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Object of the Month: October 2015 0 Comment(s)

Object No.: 2015.16.1
Donor: Pati Jinich
Description: Three-legged, hammered pewter salsa bowl made in Taxco, Mexico, 1950s

Pati Jinich, host of the PBS cooking show, Pati’s Mexican Table, donated her grandmother’s pewter salsa bowl to our collection this summer. Although salsa is far from a traditional Jewish food, its mixture of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and spices is appropriate for the blend of cultures that characterize so many members of the Washington area’s Jewish community.

Pati Jinich with JHSGW Executive Director Laura Cohen Apelbaum following an oral history interview.

Jinich’s grandparents purchased a pair of these bowls in the Mexican town of Taxco, a center of Mexican silversmithing (Jinich still owns the second bowl). The hammered pewter bowl is covered with Mexican folk-art designs and images such as Quetzacoatl, the Aztec god. “They really admired the Mexican arts; this bowl shows the bridge of what it meant to be European silversmiths in Mexico,” Jinich commented during an oral history interview with JHSGW Executive Director Laura Apelbaum.

Jinich (pronounced HEE-nich) is the granddaughter of Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe, was born and raised in Mexico, and came to Washington 15 years ago after a stint in Dallas. She now lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland. 

“Food has always been a gigantic part of our family,” Jinich said. “My zeide had what was like a bed and breakfast in their tiny shtetl. All they ever had to eat were potatoes and herring. They were very creative with those foods.”

Jinich’s paternal grandfather left Poland as a teenager during the early 1920s and, with the United States having severely restricted immigration, he made his way to Mexico City where he started a textile business. Her paternal grandmother arrived as a young girl a few years later with her extended family.

“They didn’t have much money, but what they had they spent on a Shabbat feast on Friday nights,” Jinich said. “They made Ashkenazi food with Mexican flavors, which quite honestly improves it. Normally, Ashkenazi foods are mild. She would make gefilte fish [red snapper instead of the European pike] in a tomato sauce, which is delicious.”

Her maternal grandfather, who established a silver business in Mexico, came from Bratislava (now in Slovakia) during World War II. Her grandmother, a seamstress, left her home near Vienna  for New York before moving to Mexico. The two had originally met in Europe and then reconnected in Mexico. Most of their families died during the Holocaust.

“My parents’ families were so different,” Jinich said. “You could tell their personalities by their food.

“My father grew up in a hard-working, lower, middle-class family,” Jinich explained. “They cooked Ashkenazi foods like potato latkes and gribenes [chicken-skin cracklings] along with Mexican foods like corn tortillas and guacamole. She made her own challah and delicious chocolate babka, which is a different sort when you make it with Mexican vanilla, cinnamon, and chocolate. They enriched the food they brought [from Europe] with Mexican ingredients.”

“On my mother’s side, they were very refined,” Jinich continued. “They didn’t come from Eastern European peasants. They came from big cities. They were successful [in Mexico]. My grandmother was a phenomenal cook. She made all of the Austrian cakes, the cookies, the strudels, very elaborate dumplings, and goulash. She just made [a few] Jewish dishes like matzo ball soup. It was clear with small matzo balls with parsley and nutmeg. My bubbe’s matzo ball soup, the broth wasn’t clear. It had noodles and kreplach and gigantic matzo balls. They were both delicious, but very different styles.”

The offspring of those varied backgrounds met on vacation in Acapulco and were soon married. Jinich is the youngest of their four daughters.

“My mom grew up with a tutor for this and a tutor for that,” Jinich said.  “She spoke German and French in addition to Spanish and English. They sent her to finishing school. Then she met my dad and fell in love and [her parents] were like, ‘He doesn’t even know what an artichoke is! He’s never had a glass of wine. He doesn’t know much about classical music.’”

Jinich and her husband Danny, who grew up in Mexico City in a family that was more religiously observant than hers, met on a blind date. Her mother and his father had dated briefly.

