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Viewing posts with the tag World War Ii. Show all posts.

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.

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.

A Successful Jewish American Heritage Month! 0 Comment(s)

Our Jewish American Heritage Month programs culminated at City Hall last month, where we celebrated with D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown, the D.C. Council, and even the mayor.  This special event, co-organized with the Jewish Community Relations Council, included a kosher deli lunch and our exhibition, Jewish Life in Mr. Lincoln’s City, which was on view in the Wilson Building atrium.

Debbie Linick of JCRC, D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan,
JHSGW Executive Director Laura Apelbaum, and D.C. Mayor Vincent Grey
Photograph by Betty Adler
Chairman Brown addresses the crowd
Photograph by Betty Adler


During May, our programs served 625 people.  Countless others viewed our exhibitions.

Joan Nathan and Spike Mendelsohn
speaking at the National Archives
Photograph by Pat Fisher

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.

Many hands make light work 0 Comment(s)

Our Collections Committee held a workday in the JHSGW archives on Monday. Volunteers worked for several hours sorting through dusty old boxes from the Rabbi Tzvi Porath collection, acquired by JHSGW in 2004.

Sam and Gail discovered a large series of papers including sermons, correspondence, and memoranda from the Jewish Welfare Board documenting Rabbi Porath’s chaplaincy during World War II. Brenda and Janice found dozens of Rabbi Porath’s sermons as well as event programs, invitations to the White House, and correspondence. Lenny uncovered dozens of photographs of Montgomery County Jewish Community and Ohr Kodesh, where Rabbi Porath served from 1952 to 1984 (see the photo below of Rabbi Porath with Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill!)

Meanwhile, Elsie continued her ongoing project with the Society’s institutional archives from the 1960s and 1970s.

It’s amazing how much a small group can get done in a few short hours! If you’d like to volunteer in the archives, fill out our volunteer application.