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

Object #: 2006.2.23
Donor: Mitchell Slavitt
Description: Pair of shoulder marks worn by Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, c. 1945

Background: Shortly after World War II, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz sent his five-star shoulder boards, discolored from Pacific sea water, with an accompanying note (see below), to D.C. business owner Harry Slavitt.

Slavitt had opened a liquor store in 1932 at 509 Seventh Street, SW, close to the Army War College at the Washington Barracks (the post was later renamed Fort McNair). During the war years, customers patronized his store from the College, Pentagon and other local military institutions. The interior of the store was decorated with military memorabilia and the vast majority of liquor was sold under Slavitt’s private label, “GHQ” (General Headquarters). Slavitt's sons Mitchell and Robert remember making deliveries to the White House mess, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretary of Defense mess.

Slavitt commissioned Gib Crockett, cartoonist for The Washington Post, to draw caricatures of many of his military customers. With these drawings, he created individualized labels for liquor bottles (such as the one seen here sent to General George Patton) and sent the bottles to these customers across the world. In appreciation, Slavitt received personal letters and autographed photographs. Over time, Slavitt amassed an impressive collection of letters, photographs, and other items such as these shoulder boards. Military customers brought friends and family to view the gallery room in the back of the store where much of this material was displayed. Among those customers represented in Slavitt’s collection are eight of the nine 5-star officers in U.S. military history: Henry “Hap” Arnold, Omar Bradley, Dwight Eisenhower, William Leahy, Ernest King, George Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, and Chester Nimitz. Additionally, photographs of Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson were sent by their military attachés.

Slavitt himself volunteered for the Navy in 1943 and served in the Supply Corps. His wife, Helen, ran the store while he was away. In the early 1960s , the store moved to Fourth & M Streets, SW, and Slavitt sold the business a few years later. The liquor store, still named Harry’s, remained at Fourth & M under its new owners for about 10 years before relocating to the Waterside Mall one block away. The business was sold once more before closing around 2004.

In 2006, Harry’s sons donated Nimitz’s shoulder boards as well as two albums containing a selection of Harry’s letters, photographs, and drafts of the custom cartoon bottle labels to the Jewish Historical Society.

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.

November’s Object of the Month 0 Comment(s)

JHSGW 50th anniversary logoTo honor our 50th anniversary, we invite you to peek into our archives each month. This month, we commemorate Veterans' Day.

From the Archives...
Four Immortal Chaplains postage stamps

Archives Record
Object #: 1995.06.2
Donor: Teresa Goode Kaplan
Description: Sheet of postage stamps depicting the sinking S.S. Dorchester and portraits of the Four Immortal Chaplains, 1948.

Background: In 1948, Chaplain Alexander Goode (pictured far right on the stamp) and three Christian chaplains were memorialized on this three-cent stamp for their heroism during World War II.

Alexander Goode grew up in Washington, D.C. He graduated from Eastern High School, and served Washington Hebrew Congregation during the summers while studying for his ordination at Hebrew Union College.

At age 32, Rabbi Goode enlisted as a military chaplain. He was assigned to the Dorchester, an overcrowded ship carrying more than 900 soldiers and civilian workers to the European front. In February 1943, just miles off the Greenland coast, a German U-boat torpedoed the ship. In the ensuing pandemonium, Chaplain Goode and three Christian chaplains calmly directed their fellow soldiers to lifeboats. Chaplain Goode and the other chaplains gave away their life jackets and joined arms at the ship’s railing—praying and singing hymns to men on lifeboats and in the water. The ship sank 27 minutes later, taking the chaplains with it.

The Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart were awarded posthumously to the chaplains’ next of kin, and a one-time only posthumous Special Medal for Heroism was authorized by Congress and awarded by the President Eisenhower on January 18, 1961.

Chaplain Goode is one of thirteen Jewish chaplains who has perished while in service. At Arlington National Cemetery, there are memorials for Protestant chaplains, Catholic chaplains, and World War I chaplains. Earlier this year, the Association of Jewish Chaplains began a campaign to honor Jewish chaplains with a new memorial. The memorial is slated to be unveiled in Spring 2011.

To complement the new memorial, the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington is partnering with the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington to create a brochure of Jewish sites in the Arlington National Cemetery. Points of interest will include the new chaplains’ memorial, the graves of statesman and military leaders, and the space shuttle memorials.

Do you have wartime material that you’d like to donate to the archival collection? Call (202) 789-0900 or email info@jhsgw.org.

If you'd like to help make the publication of the new Jewish Sites in Arlington National Cemetery brochure possible, Click here to donate now (put “Arlington brochure” in the Designation field) or send a check to JHSGW, P.O. Box 791104, Baltimore, MD 21279 (indicate Arlington brochure in the memo line).

October’s Object of the Month 0 Comment(s)

JHSGW 50th anniversary logoTo honor our 50th anniversary, we invite you to peek into our archives each month.

From the Archives...
Jewish Lions Club banner


Archives Record
Object #: 2010.21.1
Donor: Jewish Lions Club
Description: Banner, 33 ¼" x 53 ½"

Background: The Jewish Lions Club formed in 1937 as a social club for local teenage boys. Members were 16 to 18 years old and met on Sundays at the Jewish Community Center. The 1941 Certificate of Incorporation describes the business of the club as “social, athletic, and for the promotion of friendship.” During World War II, as each club member left to serve in the armed services, a star with his name was embroidered on this club banner. All 25 club members who served eventually returned home safely.

Learn more about the Jewish Lions Club and how the Jewish Historical Society received the banner here!

Do you have Jewish teen life material that you’d like to donate to the archival collection? Contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789 0900.

Raising funds for Arlington cemetery monument to Jewish chaplains 0 Comment(s)

From article in this week's Washington Jewish Week:

With plans set for a monument honoring Jewish chaplains to be dedicated at Arlington National Cemetery Columbus Day weekend, the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington has initiated a campaign to help raise funds for that memorial and to create a new glossy brochure of Jewish sites in the cemetery.

Read the rest of the article!

Contribute to the campaign (be sure to put "Arlington Campaign" in the Designation box)!