After they were married, they agreed they would move to the U.S. for a couple of years. They cut their honeymoon short so that he could start a banking job in Dallas. While they lived in Texas, Jinich wrote her thesis on Mexican democratic institutions and consulted on a Mexican cooking show for the local PBS station while he traveled frequently. When her husband received a job offer in D.C., they visited Washington on Cherry Blossom weekend.

“Washington was so international -- there were so many things to do, the food was phenomenal, and the cherry blossoms were out,” recalled Jinich. “We thought maybe we would be here a year, but instead of moving back to Mexico, we ended up staying.”

Jinich enrolled in a graduate program at Georgetown while she was about to give birth to the second of her three sons. After obtaining her master’s in Latin American Studies, she went to work at a think tank.

“I had taken courses for cooking at home and a lot of friends asked me to teach them Mexican cooking, which I had done in Dallas,” Jinich said. “I loved cooking so much I decided to start write food articles and pitched them to magazines. I wanted to incorporate the politics and culture of my background -- more than just the recipes.”

Prodded by the Mexican Cultural Institute, Jinich secured the funding to underwrite a curriculum in Mexican cooking. Her classes were soon sold out and were written about in The Washington Post and The New York Times, which led to appearances on local television and then to her own PBS show.

“I’m doing what I was meant to be doing,” said Jinich, who has also taught Mexican-Jewish cooking classes at the Lubavitch Center. “I get a lot of emails from people looking for long-gone recipes of food that their grandmothers used to make. I feel like I’m helping build bridges and breaking myths about what Mexicans are and what Mexican food is.”

Object of the Month: August 2015 0 Comment(s)

Accession No.: 2011.22
Donor: Frank H. Rich, Sr.
Description: In 1974, Frank H. Rich (1921–2015) ran for D.C. City Council. His involvement in politics began after the 1968 riots following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

Rich’s Shoes newly-opened store at 10th and F Streets, NW, 1919.

A Washington Institution

Frank Rich’s family had deep roots in Washington. His maternal great grandfather, Abraham Hart, was a volunteer in the Union Army in the Civil War and was on the Board of Education in Washington, D.C. Frank’s paternal ancestors belonged to Washington Hebrew Congregation in the 19th century, and his great-grandfather Bernard Rich, was a founder of Adas Israel Congregation in 1869. That same year, Bernard founded a men's clothing store, B. Rich & Sons, at 7th and O Streets, NW. Bernard’s sons, Max and Louis, later took over the store and decided to specialize in shoes. In 1919, they moved the business into a four-story building at 10th and F Streets, NW.

Max had three sons, Edwin, Herbert, and Melvin, and two daughters, Ernestine and Fanny.[1] Herbert took over the family business and married Rosa Hart Frank, the granddaughter of Abraham Hart. (A scrapbook in JHSGW’s collection chronicles the Hart and Rich families from the 1860s-1960s).

Frank Hart Rich

Herbert and Rosa’s son, Frank, grew up on Buchanan Street, off 16th Street, NW. In 1942, after earning a degree in business administration at Lehigh University, he enlisted in the army and worked in administration for the Army Air Corps (precursor to the Air Force) in Assam, India. He supported flights over “The Hump,” the dangerous air crossing over the Himalayas to resupply U.S. air bases and aid the Chinese war effort against Japan. He distinguished himself and quickly rose to become a major.

Flooring advertisement featuring renovated 10th and F Streets, NW, location, 1950s.

JHSGW Collection.

Frank returned to the U.S. in 1946. In a 2011 interview, he told the Society that he was desperate for a new pair of shoes: “My shoes were in such terrible shape from the monsoons and everything. They were terrible.” But he could not simply pick up a new pair from his family’s business. Because of wartime rationing of materials like rubber and leather, Frank had to first go to Wilmington, Delaware, to get a document from the army allowing him to obtain the shoes.

After his return to Washington, Frank found a job as an assistant buyer at the Hecht Company’s shoe department. Soon thereafter, Frank’s father Herbert invited him to work for Rich’s Shoes. Frank agreed.

