April 2015: 1966 Kashrut symbol of the Rabbincal Council and Combined Congregations | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum March 2015: Photograph of Justice Arthur Goldberg with Albert and Lillian Small, 1974 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum February 2015: Panoramic photograph of Hebrew Home for the Aged's Dedication, 1925 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum January 2015: Paint and finishes in the historic 1876 Adas Israel sanctuary | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum December 2014: Herman Levine's Friendship Deli, 1940s-1950s | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum November 2014: Walter Tobriner and Fair Housing in Washington, D.C. | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum October 2014: Note from Albert Einstein to Washington, D.C. lawyer, 1938 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum September 2014: Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis's law school notebook, 1877 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum August 2014: Smith’s Pharmacy, Before and After the 1968 Riots | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum July 2014: Photograph of Simon Sherman's frozen custard shop, c.1946 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum April 2014: Photograph of Seder for Military at Mayflower Hotel, 1946 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum February 2014: Scrapbooks from Washington Coliseum, site of Beatles' first U.S. concert, 1960-1971 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum December 2013: Menu from deli/liquor store Comet, 1990s | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum January 2013: Photograph of Louis and Frayda Klivitsky outside their grocery store, 1918 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum October 2013: Post-World War II community cookbooks, 1950s | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum September 2013: Can grabbers from August 2013: Rich's July 2013: Oral History of the Honorable Sheldon S. Cohen, 2011 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum June 2013: World War II ration book, early 1940s | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum May 2013: Photograph of Upsilon Lambda Phi fraternity party, c.1945 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum April 2013: Hofberg's menu, c.1950s | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum December 2012: Invitation to synagogue move, 1969 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum November 2012: Photograph of Walter Washington and Janice Eichhorn, 1973 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum October 2012: Handmade tallit bag, c. 1800s | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum August 2012: Photograph of 76th Board of Commissioners, 1965 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum July 2012: Stained glass window | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum June 2012: District Grocery Stores sign, 1920s | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum May 2012: Photograph of Arthur Welsh, c. 1910 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum April 2012: Invitation to Grant Army of the Republic event, 1892 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum March 2012: Youth Aliyah pledge card, 1930s-1940s | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum February 2013: White House wedding cake box, 1966 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum February 2012: Newsclipping about JCC women basketball players, 1935 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum January 2012: Photograph of Hebrew Academy students, c. 1965 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum December 2011: Hanukkah banner, mid-20th century | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum November 2011: Photograph of Fred Kolker with President Truman's turkey, 1948 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum October 2011: Photograph of first Giant supermarket, 1936 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum September 2011: Flier for Aleph Zadik Aleph's Yom Kippur dance, 1939 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum August 2011: Jake Flax at Republic Pictures, c.1950 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum July 2011: First Lady June 2011: Leo M. Bernstein Archival Collection | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum May 2011: Photograph of Mayor Walter Washington dancing the hora with Isaac Franck, 1973 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum April 2011: Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz's Shoulder Marks, c. 1945 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum March 2011: Birthday postcard from Rich's Shoes, 1935 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum February 2011: Washington Hebrew Congregation's Henry King, Jr. Eternal Light, 1898 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum January 2011: Photograph in Milton S. Kronheim, Sr.'s lunchroom, early 1970s | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum December 2010: Photograph of Hanukah celebration at the daily Soviet Jewry vigil, 1973 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum November 2010: Four Immortal Chaplains postage stamps, 1948 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum October 2010: World War II Jewish Lions Club banner, 1940s | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum September 2010: Jewish New Years card, 1909 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum August 2010: Camp Louise bracelet, 1950s | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum July 2010: Bicentennial Oval Office photograph with President Gerald Ford, 1976 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum June 2010: 1876 Synagogue / Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum May 2010: Flag of Israel signed by community leaders, 1948 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum April 2010: Rudolph Behrend's circumcision gown, 1877 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum March 2010: Passover salt-water bowl | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum January 2010: March on Washington pennant, 1963 | Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum

Objects of the Month

May 2015: Central Food Markets marketing materials and photographs, 1970s-today 

Central Food Markets marketing materials and photographs, 1970s-today 
  • Donor: Mitch Berliner and Debra Moser
  • Description:

    Marketing materials and photographs relating to businesses founded by Mitch Berliner, including the D.C.-area chain of farmers markets, Central Farm Markets. Berliner created several businesses that, since 1970, have brought local produce, ice cream, and specialty foods to hungry residents of the D.C. area.

“Berliner’s Farm Stand” brochure, 1975.

JHSGW Collections

Frequent visitors to downtown Bethesda will surely be familiar with Central Farm Markets (CFM). Since 2008, with a hearty spirit and a special emphasis on the Jewish community, CFM has brought fresh, local food to hungry residents of the D.C. area. CFM has grown to operate in three locations: two in suburban Maryland and one in Northern Virginia. It has become the largest farmers market in the Washington area and one of the largest nationally.

The roots of CFM stretch back to 1970 when Mitch Berliner abandoned a career in computers and opened Berliner's Farm Stand in Montgomery County. The business was among the first selling local and organic food in the Washington area and soon expanded to several locations and distributed some produce to restaurants. In 1977, he helped plan a meatless banquet in the Jimmy Carter White House. Berliner later founded Berliner Foods Corporation to distribute Häagen-Dazs, Dove Bars, Ben & Jerry's, sorbet, and a gourmet items such as frog legs, escargot, and spice mixtures. Following the sale of the company in 2007, Berliner founded Central Farm Markets.

Debra Moser, Mitch's wife operates CFM with Berliner. Moser began her career as a graphic designer and photographer. While working at Woodward & Lothrop, she became interested in food while photographing food items for advertisements. Later, she earned a teaching degree and an MBA, and developed a career helping small businesses to grow.

The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington (JHSGW) interviewed Mitch Berliner and Debra Moser about Central Farm Markets and their relationship to the D.C. area's Jewish community.

---------------

Detail from poster for Pike Central Farm Market, Rockville, MD, 2014

JHSGW Collections

JHSGW: What was the genesis of Central Farm Markets?

Berliner: Growing up, food and cooking was very important in our family. I went to farmers markets as a kid with my parents. I've always had a passion for farmers markets, and couldn't believe that Bethesda didn't have a comprehensive farmers market. In 2008, I approached Federal Realty, which owned a parking lot at Elm Street and Woodmont Avenue in Bethesda, and thought that would be a great venue for a market. We had 17 vendors when we started that year. Now, we have grown to over 60 farmers and artisan food producers every week at a location around the corner at the Bethesda Elementary School.

Moser: I had always been a good cook and especially a baker. In the early 2000s, I was Executive Director of the Metropolitan Center for the Visual Art in Rockville. I decided to take on an additional fun project of going to get my certification in pastries at L'Academie de Cuisine, where I worked with a former white house pastry chef. I also started baking and selling gourmet pot pies, cakes, biscuits and pies at the farm market. After that work became too much to take on individually, I decided to join Mitch in operating and growing Central Farm Markets. We created a marketing team and social media presence with a community focus: We want you to come. We want you to stay. And we want you to come back.

JHSGW: So is each market about more than stopping by for a few specialty items?

Mosaic Central Farm Market, Fairfax, VA, 2014

JHSGW Collections

Berliner: This is not just about getting some tomatoes and leaving. The real big mission from day one has been to have a wide enough selection so that people could truly do the vast majority of their weekly shopping — from eggs to poultry to produce to pickles. We have live music almost every week; we have tables and chairs for people to sit and enjoy the music and food, and we're dog-friendly.

Moser: We do some annual activities. In October, we do our "Bake Bethesda a Pie" contest. A couple of years ago, we got so much interest that we created a children's division. We have animal adoption and bloodmobiles, and free blood-pressure tests. We've had Girls Scouts work with us through Manna Food Center, which gleans food from the market farmers every week. We have a grant to buy food from the vendors at the end of each market and donate it to Manna.

Berliner: We also help sponsor a non-profit group that operates the Crossroads Farmers Market in Takoma Park that covers half the price of purchases made by low-income shoppers.

Moser: I oversee the Mosaic Central Farm Market in Fairfax, which opened in 2014. I can't tell you how many people come up and say thank you for bringing this farmers market to the community, "We're so glad you're here." It's really been heartwarming. 

Berliner: People are calling our farmers markets the village green. Shopping there has become part of people's weekly routine. It's what they do. They say to us, "Thank you for doing this! This is what we do every Sunday."

JHSGW: How do the farm markets serve the needs of the Jewish community?

Honey at Bethesda Farm Market in time for the Rosh Hashanah, 2014

JHSGW Collections

Moser: It was very easy for us to start focusing on the Jewish community as a whole. We write blog posts with holiday recipes made from fresh and local products at the farm market: brisket, chicken, challah, kosher "lamb bacon," vegetarian recipes, and honey. It has been a tremendous hit, and we get a lot of requests for kosher food.

Berliner: Several years ago, I went to one of our farmers, and asked if some of the chickens could be slaughtered kosher. They found a shochet (kosher butcher) in the Baltimore area. It was a hit. I'm pretty sure that, at that time, we were among the only farmers markets in the entire country that had kosher offerings.

Moser: People come to us because they know we're part of the Jewish community. We have featured tahini from Soom Foods, a company started in this area. We've hosted events with Jewish cookbook authors and welcomed artisans selling Jewish crafts such as challah covers and other holiday table items.

JHSGW: How do Central Farm Markets compare with other markets in more urban settings?

Berliner: We try to differentiate our markets to fit the needs of each community, which means having the greatest diversity of products as possible to be most inclusive market around.

Moser: One of the big differences between ours and the ones in more dense areas like New York is that, there, people live in smaller spaces and they're not able to stock up as much as our residents do here.

Berliner: The national trend is for year-round markets. Farmers with greenhouses have expanded exponentially. We have one farmer with a carbon-neutral greenhouse who had fresh, local produce year round.

JHSGW: Right now, Central Farm Markets has three locations in the D.C. area. Any plans for more?

Berliner: We are considering creating a market in D.C., and we're looking at places where there's a community that needs a market.

