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Object of the Month: February 2013 0 Comment(s)

Object No.: 2008.3.1
Donor: Fae Brodie
Description: White, satin-covered heart-shaped box, with monograph LPN and the date 8-6-66 embossed in gold on the top

Box Background: In 1966, Fae Brodie, then Fae Lee Rubin – owner of Party-Go-Round, received a telephone call asking if she stocked white, satin, heart-shaped wedding cake boxes. The next day, the caller came to the shop to purchase one and later called in an order for 750 of the boxes. When Mrs. Rubin requested a deposit or purchase order, the caller assured her that the father of the bride, President Lyndon Baines Johnson, would pay the bill promptly.

While work on the gold monogram stamping for the box tops progressed, the White House requested decorative materials for the wedding such as gold metallic cord, narrow gold foil paper, and personalized napkins. Then, one day, the White House housekeeper called to ask if Mrs. Rubin would assist with the wedding plans. How could she say no?

President Johnson escorting daughter Luci from the White House to her wedding, 1966

Mrs. Rubin later wrote, "As I drove onto the White House grounds, my eyes filled with tears. I was overwhelmed by the unique experience I was about to encounter." Her tasks included helping cut 750 pieces of groom's cake, wrapping each piece in gold foil, and placing them into the satin cake boxes, which were then tied with gold cord. By the time the wedding was over, she'd been working at the White House off and on for two weeks. Mrs. Rubin went on to help plan the wedding of Lynda Baines Johnson to Chuck Robb the next year.

Business Background: Mrs. Rubin's Party-Go-Round started as a small part of the Jewish-owned Jacobs Paper Co. at 5609 Georgia Avenue, NW. After realizing that party supplies would sell well with paper supplies and cards, Mrs. Rubin expanded into the party planning business. One day, after ordering invitations for her daughter's Sweet 16 party, a customer asked if Mrs. Rubin could decorate the party room. Despite having no experience, she agreed. Just two weeks after the party, another mother hired her to decorate her daughter's Sweet 16 party.

Business took off -- more invitation catalogs, more paper stock, and more party decorations. With the expansion, Mrs. Rubin relocated to downtown Silver Spring, Maryland. In her busiest year, she had an event every weekend except two. In addition to the White House weddings, Mrs. Rubin helped with the Naval Academy Ring Dance and parties for General Omar and Kitty Bradley.

With the death of her husband in 1978, Mrs. Rubin decided put party planning aside and focus on the shop, which then carried a full offering of party and holiday decorations, New Years Eve kits (hats, horns, etc.), Halloween costumes, and custom-print cards. Eleven years later, she retired and sold the shop. A Takoma Park couple has owned the business since.

Do you have materials you would like to donate to the archives that document a local Jewish-owned business? Please contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

This year, in conjunction with the Jewish Food Experience, our Objects of the Month feature DC's rich Jewish food history. For stories about this history and the latest on the local Jewish food scene – recipes, restaurants, chefs, events, and volunteer opportunities – visit jewishfoodexperience.com.

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:


Passover Cooking in the White House 0 Comment(s)

On the way to the Passover cooking demo
with president of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, Duke Zimmerman, and others

I was really honored to be invited to the White House yesterday for a pre-Passover cooking demonstration with Joan Nathan and the WH Pastry Chef. Samples were abundant. The National Endowment for the Humanities and Jewish Museum of Maryland (which has an exhibit funded by NEH now on display about Jewish foodways) cosponsored the event with the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Read reporter Vered Guttman’s article from Haaretz to learn more about the afternoon. It was thrilling to have a content rich event in the President’s House -- or at least his office building -- we were in the Old Executive Office Building!! Have a wonderful Passover.

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.

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.