Frank set to work expanding the business to serve postwar Washington’s growing population in the 1940s and 1950s. He renovated Rich’s Shoes’ iconic 10th and F Street, NW, location. He also focused on cutting-edge trends that appealed to young shoppers and opened a new store at 1516 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, in Georgetown in 1953, followed more than a decade later by the Gaminerie, a boutique modeled after a shop with the same name he had visited in Paris. In 1955, he opened a spacious location in a new shopping center in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The business continued to expand. In 1961, Frank sold the family’s building on 10th and F and moved the business to 1319-21 F Street, NW. Every new location was a hit.

Washington Daily News story on opening of the new store in Georgetown, 1953.

JHSGW Collection.

Civic Activism

Frank translated his business success into a variety of civic activities. As president of the National Shoe Retailers Association, he testified and wrote op-eds for The Washington Post against low-cost and low-quality shoe imports from abroad. He was a board member of several local organizations, including the Washington Performing Arts Society and a founding board member of Temple Sinai.

Perhaps his greatest civic activism came in the aftermath of the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968. Looting caused $50,000 (in 1960s dollars) in damage to Rich’s Shoes downtown location. In his interview with the Society, Frank recalled, “I came downtown and, of course, all of the windows were out. The store was full of tear-gas [canisters]. Everything was upside down.” Within a few days, the business was up and running, but Frank felt the need to help the greater downtown business community. He started Project Progress, an employment organization focused on helping unemployed African-American residents of D.C.

He soon joined the Metropolitan Washington Urban Coalition, a group of business owners and city officials who sought to rebuild D.C.’s decimated downtown. He was the organization’s president from 1969-1971. John W. Hechinger, a former City Council Chairman and owner of a regional chain of hardware stores, said that Frank used his relationship with business leaders across the city “to get to know the leaders of the black community, as well as the frustrations of the rank and file of the black community. His earnestness advanced interracial harmony.”

Frank Rich campaign advertisement, 1974.

JHSGW Collection.

Frank saw home rule as the key to improving the city, particularly for African Americans, which represented the majority of D.C.’s residents. In 1970, he testified before the Senate District Committee in favor of home rule for the nation’s capital. He later noted that the committee was hostile and “generally [was] against what I was there for.” In 1974, Frank ran as an at-large candidate for the D.C. City Council. He ran, he said at the time, because “this is the first city government and, if home rule is to survive, we need responsible people [who can manage].” He narrowly lost the election.

Frank Rich’s dedication to revitalizing D.C. led to his involvement in a range of civic activities. He was an outspoken advocate for redevelopment of F Street, NW (where his store was located), preservation of the Willard Hotel, and expansion of the Metro system – the construction of which paradoxically hurt his business, turning F Street into a perennial construction site that deterred most shoppers.

Rich’s Shoes was the longest-operating family business in D.C. when Frank and his youngest son Ned closed it in 1987. The course toward the 1990s revitalization of downtown Washington came too late to save Rich’s Shoes.

Frank remained a steadfast and outspoken advocate for his hometown, and especially for home rule. In 2012, a D.C. City Council proclamation recognizing Frank’s contributions as a business and civic leader quoted him: “I always tried, wherever I was or whatever I was doing, to give my empathy to people who deserve more out of life than what they are getting – whether voting rights or job opportunities.” When he passed away earlier this year, DC Vote, an organization for which Frank volunteered weekly for more than a decade, described him as “a symbol of what D.C. had contributed to the nation.”

[1] Melvin Rich was a civil engineer who worked on numerous D.C.-area structures, including the British Embassy, the Kennedy-Warren apartments, and the refurbishment of the Washington Monument in 1934.

Object of the Month: July 2015 0 Comment(s)

Object No.: 1998.58.31
Donor: Ida Jervis
Description: In this photograph by Ida Jervis, women supporting the feminist Jewish publication Lilith magazine rally on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol, supporting ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (E.R.A.) to the U.S. Constitution. One holds a sign that, reading right-to-left as if written in Hebrew, mixes symbols to represent Jewish women: the Jewish six-pointed star and symbol of Venus commonly used by many feminist groups.