Moser: We get comments and requests to open markets here and there. We'll have business and government entities call.  The reality is that we don't want to oversaturate ourselves and our markets.  We want to bring the best farm market we can to each community we are in or may consider.

Berliner: The thing is now we can't retire — we have to do this until we're 90.

April 2015: 1966 Kashrut symbol of the Rabbincal Council and Combined Congregations

1966 Kashrut symbol of the Rabbincal Council and Combined Congregations
  • 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 called hashgacha 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.

The Growth of the Rabbinical Council’s Kosher Supervision

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

JHSGW Collections

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 Hakehilot expanded 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 kashrut organizations 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.

March 2015: Photograph of Justice Arthur Goldberg with Albert and Lillian Small, 1974

Photograph of Justice Arthur Goldberg with Albert and Lillian Small, 1974
  • Description:

    Black and white photograph of (L-R) Justice Arthur Goldberg with Albert and Lillian Small at the 1975 rededication of the historic 1876 Adas Israel Synagogue. Justice Goldberg was an active member of Washington’s Jewish community. For years, he and his wife Dorothy hosted an annual Passover seder with members of Washington's political and intellectual elite as guests.

     

    Arthur Goldberg (1908 – 1990) came to Washington from Chicago in the 1950s. A labor lawyer, he was the general counsel for both the Congress of Industrial Organizations and the United Steelworkers of America, which merged to form the AFL-CIO in 1955. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed him as Secretary of Labor. The following year, Kennedy appointed Goldberg to the Supreme Court, and, in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson appointed him as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

The Goldbergs’ D.C. Seders

Early guest list and draft menu for Goldbergs’ 1961 Seder. 

Library of Congress.

In 1961, just two months after Arthur Goldberg’s appointment as Secretary of Labor, the Goldbergs hosted a Seder attended by national and international leaders. According to a draft guest list in the Arthur J. Goldberg Papers in the Library of Congress, invitees included President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy, Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, Chief Justice Earl Warren, Justice William Brennan, Senator Everett Dirksen, Senator Paul Douglas, AFL-CIO President George Meany, Israeli Labor Attaché Nataan Bar-Yaakov, family, and friends. Ultimately, the President and First Lady did not attend the Seder. JHSGW president, Sam Brylawski, who was then eight years old and whose family were neighbors of the Goldbergs, filled one of the Kennedys' places at the Seder table.

The evening's menu included beef bourguignon, potato kugel, whole hot peaches, prunes, and apricots. According to a draft menu, well-known D.C. Jewish restaurateur Duke Zeibert made matza ball soup based on a “yeshiva chef’s recipe” published in the New York Times.

Throughout the decade, the Goldbergs’ Seders were lively occasions attended by a list of well-known figures. As a law clerk for Justice Goldberg, legal scholar Alan Dershowitz attended. In his memoir Chutzpah, he recalled, “George Meany would sing Irish ballads; Hubert Humphrey would tell stories; and Dorothy Goldberg would sing Yiddish labor union songs.”[1]

Page from The Goldberg Haggadah.

 Library of Congress.

The Family’s Haggadah

Similar to many families, the Goldbergs’ Seder centered on their family Haggadah, which was adapted from various published versions. In The Goldberg Haggadah, as they titled it, the story of the Israelites is a symbol for contemporary struggles like civil rights. Displayed here is a page from the family's Haggadah, with the hosts’ initials next to assigned readings. In the margin is a note from Dorothy Goldberg, reminding her to mention the description of the Exodus in the African-American spiritual “Go down, Moses.”

Their Haggadah is explicitly American in tone, arguing, “Pesach calls us to the eternal pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” In the introduction to her own published Haggadah, Cokie Roberts, journalist and daughter of Congressional Representatives Lindy and Hale Boggs, remembers participating in the Goldbergs’ 1967 Seder “with gusto” when “the crowd started singing freedom songs from the civil rights and labor movements, held over from the days when Goldberg had been a leading labor lawyer.”[2] Brylawski, who went on to work at the Library of Congress, adapted parts of the Haggadah for his family’s Seders. “We used it several years,” he told the Society. “It's wonderful — tying Moses to the contemporary labor movement.”

Creating a Home with the Seder

Georgetown Law Center professor and another former Goldberg clerk, Peter Edelman, well-known for his legal career and public service, also attended the Goldberg Seders. In a lecture on Goldberg’s legal achievements, Edelman reminisced, “You went to Passover Seder, it didn't matter whether you were Jewish or not, you came to Passover Seder at his house. The crowd just got bigger and bigger. That's probably why he had to leave Chicago — because he needed to start a new crowd in Washington.”[3]

And that he did, both in future Seders at home and for the wider Jewish community. In 1964, Goldberg participated in a model Seder at Washington Hebrew Congregation to show Jewish students how Seders should be conducted. After leaving Washington for New York, Goldberg continued to host an annual Seder at his home in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. 

Goldberg returned to Washington in 1971 and continued this tradition.

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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 uniquely Washington Seder? Tell us about your Passover traditions at info@jhsgw.org.

 

 

[1] Alan Dershowitz, Chutzpah (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992) p. 61.

[2] Cokie Roberts and Steven V. Roberts, Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families (New York: Harper, 2011) p. xxxv.

[3] Peter Edelman, “Arthur J. Goldberg’s Legacies to American Labor Relations,” John Marshall Law Review, Volume 32, Issue 4 (1999) p. 676.

February 2015: Panoramic photograph of Hebrew Home for the Aged's Dedication, 1925

Panoramic photograph of Hebrew Home for the Aged's Dedication, 1925
  • Object No.: L-21
  • Description:

    Black-and-white panoramic photograph of a huge crowd and small band standing outside the Hebrew Home for the Aged. The Neo-Moorish building was the Hebrew Home for the Aged from 1925 to 1969. Text on the photograph reads: "Dedication Ceremonies at the Hebrew Home for the Aged - Nov. 29, 1925.” The property and the house in the middle-right background behind the row of cars belonged to John Yeabower (1827-1919), a mounted guard for President Abraham Lincoln. Photograph by Fenschert and Flack studio.

Building the Home

The Hebrew Home for the Aged, founded in 1910, opened its first facility in 1914. Its mission was “to provide a home where food, clothing and shelter shall be furnished free of charge to indigent aged persons of the Hebrew faith.” Most were homeless, elderly Jewish immigrants who spoke little or no English. The Hebrew Home’s first location, a townhouse at 415 M Street, NW, accommodated 10 people when it opened in 1914. A caretaker was the only fulltime staff on site. Within a few years, a long waiting list illustrated the need for a larger site with medical facilities. 

In 1922, the Hebrew Home’s board of directors announced plans to build a new, state of the art facility on Spring Road, NW. “Aunt Minnie” Goldsmith (1871-1971), Chair of the Building Fund Committee, opened a drive that, within a few weeks, raised the money necessary to start construction. The building’s future site on the former Yeabower estate was in the center of a growing Jewish community in Columbia Heights and Petworth. 

Appleton P. Clark, Jr.'s plan for a complex with the main entrance leading to synagogue, with retirement-community and hospital wings on either side. 

The Washington Post, November 22, 1925.

The new structure was meant to be a premier facility of its kind in the United States. It illustrated the ability of Washington’s Jewish community to look after some of its most vulnerable residents. Designed by local architect Harry A. Brandt, the building was described as “pure American style.” Its exterior combined maroon brick with buff limestone trim. In February 1924, a less ambitious set of plans by architect Appleton P. Clark, Jr. replaced Brandt’s initial design. Other examples of Clark’s work include the Washington Post Building, the Owl's Nest, and houses throughout D.C. 

Building commenced later that year with the laying of a corner stone for the first wing of the complex. Construction lasted for over year and was completed in late 1925.

Dedication Ceremonies

Dedication committee including Bernard Danzansky (center), “Aunt Minnie” Goldsmith (left), and Sy Hirshman (left)

Hebrew Home of Greater Washington

Shortly after construction began, the Building Committee started planning the building’s dedication. For weeks leading up to the event, The Washington Post covered preparations, as well as last-minute fundraising. A month before the dedication, the Building Committee held a Halloween party in the facility during the final stages of construction to raise money for furniture and supplies. 

The dedication ceremonies for the Hebrew Home for the Aged’s new facility on Spring Road were held on November 29, 1925. The festivities attracted leaders from Jewish organizations, and local and national government. A 60-member chorus comprised of members from different synagogues sang patriotic and Hebrew folk songs. Members of an American Legion post raised the colors, and Maryland Congressional Representative Fred N. Zihlman, chairman of the House District Committee, closed the dedication ceremonies. Following the dedication, the Ladies' Auxiliary of the Hebrew Home held a two-day housewarming in the building.

Couple reading in a sitting room, 1931 (left), and a Social Hall, 1930 (right).

Hebrew Home of Greater Washington

The new building included sun porches and balconies, sitting rooms and a social hall, and recreation rooms. Decorations identified the Jewish character of the building: six-pointed “Jewish” star motifs ringed the building between the second and third floors, similar star windows were prominent on the penthouse level, and Hebrew was visible on the building’s cornerstone.

Hebrew Home for the Aged, 1967. 

Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

As Washington’s Jewish community grew in the 1930s and 1940s, so too did the number of elderly Jews who needed assistance from the Hebrew Home. By 1950, the facility had become overcrowded, with some residents sleeping in hallways and enclosed porches. Additionally, many residents required more sophisticated nursing and hospital facilities. In 1953, an addition significantly increased capacity and added a nursing home section, medical facilities, a chapel and synagogue, and additional recreational areas. Designed by architect William St. Cyr Barrington, the addition emulated the earlier building’s materials and style. 

The recessed penthouse level led to an outer patio area overlooking the neighborhood. On either side of the doorways are six-pointed “Jewish” star windows, exterior at left in 2005 and interior center in 2015. Because of overcrowding in the late 1960s, the penthouse was used as a ward, seen at right in 1965.

Left photo: Jeremy Goldberg; Right photo: Hebrew Home of Greater Washington

In spite of the added space and services, the addition was unable to meet the needs the community’s needs. A new facility was built outside of D.C., in Rockville, MD, adjacent to the newly-constructed Jewish Community Center and Jewish Social Service Agency buildings. That building opened in 1969, renamed the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington. The DC National Guard and American Red Cross were among the teams that helped move residents to the new facility. 

