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Presidents and the Jews: Fun Facts for the Inauguration 0 Comment(s)

Here are the answers to the quiz we published last week. There were 146 quiz takers and 20 got all the answers correct! Based on the responses, questions 3, 4, and 7 were easiest, while questions 1 and 5 were trickiest. We hope you learn something about the presidents' relationship and experiences with D.C.'s Jewish community.

1.  Who was the first president to attend synagogue services in the United States?

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.
(Other answer options: George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt.)

2.  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)

3.  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)

4.  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)

5.  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)

6.  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)

7.  Which native Washingtonian received hate mail when President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him head of the Internal Revenue Service?

President Johnson appointed Sheldon S. Cohen General Counsel of the IRS in 1963 and later Commissioner of the IRS, a post he held through the end of Johnson’s term in early 1969.
(Other answer options: Simon Wolf and Gilbert Hahn)

Synagogue Story Focus @ White House 0 Comment(s)

Who could imagine that a long ago research inquiry would culminate with the President speaking at the White House about how President Ulysses S. Grant became the first sitting president to attend a synagogue service when he attended the dedication of Adas Israel's first synagogue--now the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum?

In 1994, I contacted Dr. John Y. Simon, the editor of the Grant papers, to ask if there were any documents among those papers that related to Grant's visit to the synagogue. That's how I first learned that among Grant's papers housed at the Library of Congress was an original receipt for the $10 donation the president made to the synagogue's building fund in June 1876.

Since then we have used a facsimile copy of this marvelous document in our exhibits and educational programs. When we learned that the Library of Congress was mounting a comprehensive exhibit about American Jewish life in 2004, we alerted the curators to the existence of the receipt in their collection. It was included in their exhibit, From Haven to Home, next to Grant's Civil War expulsion order, the infamous Orders No. 11.

Earlier this year, I met the new national coordinator for Jewish American Heritage Month, Jennifer Mooney. I suggested to Jennifer that perhaps an appropriate theme this year would be Grant's issuance of Orders No. 11 and President Abraham Lincoln's revocation of that order. This is after all the 150th anniversary year of General Orders No. 11 issued December 17, 1862.

Me with Gary P. Zola, Director of the American Jewish Archives, and the Library of Congress documents relating to General Orders No. 11!

Our staff, board members, and supporters should be gratified to know that yesterday the story of Orders No. 11 was front and center at the White House's annual reception celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month. Upon entering the White House, the Library of Congress' Hebraic Section Chief and past president of JHSGW, Peggy Pearlstein, stood watch over a case of precious documents from the LOC--a letter of complaint from a Missouri B'nai B'rith chapter, the back of the envelope from that letter on which Abraham Lincoln wrote his revocation instructions, and the receipt from the Adas Israel Congregation thanking President Grant for his donation to the building fund of its new synagogue!!

Upstairs in the East Room as members of Congress and dignitaries gathered, President Obama spoke about this little known chapter in American history--giving it context by explaining each of the documents and calling on us to remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in our country.

This is such a wonderful validation of our work at the Society and Museum. We work to uncover, tell, and educate lesser known chapters in American Jewish history for our visitors and the general public. We should be proud that our message is receiving national attention and our role on the national stage is bringing these stories to the fore.

And we should be most proud of our ongoing work to protect and preserve our special historic synagogue--the one that President Grant attended--which has this powerful story to tell.

Here's the president's speech:


White House Liaison Visits! 0 Comment(s)

This morning we welcomed Jarrod Bernstein, Director of Jewish Outreach in the White House's Office of Public Engagement, to the Museum.

Archivist Wendy Turman (wearing the white gloves) gave Jarrod a taste of the archives focusing on some of our items related to the presidency (including a panoramic photo of President Coolidge dedicating the Washington DCJCC in 1925).

We are proud that our building has presidential connections. When President Ulysses S. Grant attended the synagogue's dedication service in 1876, he became the first sitting U.S. president to attend a synagogue service.
 
We are now "connected" and exploring ways to work together.

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.

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

Archives Record
Object #: 2011.15.1
Donor: Robert Rosenfeld
Description: Pair of First Lady “Lady Bird” Johnson’s brown leather gloves, c. 1967
 
Background: In 1967, Mrs. Johnson’s secretary sent these gloves to Parkway Cleaners, owned by Robert Rosenfeld, in Chevy Chase, Maryland, for cleaning. Although it proved impossible to clean these gloves without compromising their decorative condition, Parkway Cleaners enjoyed the continued patronage of the Johnsons as well as numerous other White House and Congressional clients.
 

The Rosenfeld family’s roots as Washington, D.C. cleaners reached back two generations earlier, to a business started in 1906 at 14th Street and New York Avenue, NW. Established by Bob Rosenfeld’s father, Moses C. Rosenfeld, in 1926, Parkway Cleaners and Dyers moved from Washington to Chevy Chase in 1930. By the 1960s, Parkway Cleaners boasted numerous federal officials and other prominent Washingtonians as clients, including President Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, Muriel Humphrey (wife of Hubert Humphrey, seen here in center with an unidentified woman and Mr. Rosenfeld), and Ann Buchwald (wife of Art Buchwald). Recognized for excellent service by the National Institute of Dry Cleaners, Parkway Cleaners was also asked to clean and reinstall draperies in both the Capitol and Blair House. Although ownership passed from the Rosenfeld family in 1980, Parkway Cleaners (seen below about a year earlier) still operates today at the same Connecticut Avenue location it has occupied since 1930.
 

Earlier this year, Robert Rosenfeld donated a collection of materials documenting the business. Notable items in the Parkway Cleaners Collection include a fabric sample taken from the drapery at Blair House with a request for cleaning, a receipt for the cleaning or installation of drapes in “Mrs. Kennedy’s Bath Room” at the White House, numerous photographs of Robert Rosenfeld with his high profile clientele, personal notes from President and Mrs. Johnson, and other correspondence from well-known customers.
 
With its service to government agencies and prominent federal officials, Parkway Cleaners followed a long tradition of local Jewish-owned businesses providing service for clients of national importance. In addition to the Parkway Cleaners Collection, the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington holds other material demonstrating this relationship, including a shoemaker’s bench and leather punch once belonging to “shoemaker to the presidents” Nathan Ring (ca. 1920) and a cake box designed by party planner Fae Brodie for the 1966 wedding of Luci Baines Johnson at the White House.
 
Do you have material documenting a relationship between the federal government and local Jewish-owned businesses that you’d like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society’s collection? Please contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.