Background: As the nation’s capital, Washington is the destination for people from all over the country to voice their opinions on critical issues in American life. Rallies and protests with tens-of-thousands of people marching through city streets are part of the fabric of life in this city.

Ida Jervis, 1977. 

JHSGW Collections.

For decades, Washington-area photographer Ida Jervis (1917-2014) captured this quality of Washington-area life. Her focus was the local Jewish community and Jews who came to Washington for specific events and causes. From the 1960s through 1980s, Jervis documented seemingly every aspect of Jewish political and social life in the Washington region: civil rights marches, Soviet Jewry rallies, Israel Independence Day celebrations, Holocaust commemorations, exhibition openings, folk concerts, artists at work, and other political and cultural events.

Jervis photographed civic activism around Jewish causes, as well as Jews who were active for other causes. For her, these were all part of the Jewish community’s participation in American civic and political life. “I was a witness as the American Jewish community found its voice,” Jervis noted in a 1989 interview with The Washington Post.

In 2009, Jervis donated the largest collection of her photos to JHSGW (view a sample!). In 2013, her daughter, Margie Jervis, organized a campaign to better preserve the Society’s Ida Jervis Collection including to purchase a fireproof cabinet to house them. Other collections of Jervis’s work and papers are in the American Jewish Archives and the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art.

Capturing the 1978 E.R.A. March on Washington, D.C.

Women representing Jewish organizations, including the National Council of Jewish Women, E.R.A. March, 1978

Photograph by Ida Jervis, JHSGW Collections.

Of the many demonstrations that Jervis documented was the E.R.A. March on Washington, D.C. in July 1978.1 Among the 325 delegations to the march were several Jewish organizations, including the National Council of Jewish Women and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Some Jewish participants in other delegations self-identified by wearing patches or buttons with Jewish symbols like this woman from Illinois University. 

At that time, it was the largest women’s-rights demonstration in U.S. history. Over 100,000 people representing different ethnic and religious communities from across the country marched down Constitution Avenue to the Capitol Building in support of the amendment.

The E.R.A. mandates legal equality for all sexes: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

Unidentified woman from Illinois University displaying six-pointed Jewish-star patch, E.R.A. March, 1978. 

Photograph by Ida Jervis, JHSGW Collections.

These participants were among the many first- and second- generation American Jewish women who were attracted to the feminist movement of the 1960s-1970s. They wanted to break down socially-accepted gender norms that hampered women’s equality in American life. They saw one of many solutions to this state of affairs in the creation of federal laws and a constitutional amendment such as the E.R.A., which sought to enshrine equal rights for women in the Constitution.

Cover of premier issue of Lilith Magazine, 1976. 

www.lilith.org

Emblematic of this group were Susan Weidman Schneider and Aviva Cantor. In 1976, they founded the Jewish feminist journal, Lilith Magazine. Both Schneider and Cantor gravitated toward feminism after childhood involvement in Jewish life. Schneider had been active in her synagogue, Jewish youth groups, Zionist causes, and Yiddish culture in her hometown of Winnipeg, Canada. She attended Brandeis University where she had her “political awakening” about the need to fight for women’s inequality. Cantor, a Bronx, NY, native, grew up attending the orthodox Ramaz Jewish day school. After studying at the Columbia University School of Journalism, she became an active promoter of progressive Jewish causes.

Schneider, Cantor, and their compatriots at the E.R.A. March on Washington were among the millions who help make Washington the stage for national issues. The E.R.A. continues to be one of those issues. Since its introduction in 1923, a succession of representatives has reintroduced the amendment to Congress. Most recently, in 2013, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) reintroduced the E.R.A. in the Senate, and Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) sponsored the amendment in the House of Representatives. In spite of overwhelming positive public opinion for the amendment, the E.R.A. has never been ratified by a sufficient number of state legislatures.

Do you have a story about protesting Jewishly in Washington? Tell us about your Washington advocacy story at info@jhsgw.org.