The Spring Road property was sold to the District of Columbia, which converted the property into a community health center. After years of deferred maintenance, the building became dilapidated and closed in 2009.

A New Phase

Since 2009, neighborhood residents and city officials debated plans for the building, including a homeless shelter, senior housing, and condos. In 2014, the site was added to the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places. At the same time, D.C.’s government finalized plans to redevelop the site, preserving the existing structure, while constructing an addition. Once completed, the building will be a mix of market-rate and affordable housing.  

In February 2015, JHSGW staff toured the current, derelict building to identify artifacts from its time as a Hebrew Home for the Aged. While renovations in the 1970s and later erased most of the building’s original details, we did note some vestiges from the past.  

Above: Transom over original entrance with “Hebrew Home for the Aged” (1956)
Below: The engraved words are visible below layer of stucco (2015).

Top photo: Hebrew Home of Greater Washington

Original ceiling and crown moldings in social hall were hidden for years above a drop ceiling.


Terracotta six-pointed “Jewish” star on building’s façade. 

Cornerstone with Hebrew and English, partially covered by stucco.  


This Object of the Month is dedicated to the memory of Laurie England.
A great-granddaughter of “Aunt Minnie” Goldsmith, Laurie had a keen interest in local Jewish history and was a generous supporter of our Object of the Month series.

 

We are grateful for the assistance from Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kent Boese, and Michelle J. Chin and Stephen Campbell of the D.C. Department of General Services in facilitating our tour of the former Hebrew Home building on Spring Street, NW.

January 2015: Paint and finishes in the historic 1876 Adas Israel sanctuary

Paint and finishes in the historic 1876 Adas Israel sanctuary
  • Description:

    Images of the Torah ark with arrows noting areas where paint was sampled (top) and microscopic excavation of paint showing a newly-discovered layer of gold leaf (bottom)

Like stratified layers of soil tell the story of the natural world, paint layers can tell a rich story of a building and the communities that lived there. Recently, the Society undertook a study of the paint in the sanctuary of its historic 1876 synagogue. The findings of this Historic Paint Analysis help us to piece together an idea of the building’s original appearance 138 years ago, and provide a map for future restoration activities. The project was funded in part by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the MARPAT Foundation.

While this research rendered a nearly complete picture of the sanctuary's original paint and wood finishes, further study is needed to solve a remaining mystery: was there always a biblical passage painted on the Torah ark? If so, was it originally gold leaf?

The Historic Synagogue

Entrance and side to the historic 1876 Synagogue, now the Lillian and Albert Small Museum.

In 1876, Adas Israel Hebrew Congregation built this synagogue at 6th and G Streets, NW. The building was the first purpose-built synagogue in Washington, DC. By all accounts, the sanctuary’s original appearance was quite modest. Its walls were whitewashed, with wood wainscoting below stained to look like walnut.

The most significant “extravagance” was on the Torah ark, which had some gold-leaf on the edges of its columns and cornice. Today it includes the familiar “Ma Tovu” passage from Numbers 24:5 in gold: “How lovely are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!” A June 1876 newspaper article about the synagogue’s dedication noted the presence of biblical quotation expressing reverence for synagogues. However, the article did not indicate whether or not the passage was painted direction above the ark, and if it appeared in gold or another color.

In 1908, the congregation sold the building to a real estate investor who converted the first floor to store fronts, and leased the second floor to a succession of churches. In 1969, when the building was marked for demolition, the Jewish Historical Society saved the building by moving it three blocks to 3rd and G Streets, NW. In 1975, JHSGW rededicated the building as the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum. Learn more about the building’s history.

Since that time, the Jewish Historical Society has sought to restore the building to its original appearance. The Historic Paint Analysis is just one of the many tools that create a picture of the building’s original appearance in 1876. Other sources of information include newspaper accounts from the building’s dedication, and photographs from the 20th century.

Historic Paint Analysis

Making a crater in the paint on a railing below a window.

JHSGW worked with Worcester Eisenbrandt, Inc. (WEI) to carry out the historic paint analysis.  WEI’s analyst excavated tiny craters and took dozens of samples of paint and varnish from throughout the main sanctuary and its balcony area. Locations included walls, window frames, the newel post on the stairway to the balcony, and, of course, on the Torah ark.

The craters revealed layer upon layer of paint and varnish, each representing a “moment” in the building’s history. This crater from the wainscot rail ringing the entire room shows the first layer of finish – a varnish – and successive layers of paint, including “graining” layers that emulated the appearance and rare, expensive woods. More recent layers included white, brown, and green paint, as well as a thick layer of dirt.

A crater on one of the walls reveals layers of paint and varnish added since 1876.

Future research might help to reveal precisely when each layer – including the dirt – was added and the length of time it was visible. This information, coupled with the timeline of the building’s inhabitants, would make it possible to imagine what the interior of the building looked like at different times.

Perhaps the most significant discovery was the existence of a layer of gold paint added within a few years of the synagogue’s construction on the columns that support the second floor. For the mostly immigrant congregation of modest means, this decoration was likely a costly addition.

Viewed under a microscope, a cross section of the same wall reveals various layers of varnish, paint, and even dirt. 

In addition to the craters, WEI’s analyst placed cross sections from the wall finishes under the microscope. These provided a “side view” that revealed all the different layers of paint, varnish, and wallpaper in some cases. In this image, a thick layer of dirt from the period when the sanctuary was used a warehouse for shops on the first floor is visible.

There are still unanswered questions about some of the paint. The Hebrew inscription over the ark (called an entablature) is a reproduction of text that was present when the synagogue was dedicated. Yet, we do not yet know if the biblical passage was inscribed on the ark or on another piece of material and attached to the ark when the sanctuary was built, and if it was gold leaf. The Historic Paint Analysis found some gold leaf or paint below the several layers of paint. However, it is inconclusive whether or not the “older” layers are in fact just the bleeding through of the newer paint. 

Detail of the inscription over the Torah ark, presently in gold leaf. 

In December 2014, JHSGW raised support for another round of analysis on the entablature to answer this question. Thanks to an anonymous gift in memory of Margot Heckman and contributions from other community members, we will be able to solve this mystery.

 

UPDATE: Although the Historic Paint Analysis initially identified some gold color below layers of paint in the area, subsequent research found no evidence of gold on the original surface. This critical information will shape the presentation of the synagogue in the Society’s future museum. 

December 2014: Herman Levine's Friendship Deli, 1940s-1950s

Herman Levine's Friendship Deli, 1940s-1950s
  • Accession No.: 2014.33
  • Donor: Ronald S. Levine
  • Description:

    Collection of photographs documenting Friendship Deli, 4932 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, mid-1940s-1950s.

This December, will you join the collective shopping frenzy around Friendship Heights? As you meander past bustling shopping malls and boutiques, remember the neighborhood's quieter past as a home to small, mom-and-pop businesses. One of those businesses was a grocery and later a luncheonette called ‘Friendship.'

Herman, Lillian, and Maxine Levine in front of Friendship grocery, ca. 1940s

Herman Levine opened Friendship grocery shortly after the Second World War, in a small, two-story building at 4932 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, between Fessenden and Ellicott Streets. Like many mom-and-pop groceries, the store was on the first floor, and the family lived in an apartment on the second floor. "It was a typical mom-and-pop store," remembers Herman Levine's son Ron who, with his older sister Maxine, spent part of his childhood living ‘above the store.' "It was open 7 days a week, from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. And my mother worked in the store, but would run upstairs to fix lunch and meals, and then go back to the store." Levine remembers being called home from school to help. "They would call the principal who would come into my classroom, and I knew that someone didn't show up for work that day." Herman usually took off Monday afternoons, and he and Ron would fish near the current site of the Kennedy Center.

From its beginnings, Friendship was a family affair. Levine, who was born in Brooklyn, NY, served as an airplane mechanic in Hawaii during the war and spent some time training in D.C. He met his wife, Lillian Furash, while staying at a boarding house for government workers on Nebraska Avenue, which Lillain's family owned. Lillian was born in Washington to immigrant parents originally from Pinsk, Russia. Shortly after the war, Herman and Lillian married. Lillian's father Jacob urged Herman to go into business, and helped him establish the grocery.

Friendship grocery was nestled within a strip of shops owned by Jewish, Greek, and Italian families. "The Kahn family ran a shoe store down the street," recalls Ron Levine. "Next to my father's store was a barber shop, and that was an Italian family. The toy store was next door, and next to them were Henry and Rose Greenbaum, and they had three kids. They lived above the shop, and were in business with Henry's brother. Both were survivors of Auschwitz. Next to them was a Greek florist. All of their children would run into each other's stores, and all of our parents watched us. On summer evenings we'd all be sitting out on Wisconsin Avenue and get together and talk. Our fathers were, of course, still in the businesses, still working."

Children whose parents owned stores adjacent to Friendship grocery on the 4900 block of Wisconsin Ave, NW, ca. 1950s

Herman Levine and patron at Friendship when it was a grocery, ca. 1950s

In the early 1950s, a Safeway supermarket opened on the next block (it's still there). Unable to compete, Levine converted the grocery into the Friendship Delicatessen, a luncheonette that served breakfast and ‘kosher-inspired' sandwiches. Friendship Delicatessen offered signature items, including a version of a familiar D.C. favorite of the time. "Hot Shoppes came out with the Mighty Mo," recalls Ron, "and my dad came out with the Mighty Hy – because his nickname was Hy," short for his Yiddish name, Hyman. "It was a triple burger," similar to the Mighty Mo.

The Friendship Delicatessen flourished. Most of its regulars worked nearby at the WTTG (Channel 5) and WRC (Channel 4) studios, as well as at other offices and stores along Wisconsin Avenue. Within a few years, the family could afford to move to a house. They purchased and remodeled Lillian's childhood home on Nebraska Avenue – the same house where Herman and Lillian met.

"Once my dad changed the business to a deli, he worked Monday through Friday, and then closed up on the weekends," remembers Ron Levine. "After about 15 years, he had his weekends off." No longer needing to man the store on Saturdays and Sundays, Herman followed his passion for fishing. He purchased several progressively larger boats, which the family would take for deep-sea fishing excursions.

