last week I had the honor of going out to Arlington National Cemetery to show Congressman Bob Turner, members of his staff, and a Voice of America crew the new Jewish Chaplains Memorial.

Congressman Turner -- recently elected from a New York district that is one-third Jewish -- had contacted our friends at the Jewish Federations of North America about showing him the monument. When the staff members at JFNA had scheduling conflicts, they called on us.

It was touching to explain the story of the effort to create the monument, both to the Congressman and the VOA crew. The picture here shows Milo, the VOA cameraman, and Congressman Turner in front of the memorial. Thanks to JFNA for letting me be a part of this visit.

Check out the VOA story, including a quote from me, here.

Jewish History on the Air 0 Comment(s)

Had a great chance the other day to share some of our community's Civil War stories with a wider audience. Kojo Nnamdi on WAMU - 88.5 FM - interviewed me about stories of Civil War soldiers (such as Leopold Karpeles, shown here), General Grant's Order No. 11, and the Jewish community in Washington during the war years. My first time on live radio and really fun to share some of these little known stories. You still listen or read the transcript on WAMU's website.

Remembering Harry Kramer 0 Comment(s)

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.

Honoring Jewish Chaplains 0 Comment(s)

For years Chaplains Hill at Arlington National Cemetery has held monuments to Protestant and Catholic military chaplains killed in the line of duty--but none for their Jewish counterparts. Last week, we were honored to be a part of rectifying that.

On Thursday, Ken Kraetzer (left), Admiral Harold Robinson (center), and Shelley Rood of the Jewish Federations of North America (right)--who have been spearheading the effort -- stopped by our office on their way to a meeting with the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which approves all monuments in the nation's capital and Arlington National Cemetery. They impressed us with their practice presentation, and apparently impressed the CFA with the real thing, as well--the design for the monument was approved, with only minor tweaks!

All of the funds needed for the creation of the Jewish Chaplains Monument at Arlington have been raised. Since last fall, we've been creating an accompanying booklet about Jews buried at Arlington (in cooperation with the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington). We've raised $2,000 of the $10,000 needed for that project; click here to donate (indicate that your donation is for Arlington Cemetery).

We'll look forward to the monument's dedication -- now a step closer to happening.