1. National Woman’s Party’s founder, Alice Paul, wrote the E.R.A. in 1923. That year, the amendment was introduced to Congress, but did not pass. It was re-introduced several times subsequently, and passed by Congress in 1972. Congress gave a seven-year deadline for three-fourths of state legislatures to ratify the amendment – required for amending the Constitution. Demonstrators at the 1978 march called on Congress to extend the 1979 deadline. Congress subsequently extended the deadline to 1982, but no additional states voted for ratification.

Object of the Month: June 2015 0 Comment(s)

Object No.: 2014.32.1
Donor: Sarah Cohen
Description: Artwork film for Tabard Farm Yukon Gold Potato Chips bag featuring the Tabard Inn as a farmhouse, 2014.

Connoisseurs of potato chips are likely familiar with Route 11 potato chips. Route 11 was founded in 1992, and is based in Mount Jackson, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley. Yet the company has its roots in downtown D.C., and the Tabard Inn — the venerable Dupont Circle brunch spot that was among the area’s first farm-to-table restaurants.

In the late 1970s, Edward and Fritzi Cohen, the inn’s owners, started Tabard Farm Potato Chips as a side business. They sold tubs of organic chips to boutique and high-end shops like Williams-Sonoma. In the early 1980s, Tabard Farm began offering seasonal Yukon Gold potato chips. Their expertise went international in 1989 when Tabard Farm began supplying machinery and training to agricultural cooperatives in the Soviet Union.

In 1992, the Cohen’s daughter Sarah spun off the chip-making business and founded Route 11 Potato Chips. Route 11 offers a glimpse (and a taste) of this origin story with their Tabard Farm Yukon Gold Potato Chips. The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington (JHSGW) interviewed Sarah Cohen, Route 11’s proprietor, about her family history and what makes Yukon Gold potatoes so special.

The Tabard Inn, 1739 N Street, NW, south of Dupont Circle.

Wikimedia Commons.

JHSGW: Tabard Farm Yukon Gold chips have their origins with the Tabard Inn, before the founding of Route 11. What’s the story?

Cohen: The prequel to Route 11 starts at the Tabard Inn. Edward and with his wife Fritzi [Cohen], my parents, bought the Tabard Inn in 1975. The purchased the hotel in part to save it from being demolished to make way for a high-rise office building. The restaurant opened a few years later, and Nora Poullion was the first Tabard Chef. She and my father shared the same interest in where food comes from, and how it’s grown. My dad was also an avid gardener, who spent much of his free time in the dirt.

Soon after the Tabard Inn’s kitchen started serving meals, my dad found a piece of property near Front Royal, Virginia, and also found a genius, bio-dynamic farmer named Susan [Peterson] to run the farm, which grew food for the Inn. This was the beginning of Tabard Farm. Tabard Farm grew vegetables for the Tabard Inn and also delivered to about 20 restaurants in D.C.

One day, a neighboring organic farmer told my dad a story about how he’d planted all these potatoes for two brothers, and that the brothers just got arrested for dealing cocaine and put in prison. He had just planted all these potatoes and didn’t know what he was going to do. My dad got a big smile and a sparkle in his eye, and knew that he wanted to do. MAKE POTATO CHIPS!

My dad was also potato-obsessed in general, and [a few years later] when the Yukon Gold potato began to appear in seed catalogs, he thought it would be great to try those as chips. And, they were INCREDIBLE!!

The Tabard Inn depicted as a farmhouse on a bag of Tabard Farm Yukon Gold potato chips.

JHSGW: The image on the bag presents the iconic Inn near Dupont Circle as a farm house. Where did the idea for that image come from, and who created it?

Cohen: The image on the bag of the Tabard in a potato field, was the original artwork for the Yukon Gold bag done [for Tabard Farm Potato Chips] in the early 1980s. It was done by the sister of a sous chef in the Tabard Kitchen.

JHSGW: Many Washington-area Jews have a mom-and-pop grocery or some other shop as part of their family history. I often hear wonderful stories about the fun and warmth of growing up living over, and in many ways, in the store. What was it like growing up with/in the Tabard Inn?

Cohen: My two brothers and I worked at the Tabard as we grew up... me from the age of 12, and then my brothers into adulthood, and up until very recently. My parents never really related to the idea of a mom-and-pop business. They were very political and cerebral, and from the get-go hired great people, who helped grow the Tabard into the icon that it is today.