Herman retired in 1977 and sold his business. Similar to other Jewish Washingtonians, the Levines' mom-and-pop business helped the family to settle and prosper. The Levines and the Furashes live in the D.C. area.

Today, 4932 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, is home to the National Diving Center, which outfits SCUBA diving enthusiasts. The block continues to reflect the city's ethnic diversity, with Chinese, Thai, Mexican, French, and pizza restaurants, in addition to a bank, yoga studio, and pet groomer. 

November 2014: Walter Tobriner and Fair Housing in Washington, D.C.

Walter Tobriner and Fair Housing in Washington, D.C.
  • Accession No.: 2004.13
  • Donor: Constance Tobriner Povich
  • Description:

    Walter Tobriner taking oath to become President of the Board of Commissioners for Washington D.C., 1961

Fighting Persistent Housing Discrimination
Walter N. Tobriner was a native Washingtonian and lawyer whose career was distinguished by his service to his hometown. While serving on the Board of Education from 1952 to 1961, he was responsible for carrying out desegregation of D.C.’s public schools. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Tobriner to the city's Board of Commissioners. At that time, the Commissioners were D.C.'s governing body whose three members were Presidential appointees. Tobriner served as its president for six years.

During that same period, Tobriner was Chairman of the National Capital Housing Authority. Ending housing discrimination in Washington, D.C. was among his priorities. In the early 1960s, real estate agents, developers, banks, and landlords had a "gentlemen’s agreement" not to sell houses to non-whites.

In addition to fighting this informal discrimination, Tobriner sought to end discrimination in housing contracts. Some house deeds and neighborhood-association agreements included restrictive covenants that prevented residents from renting or selling to certain minorities. Even after the Supreme Court declared restrictive covenants unconstitutional in 1948 (Shelly v. Kraemer), a handful of prominent developers and neighborhood associations continued to include these covenants in contracts with homebuyers.

Consequently, many African-American, Jewish, and other District residents, as well as several foreign visitors, were unable to rent or purchase housing in some buildings and neighborhoods. It was an issue that had both a local and global resonance. Tobriner argued this point in his testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 1962:

In certain sections of our city, persons are still denied equal access to housing for no reason other than that of their religion or the color of their skin. With the emergence of a score of African nations, the problem of African diplomats in finding housing has added a new dimension to what is already a matter of concern.

Many African states had won independence from their European colonizers over the previous decade. In Washington, their new diplomats were unable to rent or purchase homes in the same neighborhoods as their counterparts from other countries.

Tobriner brought about fair housing ordinances aimed at ending this discrimination. But it was only in 1968, the year after he left the Board of Commissioners, that federal law followed suit. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

A Regional Dimension: Restrictive Covenants
Housing discrimination was not confined to Washington, D.C. As thousands of Jews migrated to suburban Maryland and Virginia in the 1940s−1960s, many encountered restrictive covenants in deeds and contracts. Although legally unenforceable after 1948, even deeds for some new homes included such clauses.

This 1949 covenant in a deed for a house in Bethesda, MD stipulates that the property could not be sold or even leased to African Americans, "Armenians, Jews, Hebrews, Persians, and Syrians." However, this restriction did not apply to servants living in the house.

1949 Restrictive Covenant for Marywood Subdivision, Bethesda, MD

Courtesy Myra Sklarew

Many homeowners have since had restrictive-covenant clauses legally removed from their deeds. Still, the deeds for some houses throughout the Washington area continue to include similar clauses – although they are legally unenforceable. The current owner of this house in Bethesda decided to keep the clause in her deed as a testament to the history of housing discrimination in the D.C. area.

Have a story about facing housing discrimination?  We want to hear it: info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900

October 2014: Note from Albert Einstein to Washington, D.C. lawyer, 1938

Note from Albert Einstein to Washington, D.C. lawyer, 1938
  • Accession No.: 2012.21
  • Donor: Andrew Ammerman
  • Description:

    Typed note in German, Albert Einstein to H. Max Ammerman, March 1938.

    Translation:

    26 March 1938

    A. Einstein
    112 Mercer Street
    Princeton, New Jersey, U.S.

    Dear Mr. Ammerman:

    Mr. Fritz Moses told me that you have kindly agreed to assist me with my small assistance effort.

    Thank you and best regards.

    Yours,

    Albert Einstein

In October 1933, Albert Einstein permanently settled in the United States where he accepted a position at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University. The rise of the Nazi Party to power in Germany earlier that year, and its subsequent exclusion of Jews from universities, led Einstein to renounce his German citizenship.

Even before settling in the U.S., Einstein began a tireless campaign to assist Jews and other "enemies" of the Nazi government find positions in universities in Great Britain and outside of Europe. He was part of an international network that raised money and advocated with government bureaucrats to obtain visas for refugee academics, as well as family and friends.

In this brief message on his personal, embossed stationery, Einstein thanks Washington attorney H. Max Ammerman for helping with a "small assistance effort." Ammerman worked in the law office of Louis Ottenberg, who facilitated immigrant proceedings for many Jewish refugees.

Searching through the catalog records of the Einstein Archives of Hebrew University provided a clue to Einstein' reference to a "small assistance matter." Companion correspondence in the University archives reveals Einstein's concern for Margarete "Grete" Lebach.

Albert Einstein sailing with Grete Lebach, Huntington, New York, 1937

Albert Einstein Collection, Leo Baeck Institute.

Lebach and Einstein were close acquaintances from his time in Berlin. She was a frequent visitor to his cabin in the countryside until Einstein emigrated from Germany in 1933. Lebach appears with Einstein in this photograph taken in 1937 in Huntington, New York by famed portraitist Lotte Jacobi.

At the time Einstein wrote this letter in March 1938, Lebach was in Vienna suffering from cancer and in dire need of surgery. Perhaps because of her relationship with Einstein, Nazi authorities denied Lebach the surgery. If the "small assistance effort" was to help Lebach, then it was unsuccessful. Lebach died in Vienna in August 1938.

September 2014: Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis's law school notebook, 1877

Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis's law school notebook, 1877
  • Object No.: 2014.06.01
  • Donor: Frank Gilbert
  • Description:

    Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941) used this notebook during his final semester as a law student. Nearly four decades later, he became the first Jew appointed to the Supreme Court.

Born in Louisville, Brandeis cultivated a love of law and legal debate under the strong influence of his uncle Lewis Dembitz, a scholarly lawyer. He attended Harvard Law School (1875-1877) where he achieved the highest grade point average in the school's history — a record that stood for over 80 years — and graduated before his 21st birthday. At Harvard, Brandeis had reveled in the “almost ridiculous pleasure which the discovery or invention of a legal theory gives me.”

In 1907, Brandeis put that creativity to use in a case involving the constitutionality of limiting the hours that female laundry employees could be asked to work. His sister-in-law, Josephine Goldmark, worked for the National Consumers League in New York City, and provided Brandeis with data on the workers. He combined this information with data from medical and sociological journals that showed that working too many hours was detrimental to the women's health. Brandeis used this information to supplement his legal reasoning and argument. Brandeis won the case (Muller v. Oregon). His unprecedented use of extra-legal information before the Supreme Court quickly became routine and such arguments became known as a “Brandeis brief.”

Brandeis was attracted to "the ethic, or prophetic standards of Judaism," as biographer Melvin Urofsky explains.1 Brandeis contributed to Jewish philanthropies, and his advocacy for workers led him to support causes of great importance for millions of Jewish immigrants. As a mediator for a garment workers strike in 1911, Brandeis felt a kinship with the mostly Jewish immigrants on both sides. This sentiment stoked a sense within Brandeis that Jews and Judaism could only survive and grow with the establishment of a Jewish homeland. In 1914, he became President of the Zionist Organization of America, and, for years after, one of American Zionism’s leading intellectual forces. His close relationship with President Woodrow Wilson, who trusted Brandeis’s counsel and intellect, was instrumental in winning U.S. support for the Balfour Declaration, the British government’s expression of support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Louis D. Brandeis, 1930s.

JHSGW Collections.

President Wilson Nominates Brandeis to the Supreme Court
That Brandeis had argued on behalf of the workers against corporate interests was expected. He was such a defender of the rights of labor and consumers that he became known as the "People's Attorney." According to Melvin Urofsky's acclaimed biography, Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, Woodrow Wilson had considered asking Brandeis to be his Attorney General shortly after his election in 1912. Ultimately, the new president was dissuaded by his advisors because of concerns about the reaction of the business community.

So when President Woodrow Wilson nominated Brandeis to the Supreme Court on January 28, 1916, the opposition was heated because of both the nominee's progressive politics and his religion. The confirmation battle raged for four months. Brandeis' nomination was the first that included a public hearing. Former President — and future Chief Justice — William Howard Taft opposed Brandeis as did former Secretary of State Elihu Root, and seven of the 16 former presidents of the American Bar Association. Taft referred to Brandeis as "a muckraker … a man who has certain high ideals in his imagination, but who is utterly unscrupulous."

Various business leaders veiled their antisemitism with such phrases as "a self-advertiser" and "a disturbing element in any gentleman's club." Harvard President A. Lawrence Lowell signed a petition which said Brandeis lacked “judicial temperament." Still, some opposition referenced Brandeis's Jewish background, but did not necessarily emerge from antisemitic perspective. The New York Times, owned by a Jewish family, argued against Brandeis on the basis of his Zionism.

Early during the fight over his nomination, Brandeis wrote to his friend, Harvard Law School Dean Roscoe Pound, "I doubted very much whether I ought to accept, but the opposition has removed my doubts."

After months of unprecedented debate that included veiled antisemitic accusations, public letters from President Wilson and former Harvard President Charles W. Eliot, who had known Brandeis for more than 40 years, carried the day. It was an election year and conservative Southern Democrats ultimately supported their President. On June 1, the nomination was approved by a 47-22 margin. Only one Democrat, Nevada's Francis Newlands, voted against Brandeis.

Brandeis on the Court
If Taft and Brandeis were uncomfortable serving together on the Court from 1921 to 1930, imagine how the latter felt during his 23 years on the bench alongside Justice James McReynolds, who expressed his antisemitic feelings boldly: he would leave the conference room when Brandeis began speaking and would not return until the more junior justice was finished.

However, by the time Brandeis retired from the Court in 1939, his wise service had changed the minds of many of his detractors. The Times, which, in 1916, accused Brandeis of seeking "to supplant conservatism by radicalism," termed him "one of the great judges of our time." The paper praised him for treating the Constitution, "as no iron straightjacket, but a garment that must fit each generation."

Page of Brandeis's law school notes, May 1977.

The Notebook's Significance
In 1915, the year before his appointment to the Court, Brandeis gave this notebook to his daughter Susan Gilbert (née Brandeis) when she entered University of Chicago Law School. Like her father, Gilbert faced discrimination, but hers was not just because of her religion, but also her gender. Nevertheless, she went on to a distinguished legal career, first as a special assistant to the United States attorney in New York City, and later in private practice. When she argued a case before the Court in 1925, her father recused himself.

It was Susan's son, Frank, a past JHSGW President, who recently donated this notebook to the Society's collection. In 2003, Gilbert wrote a reminiscence about his grandfather for the Society's journal, The Record. Gilbert described the warmth and intellectual stimulation that he felt visiting his grandfather's apartment on California Street, NW, as well as his grandparents' home in Chatham, Massachusetts. Gilbert wrote, "Although we were very young, Grandfather treated us as persons who had minds."

The Society recently completed an oral history interview with Gilbert, who is among the leading figures in the field of historic preservation. Among his many achievements, Gilbert is known for his leadership in the effort to rescue New York's Grand Central Station from demolition.

1. Melvin Urofsky, Louis D. Brandeis: A Life (New York: Schocken Books, 2012) pp. 18-19, 401.

August 2014: Smith’s Pharmacy, Before and After the 1968 Riots

  • Object No.: 2006.10
  • Donor: Lawrence Rosen
  • Description:

    Photographs of Smith's Pharmacy, 2518 14th Street, NW, before and after its destruction during the April 1968 civil disturbances.

Smith's Pharmacy, 1960s

Before: Exterior of Smith's Pharmacy, ca. 1960s

Smith's Pharmacy, 1960s

After: Exterior of Smith's Pharmacy, ca. April 8, 1968


Smith's Pharmacy, 1960s

Before: Luncheonette at Smith's Pharmacy, ca. 1960s
Patrons could enjoy a snack – maybe a Smithburger – while waiting for Doc Jones, Rosen's staff pharmacist, to fill their prescriptions

Smith's Pharmacy, 1960s

After: Destroyed luncheonette at Smith's Pharmacy, ca. April 8, 1968


Sorrow and anger following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968, fueled three days of widespread civil disturbance throughout Washington, D.C. In his book Ten Blocks From the White House, Ben Gilbert cites sources from national and city government and press to place the number of rioters at "roughly 20,000." Whole blocks of the city’s commercial corridors were ransacked and torched. Shop owners and workers, as well as neighbors tried to protect some stores, but most of these efforts were in vain.

The worst-affected areas were along 7th and 14th Streets, NW, and H Street, NE, where many Jewish-owned businesses had been located for decades. Despite efforts by the Jewish Community Council and Jewish Social Service Agency to assist Jewish and non-Jewish business owners to rebuild, most relocated in the suburbs, or never recovered.

Smith’s Pharmacy, 1959-1968
In 1959, Larry Rosen (b. 1921), purchased Smith’s Pharmacy at 14th and Clifton Streets, NW. Residents of Columbia Heights could visit Smith’s to pick up household sundries, buy school supplies, get a prescription filled, and play a few games of pinball. Looted and gutted by fire, Smith’s was among the 900 businesses destroyed during the riots. Rosen recalled in a 2002 essay in Washingtonian Magazine

My last day at Smith's was April 4, 1968. That evening, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Three days of rioting in DC ensured, and my store was burned down.

An apartment complex now stands on Smith’s former location.

Other members of Rosen’s family lost businesses too. His brother Sam’s variety store at Georgia Avenue and Lamont Streets, NW, burned down. Their sister-in-law Lillian, widow of their brother Phil "Doc" Rosen, lost a building she owned at 7th and S Street, NW, which been home to their liquor store, DOX.

Mr. Rosen donated these and other photographs of Smith’s Pharmacy, as well as other materials that tell the story of the Rosen family in Washington.

Do you have photographs or other materials that tell an interesting "Jewish D.C." story? Please contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900 about contributing to JHSGW’s archives.

July 2014: Photograph of Simon Sherman's frozen custard shop, c.1946

Photograph of Simon Sherman's frozen custard shop, c.1946
  • Object No.: 2011.23.27
  • Donor: Douglas Sherman
  • Description:

    Photograph of Williams Frozen Custard Store (ca. 1946), owned by Simon Sherman who later helped build Wheaton Plaza, the Washington area’s first shopping mall.

For some people, a summer job dishing up ice cream or frozen custard for Washington’s sweltering denizens and visitors might be an occupation between school years. Yet, for Simon Sherman (1916-1993), it was a stepping stone that led the Washington area’s first shopping mall: Wheaton Plaza.

Nathan Krupsaw standing in doorway of the Old Antique Shop, 817 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, ca. 1910.

JHSGW Collections.

A native Washingtonian, Simon Sherman came from a family of entrepreneurs. His father Benjamin (1881-1957) owned New England Furriers (717 12th Street, NW), and his grandfather Nathan and uncle Simon Krupsaw owned a well-known antique store at 817 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Sherman graduated from Wilson High School and the National University Law School, now part of George Washington University. He served in the Army Corps of Engineers and married Rose Bernard Sherman in 1946.

Sherman and business partner Seymour Weinreb owned Williams Frozen Custard at 816 Florida Avenue, NW. Sherman was involved in the business in the mid-1940s, between returning from military service in Europe and being recalled to serve in the Korean War.

Sherman with employees of Williams Frozen Custard, ca. 1940s

JHSGW Collections.

These photos of the business’s exterior and interior illustrate that Sherman and Weinreb eschewed the discriminatory practices of some white business owners. He employed both white and African Americans at a time when many white business owners, including many in Washington, D.C., refused to employ, let alone serve African Americans. Protests, demonstrations, and sit-ins across the District throughout the 1940s convinced some business owners to cease discriminatory practices.

View of the menu inside the shop, ca. 1940s.

JHSGW Collections.

Visitors to Williams Frozen Custard could purchase as little as a cone or as a much as a quart of fresh frozen custard. Even today, most frozen custard is available only at shops that produce it on-site. Less common than traditional ice cream, frozen custard is a smoother and richer version made by adding egg yolks to ice cream. In shops like Williams Frozen Custard, ingredients are combined through a process similar to whisking, and then frozen within and served from a refrigerated tube, similar to soft-serve ice cream. The extra fats help the dessert remain solid for a longer period of time than ice cream.

From Custard Shop to Shopping Center
Sherman’s interest in slinging custard did not last long, and, by the end of the 1940s, he sold Williams Frozen Custard and founded a real-estate investment and construction company. The spread of Washington, D.C.’s population into the suburbs was picking up steam, and Sherman moved to join the building boom in Montgomery County, MD. He set his sights on the fledgling commercial district in Wheaton.

Sherman joined forces with a team of investors including the Gudelsky family of Contee Sand & Gravel, Co., Theodore N. Lerner, and H. Max Ammerman, and, in 1954, they purchased 80 acres of farmland at the corner of Veirs Mill Road and University Boulevard. They intended to erect a large, welcoming shopping mall that would be the anchor for a new retail district serving the growing neighborhoods nearby.

Sherman in front of the Wheaton Plaza development office, ca. 1950s.

JHSGW Collections.

In February 1960, Wheaton Plaza opened. It was the first shopping mall in the Washington area. Sherman was a driving force behind publicity for the mall. His desk was deluged with telegrams and letters of interest from retailers as far away as the Midwest. The mall’s stores — many established by local Jewish entrepreneurs — ringed a central, outdoor plaza, which soon became a popular gathering place. Over the next three decades, Sherman developed retail and housing throughout Montgomery County, including in Wheaton, Silver Spring, and Gaithersburg.

Wheaton Plaza fell on hard times in the 1990s as several of its long-time anchor stores went out of business. More recently, population growth and investment in Wheaton and Silver Spring has improved the venerable mall’s fortunes. New retailers and renovations have once again made Wheaton Plaza (now called Wheaton Mall) a hub of communal and social life.

And it started with a frozen custard shop.

April 2014: Photograph of Seder for Military at Mayflower Hotel, 1946

Photograph of Seder for Military at Mayflower Hotel, 1946
  • Object No.: 2011.23.41
  • Donor: Douglas Sherman
  • Description:

    Photograph of Jewish servicemen and servicewomen at a community seder at the Mayflower Hotel in 1946 from a time when thousands of Jewish who had come to Washington to work for the federal government found a feeling of community through massive holiday celebrations.

Have you ever been in a new city during Passover, worried about finding a community to join for the seder (the ceremonial meal at the start of Passover)? Many people who come to Washington to work for the federal government find themselves in the same boat. The city historically serves as a temporary home for federal workers and members of the military, many of whom arrive knowing nobody. During the first half of the 20th century, local Jewish organizations brought the community to these workers, with programs like large, communal seders. 

With the start of World War I, a new Jewish population came to Washington, D.C., and these members of the military generally did not know anyone in the city. Beginning in 1918, Adas Israel and Washington Hebrew Congregation began welcoming service members to their seders. This Passover hospitality continued into the 1920s for those who remained stationed or hospitalized in the region following the war. Often a communal organization such as theYoung Men's Hebrew Association or Hebrew Relief Society helped organize the ceremonial dinner.

Washington Post excerpt, 1932. Washington Hebrew Congregation's Brotherhood sponsored the first seder, and the Jewish Community Center conducted the seder on the second night.