My parents definitely set the tone for the place. It was never your typical corporate, cookie-cutter hotel. Neither of them ever worked the front lines of the business. But, the Tabard is what it is because of their original vision [to offer organic, farm-to-table food] and the great staff that it attracted over the years. It was an awesome and fun business to grow up in.

JHSGW: These chips are more than just a nod to Route 11’s roots in your parents’ business. How do you characterize your contribution to your family’s culinary and entrepreneurial history? Are there certain values or a spirit that flows through it all?

Sarah Cohen and fellow chipmakers.

Courtesy Sarah Cohen and Route 11.

Cohen: Route 11 very much reflects the values and spirit of my family’s relationship with food and hospitality. My dad loved to grow vegetables, and my mom is a great cook. Tabard has an authenticity that is hard to find these days. I would say the same for Route 11.

There are so many smoke and mirrors in the world of food, and we’re producing this product ourselves, working closely with several growers, forging relationships with our fans, and inviting people to come see how the chips are made. It’s the real deal. The true inspiration for Route 11 was to try and make a really, really good potato chip without cutting the corners on ingredients or methods that happen so often with most snack foods.

Chips coming out of the cooker at Route 11’s factory in the Shenandoah Valley.

Courtesy Sarah Cohen and Route 11.

JHSGW: So, what makes Yukon Gold potatoes so special?

Cohen: The Yukon Golds are a yellow flesh potato with a buttery flavor built in. Who doesn’t love butter? When we’re cooking them, our factory smells like buttered popcorn.

JHSGW: I’m not asking you to give up any secrets, but is there a trick to making the perfect Yukon Gold chip?

Cohen: The Yukon Golds are seasonal, August-October. They can’t be stored year round and still make a GREAT potato chip. They’re best made from fresh-dug Yukons.

JHSGW: What burning question have I missed?

Cohen: Tabard Farm Yukon Gold Potato Chips were the first Yukon Gold Potato Chip ever marketed. That’s pretty cool. I don’t think many people know that.

Object of the Month: April 2015 0 Comment(s)

Accession No.: 2013.40
Donor: Ohev Sholom: The National Synagogue
Description: This symbol was posted prominently in businesses selling kosher food throughout the D.C. area. Below the “KOSHER” in Latin characters is a stylized Hebrew “kosher,” reminiscent of a menorah. If something is kosher, it is ritually fit for consumption by Jews according to Jewish dietary laws called kashrut. The supervision of kashrut is calledhashgacha in Hebrew.

Though packaged kosher food is ubiquitous in supermarkets today, fresh kosher meat and dairy usually fall under the supervision of a local organization composed of rabbis and food-production experts. A system for community-wide certification of kosher food – in particular meat – grew as the Jewish community grew.

For decades in the Washington, D.C. area, the preeminent rabbinical authority overseeing kashrut has been the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington. The Council oversees bakeries, butchers, caterers, hotels, restaurants, and other establishments. In the 1960s, the still-young Rabbinical Council created this symbol to be visible in establishments under its supervision. Yet, the story of kashrut in D.C. started much earlier. The evolution of the Rabbinical Council’s kosher supervision reflects the growth of the area’s Jewish community.

Beginnings

Washington was home to as many as six kosher restaurants during the Civil War, but only a few shochets (ritual slaughterers) attended to Washington’s Jewish community by the turn of the 20th century. Most served a particular congregation. Simon Mundheim, who arrived in Washington with his wife and daughter in 1863, oversaw kosher meat production for Washington Hebrew Congregation and later Adas Israel Congregation. In 1897, Congregation Ohev Sholom, with mostly Russian and Eastern European Jewish immigrants, subsidized its religious school by charging an extra half cent per pound of kosher meat.

In 1901, there were two shochets on Seventh Street, NW, and one in the 4½ Street, SW, neighborhood. Also, in Center Market, where the National Archives stands today, a butcher sold kosher and non-kosher meat from the same table. In 1907, in the midst of an influx of east European Jews, the Agudas Hakehilot (Combined Congregations) was founded to oversee all aspects of Orthodox life in Washington, D.C., including production of kosher meat.