Yet, an influx of Jewish workers a decade later required substantially larger seders.  The community again ballooned with President Roosevelt's New Deal. Dozens of new government programs and agencies attracted droves of idealistic Jewish men and women to the nation's capital. Like the World War I members of the military who arrived 15 years earlier, they often had no local family to join for holidays. However, the influx of Jews in the 1930s was much larger and would be for a much longer period.

By the mid-1930s, having run out of space in synagogues, the communal seders relocated to the Jewish Community Center (JCC) at 16th & Q Streets, NW. Co-sponsored by the Jewish War Veterans (JWV), these seders were led by JCC board member Abe Shefferman. Shefferman often modeled them after the 1919 sederhe'd participated in for the American Expeditionary Forces soldiers in Paris. He had remained in France after serving in World War I to work with Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) resettling displaced persons.

When the United States joined World War II, Washington once again experienced even more and faster growth. Thousands more Jewish men and women flocked to Washington to work in new wartime jobs and serve in the military. Just as it had a decade before, the annual seder outgrew its venue and relocated -- this time to the great banquet rooms of D.C.'s downtown hotels.

Seder for the members of the military, Willard Hotel, April 1943.

JHSGW Collections.

Now sponsored by the JWB's Washington Army and Navy Committee and the JWV's Washington Post No. 58, the seders were conducted by Rabbi Aryeh Lev from the Chief of Chaplains office of the War Department. The 1942 seder at the Mayflower Hotel had 800 participants, and attendance only grew as the war continued. In 1945, JWB set up seders at two hotels in order to accommodate the crowd, and Beth Sholom in Petworth held a “war workers seder.” Remember this if you worry your seder table is too crowded!

The booming demand for these communal seders, however, slowly faded with the war's end. The 1946 seder at the Mayflower Hotel hosted hundreds of young soldiers, celebrating the freedom of Europe from Nazi oppression just a year earlier. Yet, as the country demobilized, soldiers were discharged and went home, and wartime agencies were dissolved. Within two years, the seder for servicemen was held at Hoffman's Restaurant (near 16th & V Streets, NW) and led again by Abe Shefferman. It was significantly smaller than just a few years earlier. This is the last mention of the annual event in The Washington Post.

Certainly many Jews probably left the city after the war. But, just as likely, perhaps the communal seders of the 1930s and 1940s had not only helped their participants to find community, but to create one. Maybe they found partners and made friends, then settled in Washington, and hosted their own seders. 

February 2014: Scrapbooks from Washington Coliseum, site of Beatles' first U.S. concert, 1960-1971

Scrapbooks from Washington Coliseum, site of Beatles' first U.S. concert, 1960-1971
  • Accession No.: 2014.02
  • Donor: John Lynn
  • Description:

    Scrapbooks compiled by businessman Harry Lynn, owner of the Uline Arena / Washington Coliseum from 1959 - 1970, include autographs, letters, personal photographs and other memorabilia from national leaders, athletes and world-famous entertainers, as well as a day-by-day schedule of events held at the venue.

Stage and decorations for Kirov Ballet performance, 1964

JHSGW Collections.

Harry Lynn's (1916 – 2006) scrapbooks, a new addition to the Society's collections, illustrate his efforts to create a cultural and social hub for the entire city in the 1960s.

Lynn was born in Kansas City, MO, but spent most of his childhood in Omaha. During World War II, he joined the Army and was stationed in France and England (Liverpool, according to his son John). He moved to Washington, D.C. in 1948. In late 1959 he purchased the Uline arena and Uline Ice Company.

A long concrete arched building, in the 1950s the Uline Arena was one of Washington's main venues for sports, concerts, and ice skating. Lynn renamed the building the Washington Coliseum. This grandiose title hinted at his aspiration that the Coliseum offer programs that would appeal to everyone.

Harry Lynn with President Harry Truman, 1960 

JHSGW Collections.

Lynn's scrapbooks of the Coliseum's events illustrate his efforts to bring this vision into being. They show how, throughout the 1960s, the Coliseum was a destination for the whole city, hosting sports events, the circus and ice shows, the Kirov and Bolshoi Ballets, special events for the Kennedy White House, and, of course, concerts.

By 1970, however, the Coliseum was about to be supplanted by new and larger venues including the Kennedy Center and the Capital Centre. Lynn sold the Coliseum that year.

A Big Act
In early 1964, the Beatles geared up for their first U.S. tour. Their publisher, Capitol Records, asked Lynn if the Washington Coliseum could host the "Fab Four" for their first U.S. concert. Lynn was skeptical of this British band's ability to fill seats, but he booked them — along with other better-known acts as openers.

On February 11, 1964, following the band's roaring introduction on the Ed Sullivan Show, Lynn joined the crowds at the snow-blanketed Union Station to greet the train from New York — the only one to make it to D.C. that day because of the weather. Following their performance that night, the band expressed their appreciation to Lynn on a note on the back of a publicity photo.

However, only a ghost of the note and signatures are visible on the front. Sometime along the way, this artifact, along with dozens of other photos and notes in Lynn's scrapbooks, was glued on to rigid board. Removing the board without damaging the signatures poses a preservation challenge.

Revealed note from the Beatles to Harry Lynn

"Paul" and "John Lennon" signatures

The Reveal
We enlisted assistance from the Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute to reveal the note written on the back of the photograph. Digital Imaging Specialist Keats Webb and Paper Conservator Nora Lockshin employed Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), to create a digital version of the photo and the ghosted note beneath it. They later wrote about the process for the Smithsonian Institution Archives' blog, The Bigger Picture, in a post called "But all I've got is a photograph . . . or an autograph?""

"To Harry Lynn with fond memories from the BEATLES
Ringo Starr, George Harrison, John McCartney and John Lennon."

News about the photo and the mystery note gained attention from John Kelly at The Washington Post in two stories, as well as WUSA Channel 9. You can view them through the following links:

December 2013: Menu from deli/liquor store Comet, 1990s

Menu from deli/liquor store Comet, 1990s
  • Object No.: 2006.3.1
  • Donor: Stephanie Silverstein
  • Description:

    Menu from Comet Liquor and Deli, 1815 Columbia Road, NW, 1990s.

Do you remember Comet Liquors in Adams Morgan on Columbia Road between 18th and 19th Streets? It had a distinctive neon sign. Most who remember the business don't realize it was opened by a Jewish immigrant in 1940 and continued to be Jewish-owned throughout its existence.

When Oscar Gildenhorn opened Comet Liquor in 1940, the neighborhood was not yet called Adams Morgan. The name had caught on by the time Gildenhorn's son-in-law Howard Speisman took over management 25 years later. Sidney Drazin bought Comet in 1980. Drazin, a native Washingtonian, had served in World War II and then run a few different businesses before buying Comet.

In 1989, as neighborhood demographics changed, Drazin added a deli counter. Earlier in the 20th century, it was common for Jewish grocers in Washington to move into the liquor business, but now, a few decades later, a liquor man was adding food to his business.

Shortly after this change, Drazin (seen left) brought in a chair so he could sit while at work. He quickly found that customers wanted to sit and chat, so he set up a table and a few chairs by the entrance. These extra pieces of furniture changed the atmosphere of the store. The Washington Post wrote that Comet became a "kind of plastic-chaired neighborhood salon." Regulars came from all walks of life – from blue-collar workers to investment bankers – and they sat around the table to socialize and debate. Drazin was a popular neighborhood personality. One regular told the Post that "Sid was the surrogate parent to all the lost souls of Adams Morgan, all the single people who needed a confidence boost."

When Drazin died in 2005, in a show of community affection, Rabbi Ethan Seidel's eulogy ran in The InTowner newspaper. Drazin's widow Bernice shut Comet while the family sat shiva, and a shrine of flowers and cards grew outside the door. After running the store for a few months, Bernice decided to close Comet permanently. The above menu highlights the deli offerings at the time – with whitefish salad and lox served on a bagel hinting at the Jewish ownership.

Drazin's niece, Stephanie Silverstein, who worked for the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington at the time, alerted the Society's archivists to the impending loss of Comet's historic materials. JHSGW staff embarked on a rescue mission to document the business – Jewish-owned for 60 years. We arranged for a professional photographer to take exterior and interior photographs before the store closed. The iconic neon sign was purchased by a local restaurateur and now hangs at his restaurant, Comet Ping Pong on Connecticut Avenue, NW.

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.

January 2013: Photograph of Louis and Frayda Klivitsky outside their grocery store, 1918

Photograph of Louis and Frayda Klivitsky outside their grocery store, 1918
  • Description:

    Photograph of Louis and Frayda Klivitsky outside their business, 1702 Seventh Street, NW. An "EAT MORNING STAR BREAD" advertisement is across the top of the display window, 1918

The Klivitzkys left Russia for Baltimore in the first years of the 20th century. They moved to Washington, D.C., and ran a grocery and kosher butcher shop on Seventh Street, NW, for decades. The business was one of many that carried Morning Star bread.

The owners of Morning Star Bakery, like the Klivitzkys, were European immigrants who first lived in Baltimore and then relocated to Washington. After operating a few small bakeries in different parts of the city, they settled on 4-½ Street, SW, one of D.C.'s Jewish neighborhoods. The Morgensteins' bakery and retail shop took up the first floor of the building at 613 4-½ Street and the family lived upstairs.

The bakery's name, Morning Star, held special meaning. When Harry's oldest brother arrived in Baltimore from Austria, the Immigration official mistook the penultimate letter of the family name, Morgenstern, which means "morning star", changing the family name to Morgenstein. All Morgenstern brothers who followed to the United States took on the new name.

In 1924, the Morgensteins expanded and renovated the bakery. Then, under rabbinical supervision, Morning Star began using an oven for Passover cakes and macaroons. The Jewish community previously had to import Passover foods from Baltimore and New York.

Much of the bread used by the Jewish Foster Home in Georgetown and the Hebrew Home for the Aged, then on Spring Road, NW, was donated by Morning Star. During the Depression, the bakery contributed much of its sliced white bread to food lines and various institutions throughout the city.

By 1934 when the Morgensteins sold the bakery, the business included several trucks delivering bakery goods to many Jewish butcher shops, delicatessens, grocery stores, and even private homes.

Do you have materials you would like to donate to the archives? 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.

October 2013: Post-World War II community cookbooks, 1950s

Post-World War II community cookbooks, 1950s
  • Accession No.: 2013.38
  • Donor: Lenore & Sol Gnatt
  • Description:

     Two community cookbooks, 1950s.
    A Pinch of This and a Dash of That, Montgomery County Jewish Community Center Sisterhood, c. 1955
    Eating Pleasure by Sisterhood Measure, Shaare Tefila, Washington D.C., 1958

These cookbooks illustrate food trends of the 1950s when America's table experienced many changes in the wake of World War II. As the nation's capital, Washington, D.C. was not only uniquely impacted by the wartime influx of government and military personnel, but was also influenced by soldiers returning home.

Palates of the Pacific Theatre;
During the war, American GIs overseas were exposed to new ingredients and dishes. They came back to America craving these flavors. Suddenly, chow mein noodles and sweet and sour variations of popular dishes appeared in restaurants and on the dining room table. A recipe for an Asian-inspired Sweet and Sour Tomato Soup (with or without meatballs) is in the 1958 cookbook entitled Eating Pleasure by Sisterhood Measure. Exotic ingredients such as pineapple gave traditional Ashkenazi dishes a Pacific flair.

Sweet and Sour Tomato Soup
with or without meatballs
by Selma Swartz
Eating Pleasure by Sisterhood Measure

Beef Oriental
calls for canned pineapple
by Bertha Liebersohn
A Pinch of This and a Dash of That

Sweet and Sour Tongue
by Lenny Gnatt
(donor of the cookbooks)
A Pinch of This and a Dash of That

Fresh from the box
Another culinary impact of World War II was the demand for quick and easily prepared meals using mixes. During the war, many American women found themselves working away from the home in support of the war effort.

Illustration from Eating Pleasure by Sisterhood Measure

Simultaneously, factories had perfected the production of these goods, and they became more widely available. Quick meals from mixes meant that working women could still prepare dinner for their families. One popular mix was Jello, which inspired a full chapter on molds and salads in A Pinch of This and a Dash of That—a far cry from the side dishes served today.

While many American women ended their wartime employments after the 1945, their culinary habits had been forever changed. Resourceful home cooks looking for ways to save time used mixes in their traditionally made-from-scratch dishes. Even the knish, a popular Ashkenazi dumpling, did not escape the trend. A recipe for knishes in A Pinch of This and a Dash of That uses store-bought pie crust mix to make the dough.

Above all else, these cookbooks demonstrate Washington's ever-evolving Jewish foodways. What will the recipes we share today say about our community decades from now?

The Jewish Historical Society recently acquired these two 1950s cookbooks as part of a larger Washington-area cookbook collection. Stay tuned for future recipes and stories from this cookbook collection!

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.

September 2013: Can grabbers from "mom and pop" grocery store, Harry's Market

Can grabbers from
  • Object No.: 1995.16
  • Donor: Ruth and Vivian Weinstein
  • Description:

    Two grabbers, made of wood and metal, each stand 50" tall.

In the 1960s, Ruth and Vivian Weinstein took over Harry's Market, their parents' cornerstore in Mount Rainer, Maryland. They were among the few women who owned and ran a "mom and pop" store. Traditionally, women helped their husbands and fathers wait on customers and keep the shop's books. Rarely were they sole proprietors or shop managers.

Vivian and Ruth's parents, Leah and Harry Weinstein, had opened Harry's Market in 1924. They were among the hundreds of Jewish immigrants who opened "mom and pop" grocery stores in all four quadrants of Washington, D.C., as well as the Maryland and Virginia suburbs.

Receipt books from Harry's Meat Market, early 1930s. Each book tracks the account of one customer or household

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Ruth and Vivian Weinstein.

The grocery business was popular with immigrants because it required little start-up capital and minimal knowledge of English. In fact, many grocers learned English by reading can labels in their stores.

These Jewish merchants lived above or behind the shop and ran out to assist customers who rang the bell. Sidney Hais remembered, "In those days, you waited on each individual customer. There was no such thing as self-service… It was exhausting." Grabbers such as the ones pictured here were used to reach cans and other items from high shelves.

The Weinsteins were part of District Grocery Stores (DGS), which provided cooperative buying power and a means to fight discrimination from non-Jewish wholesalers. Explained by Jenna Weissman Joselit in The Forward, "At once indispensable and taken for granted, the grocery store owner sought out the company of other grocers. Banding together, they formed trade associations that not only expanded their purchasing power, but also provided opportunities for socializing and for exchanging ideas."

Weinstein sisters, Vivian and Ruth, in front of their store, mid-1990s.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Ruth and Vivian Weinstein.

The era of mom-and-pop grocery stores started declining with the end of Prohibition in 1933, the movement of population from the city to the suburbs in the late 1940s and 1950s and the introduction of self-service supermarkets. Harry's Meat Market was one of the last Jewish-owned mom-and-pop grocery stores in the Washington area. The Weinsteins' sisters ran the store until 1996.

To learn more about mom-and-pop grocery stores in Washington, D.C., visit our online exhibition, Half a Day on Sunday!

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.

August 2013: Rich's "Famous Cherry Blintzes" box, c.1950s

Rich's
  • Object No.: 2005.5.5
  • Donor: Seymour Rich
  • Description:

    Rich's Famous Cherry Blintzes box, c. 1950s. Includes color illustration of blintzes, instructions for use, and list of ingredients.

In a city not known as a delicatessen kingdom, Seymour Rich reigned as the "Blintz King" for decades. His mouthwatering blintzes fed hungry State Department officials, ambassadors, as well as everyday Washington workers looking for authentic deli fare.

Twenty-one-year-old Rich opened his first deli, Seymour's, at 6th and H Streets, NW, in 1939. By 1945, he had moved to 19th and E Streets, NW, to run Rich's Restaurant. For more than 28 years, Rich's menu included blintzes, chopped liver, and overstuffed corned beef sandwiches. The restaurant served a mix of federal government employees from nearby federal agencies as well as employees of the neighboring American Red Cross headquarters. Rich's son, Ronald, recalls, " …you may not believe me when I tell you, but people were waiting in line to the curb to get in at lunch. [Dad] would not seat two people at a table of four. They'd have to share with another group of one or two in order to fit everyone in at lunch."

According to Ronald Rich, "the secret to the blintzes was hard work. I don't know what made them great -- love and affection, I guess. We could not make them fast enough."

Soon the popular blintzes appeared in the frozen food aisle at Giant Food. Rich's famous blintzes now appeared on plates across the greater Washington area.

In the 1970s, Rich opened an upscale restaurant, The Golden Table, in the Columbia Plaza complex near the State Department and the Kennedy Center. For 16 years, the restaurant was popular with State Department officials and ambassadors.

Rich's restaurants were truly a family affair. Son Ronald who started by making sandwiches later became his father's business partner; his wife, Florence, served as a hostess; and daughter, Jacqueline, a painter and sculptor, created restaurant decor. After selling The Golden Table, the Richs opened carryout delis throughout the city, including Rich's Pickle Barrel, Rich's Alley, Rich's More Than A Deli, and Rich's Table in Chevy Chase.

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.

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.

July 2013: Oral History of the Honorable Sheldon S. Cohen, 2011

  • Object No.: 2012.36
  • Donor: Sheldon S. Cohen
  • Description:

    Videotaped oral history of the Honorable Sheldon S. Cohen featuring stories of growing up in Jewish Washington, his career in the federal government, and his leadership in the local Jewish community. Recorded in 2011.

For many Jewish immigrants, the "mom and pop" business was vehicle for upward economic and social mobility. The dream of Jewish immigrants was to see their children become doctors, lawyers, teachers, and businessmen.

Sheldon S. Cohen certainly fulfilled this dream. His father, Herman, a Lithuanian immigrant, bought a business the year Cohen was born. Cohen grew up helping his father in the family business, Potomac Butter and Egg Co., which sold dairy products and eggs to grocery stores and small restaurants. Here are his recollections of working with his father:

[Dad's] warehouse was directly behind our house on Morse Street. It was an old stable. My mother kept the books. She had a little office in the basement of our house. I used to help her. My dad's business was just across the alley from our backyard, in this old hay warehouse. There were two or three other warehouses. And, in fact, the Sunshine Bakery was down the street in another old warehouse building behind another homes on that street.

[Dad] would have the eggs delivered from the farms or from wholesalers down in Shenandoah Valley, who would gather and deliver them to him. He would process them, clean them up…I used to grade them for size. I could pick up an egg and tell you whether it was a small, medium, or large and, if you weighed it, you'd find out I was right 99% of time. Cracked eggs went to the bakers.

To tell if an egg was good, you would candle the egg… If you hold the egg up to a light close by, you can see the yolk. You can see whether the yolk is formed properly, or broken, or if there's blood or albumin in the egg. [You need to do this to every egg.] I got so that as a teenager I could do almost as fast as the professionals would do it.

I was the cleanup man or I was an egg candler, when I had to be… [This was] a regular part of my existence... I would help with the cheese or I would help with the smaller things that didn't take up a lot of time and weren't too big to carry around.

Cohen (left) with President Johnson in the Oval Office, 1968.

Courtesy of Sheldon S. Cohen.

Eleven years after graduating first in his class at GW Law School, Cohen became chief counsel for the Internal Revenue Service. A year later, at age 37, he was nominated by President Johnson for the position of IRS Commissioner – making him the youngest to hold this post.

In the week after the nomination, Cohen's childhood work with his father at Potomac Butter and Egg appeared twice in Washington Post stories, showing everyone's love of a good "American Dream" story.

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.

June 2013:  World War II ration book, early 1940s

 World War II ration book, early 1940s
  • Object No.: 2012.30.1
  • Donor: Froma Sandler
  • Description:

    World War II ration book for Jacob Sandler, age 35, of 5221 Chevy Chase Parkway, Washington, D.C., early 1940s.

Ration stamps in Lena Chidakel’s ration book.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Edith and Charles Pascal.