Within a few years, though, the Agudas Hakehilot’s authority came to be contested by the shochets whose work it oversaw. The organization mandated from which companies butchers could buy their meat, which inflated meat prices. The Agudas Hakehilot declared any meat from outside of the area – notably cheaper meat from Baltimore – as “alien meat” and non-kosher. Additionally, insufficient supervision of shochets led to a series of financial and health department scandals in the 1920s and 1930s.

In the face of high prices for their supplies, several kosher butchers in D.C. created the Boser Kosher (Kosher Meat) Association to collectively negotiate prices with the Agudas Hakehilot. In his memoir, Forty Years in Washington, Moshe Alex describes how the possibility of the Boser Kosher shochets turning to religious authorities in Baltimore to oversee kosher meat in D.C. convinced the Agudas Hakehilot to negotiate with the Kosher Boser Association to cap meat prices and expand the number of suppliers.

Kosher supervision poster from Agudas Hakehilot of Washington, D.C., 1962

JHSGW Collections

The Growth of the Rabbinical Council’s Kosher Supervision

Rapid expansion of Washington’s Jewish population from the late 1920s through 1940s led to the establishment of new kosher butcheries, delicatessens, and restaurants throughout the city. One of the better known examples was Hofberg’s, a kosher delicatessen that opened in 1928 on Kennedy Street, NW, and became a popular hangout for Jewish teens.

In the early 1940s, to improve its oversight of the expanding kosher meat production sector, the Agudas Hakehilot began employing kosher butchers directly or subsidized their salaries. Usually these butchers worked in small butcher shops located near Orthodox communities in Northwest D.C. Many of these shops were located on upper Georgia Avenue, NW, as this kosher supervision poster illustrates.

Advertisement for Rabbinical Council indicating the three butchers that it supervised, 1966

JHSGW Collections

The Agudas Hakehilotexpanded its purview as the Washington area’s Jewish population spread to suburban Maryland and northern Virginia in the 1950s and later. In the early-1960s, the organization changed its name to the Rabbinical Council and Combined Congregations of Greater Washington. The Rabbinical Council supervised only a few stores during this period, most of which were in D.C., according to this advertisement from 1966.

As the D.C. area’s Jewish community expanded, so too did the kosher supervision of the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington. Today, it is the largest organization overseeing kashrut in the area.

Notice of Kosher certification revocation for Falkland Meat Market, 1960s

JHSGW Collections

Since the 1960s, observance of kosher dietary laws has expanded in the Washington area. A 2003 demographic survey of the Washington-area Jewish community found that 12% of the area’s Jewish population kept kosher homes, a substantial increase from 20 years earlier. Kosher markets and restaurants developed throughout suburban Maryland and northern Virginia. Most kosher institutions within D.C. closed as Jewish communities grew outside of the city after the 1950s. The handful of kosher ventures that have appeared in D.C. in recent years often have struggled to find a regular clientele.

Like most Jewish communities, a variety of independent kashrutorganizations and Mashgiachs (Kosher overseers) offer kosher supervisory services. For example, in February 2015, a council of local Orthodox pulpit clergy from suburban Maryland and northwest D.C. formed the Beltway Vaad, in part to provide kosher certification to area restaurants. The organization’s website recognizes that the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington “serves as a primary kashrut organization” for the D.C. region.  

Alongside the Rabbinical Council, the Beltway Vaad and similar organizations are part of an evolving story of the Jewish community and Jewish life in the Washington, D.C. region. Whenever you see a kashrut symbol, keep in mind its part in the Jewish community’s much longer history.

 

Further Reading: Learn more about the 1902 kosher meat boycott in New York, which set the stage for Boser Kosher Association.

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This is the kind of story that you will encounter in the Society’s future museum showcasing the Washington region’s Jewish life and heritage.

Do you have a unique story about Washington’s history of kashrut? Tell us about it at info@jhsgw.org.