During World War II, Washington's Jewish community supported American troops both at home and abroad. Wartime food shortages required Washingtonians to save and reuse everything. To limit consumption of products like butter, coffee, liquor, and sugar, the U.S. Office of Price Administration distributed ration books to individuals and families. Households exchanged specific ration stamps for limited amounts of a given food item at grocery stores. Rationing at home enabled more food to be diverted to the war effort. Hardships at home were a low price to pay if they led to victory in Europe and the well-being of American soldiers.

As American factories shifted their attention to manufacturing goods to support the war effort, production of liquor, like other luxuries, slowed. "There were always shortages," recalled Washington liquorman Milton Kronheim in an oral history, "[It] became difficult to get the popular brands we were selling."

Fred Kolker (center) ran a poultry business at 1263 4th Street, NE. Shown here with Moshe Yoelson, a cantor and shochet (ritual butcher).

Courtesy of Brenda and Paul Pascal.

Local businesses also supported troops overseas with food from home. Fred Kolker's wholesale poultry business at Union Terminal Market sold to the U.S. Army during the war. In his oral history, Kolker remembered fondly, "My chicken went to our soldiers who were located all over the world…Boys from Washington, D.C., wrote me letters thanking me for the good poultry they received."

Washington's Jewish community also welcomed soldiers and war workers who flocked to the city to work in the war effort. When severe housing shortages forced workers to share scarce rooms in boarding houses and private homes, the Jewish Community Center provided housing references to thousands of newly arrived "government girls" through a Room Registry. Roselyn Dresbold Silverman came to Washington in 1941 to work for the Navy Department. She lived at Dissin's Guest House, a boarding house in Dupont Circle that catered to young Jewish women. Each month, Roselyn paid $35 for her room, two kosher-style meals a day, and maid service.

Ninth Annual Passover Seder by the Army and Navy Committee of the Jewish Welfare Board and the Jewish War Veterans of the United States. Willard Hotel, April 19, 1943.

JHSGW Collections.

The Jewish War Veterans' Washington Post No. 58 and the Jewish Welfare Board sponsored High Holiday services and Passover seders for military personnel stationed far from their families. The Jewish Community Center at 16th & Q Streets, NW offered a full program of activities including daytime jitterbug contests for nighttime shift workers. Its policy was: "Your uniform is your admission to all activities and facilities."

Washington's Jewish community was very much a part of the war effort. As Henry Gichner said when he accepted an award for exceptional efficiency and production on behalf of Gichner Iron Works, "Let's keep right on going until we get the V-Flag for Victory."

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.

May 2013: Photograph of Upsilon Lambda Phi fraternity party, c.1945

Photograph of Upsilon Lambda Phi fraternity party, c.1945
  • Object No.: 2010.27.1
  • Donor: Elaine Salen-Stouck
  • Description:

    Teens around a table at Upsilon Lambda Phi fraternity party, Hotel Hamilton's Rainbow Room, c. 1945
    Left to right: Elaine Klawans & Morton Funger; Margie Blanken & Robert Funger; Phyllis Lidoff & Sonny Feldman; Lillian Witt and unknown.

Today's Jewish youth may find it difficult to believe that their grandparents were not welcome in clubs and social activities a half century ago. Excluded from the sororities, fraternities, and clubs of their non-Jewish classmates, Jewish teenagers created their own social sphere blending their Jewish identity with secular activities. 

The social lives of Washington's Jewish teenagers revolved around more than 60 fraternities, sororities, clubs, and Zionist youth groups from the 1920s through the 1960s. These organizations provided settings where teens could mingle and forge an American identity. Jewish teens canoed on the Potomac, danced in Glen Echo's pavilion, and organized Purim Balls at the Jewish Community Center. 

.

Opening ball of four-day conclave of Pi Tau Pi fraternity, Mayflower Hotel, December 27, 1926

JHSGW Collections, gift of Albert H. Small.

High school fraternity and sorority life was filled with meetings, activities, and lavish dances, often held at the city's most elegant hotels. National conventions and conclaves gave local Jewish teens a chance to travel to cities like Albany, New Orleans, and Philadelphia. Here in Washington, more than 150 local delegates of Pi Tau Pi attended their fraternity's 1926 annual convention at the Mayflower Hotel (seen at left).

The involvement of the teens in these social groups often served as the recipe for future community leadership. The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington's exhibition, Members of the Club: Washington Jewish Teen Life, 1920s-1960s (watch accompanying video!), captured memories collected from community members about their teenage experiences. "There was something that touched us that was more than just the fun and dances… somehow we were intellectually and emotionally stirred, and for some of us it has been an intoxication throughout our lives," reflected Tamara Bernstein Handelsman, a member of Phi Delta. She has since been a member of the boards of many local Jewish organizations.

Flyer for AZA's annual Yom Kippur dance, 1939.

JHSGW Collections, gift of Sol Lynn.

Signature events included Sigma Alpha Rho's Cherry Blossom Ball at the Shoreham Hotel and Sigma Kappa Sigma's Festival of Roses at the Hebrew Academy. Starting in 1933, Alpha Zadik Alpha (AZA) sponsored an annual post-Yom Kippur Dance that was the highlight of the social season for many Jewish teens. "Take it from me: you had to have a date, and the right date, at least two months ahead of time," recalled Gershon Fishbein about his AZA days.

When the war came in December 1941, teen activities changed rapidly. Jewish youth pitched in, shifting their focus from dances and picnics to war bond drives and Red Cross work. In the post-war era, young baby boomers used their social events to promote and raise money for special causes. Mu Sigma cosponsored the Teddy Bear Hop, where all in attendance brought toys for Children's Hospital and Junior Village.

menu from a Pi Tau Pi fraternity dinner dance in 1954 details a meal of cold turkey, stuffed celery, pickles, and melon fantasy for dessert. This selection is distinctly different from the salad, pasta, grilled chicken, and chocolate cake served at today's formal banquets and dances.

Alumni Luncheon, Kappa Sigma chapter of Phi Delta Sorority, Mayflower Hotel's Chinese Room, April 3, 1948.

JHSGW Collections, gift of Margot Heckman.

These shared experiences often led to lasting relationships. Sandy Levy Kouzel played bridge weekly for over 20 years with sorority sisters and Milton and Lois Kessler met at a dance and married six years later.

Many parents supported membership in teen groups as a way to build strong communal relationships in an increasingly assimilated Jewish Washington. These connections provided an enduring legacy: a sense of belonging, lifelong friendships, and preparation for community leadership. 

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.

April 2013: Hofberg's menu, c.1950s

Hofberg's menu, c.1950s
  • Object No.: 1998.24.4
  • Donor: Ann Hofberg Richards
  • Description:

    Hofberg's menu, yellow and maroon printed cardboard, c.1950s

Does this menu bring you back to a time when a corned-beef sandwich cost 35 cents? Many Washingtonians' have early memories of Hofberg's, located on the District line. Shepherd Elementary and Beth Sholom Sunday School students visited after class was over. When these young patrons became teenagers, they returned to Hofberg's, a great date place where all enjoyed the famous sandwiches, hot dogs, and pickles.

Some 40 years before opening his deli on Eastern Avenue, Abe Hofberg was born in Argentina, where his Eastern European parents had lived since they were children. Dora and Solomon Hofberg brought their family to Washington in the early 1920s. Abe and his siblings attended Roosevelt High School while their parents, like so many Jewish immigrants, ran a grocery store at 20th & E Streets, NW. 

Hofberg's at 116 Kennedy Street, NW

JHSGW Collections, gift of Ann Hofberg Richards.

When Abe launched his first deli at 116 Kennedy Street, NW in 1928, the family lived four blocks away at 710 Longfellow Street, NW. His parents opened the doors every day at 6 a.m., and took over the counter while Abe served his country during World War II.

Shortly after Abe's return home, he sold the business on Kennedy Street, but quickly picked up where he had left off. In 1948, he opened a new Hofberg's where Eastern, Alaska, and Georgia Avenues meet on the border between Washington and Silver Spring. The sandwich shop became an popular hang-out for area teens to grab a heaping sandwich and a dish of ice cream.

JHSGW Collections, gift of Ann Hofberg Richards.

Over the years, Hofberg's added catering service, room service for a neighborhood motel, and The Penthouse, a dining room upstairs from the deli. A 1957 advertisement for the Penthouse's grand opening boasted the establishment would be "America's most lavish and hospitable kosher restaurant outside of New York."

When the ownership changed in 1969, Hofberg's spread into Montgomery County, but the suburban locations were never as popular as their D.C. predecessors. Ten years after Abe Hofberg retired, the Eastern Avenue deli was praised in The Washington Post: "In the case of Hofberg's…everybody comes out a winner." Regretfully, after decades of serving as a meet-and-eat spot, the shop closed in the early 1980s, followed by the Maryland locations in the next few decades. While Hofberg's is now part of Washington's history, many native Washingtonians fondly remember its renowned deli fare.

Do you have material documenting a local deli or restaurant that you'd like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society's collection? 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.

December 2012: Invitation to synagogue move, 1969

Invitation to synagogue move, 1969
  • Description:

    Invitation to the move of the 1876 historic synagogue, December 1969

On December 18, 1969, after a series of urgent letters, frantic preparations, and collaboration from D.C. and federal government agencies, the Jewish Historical Society saved a historic structure from the wrecking ball. Moving the 270-ton building was a complicated feat and took three hours. Along the way, a gas main ruptured. The gas company burned off excess gas to prevent it from accumulating in nearby buildings, causing small fires in the manholes, which provided curious spectators with a bit of warmth on the bitterly cold day.

Built by Adas Israel Congregation and dedicated on June 9, 1876, the building originally stood at Sixth & G Streets, NW, in the heart of the city's residential and commercial center. The congregation outgrew the building by 1906 and sold it to a real estate investor. Over the next 60 years, the first floor housed a bicycle shop, barber, a grocery store, delicatessen, and other businesses. A succession of churches worshipped upstairs in the sanctuary.

Over the years, the building's original purpose faded from memory. By the late 1950s, a few members of the community started bringing the former synagogue's history to the attention of JHSGW. Support was gathered for the building's preservation, but a crisis soon struck. Metro, the new subway system, planned to demolish the entire block of buildings on which the synagogue stood in order to erect its headquarters.

Today, the historic building is home to the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum. Educational programsschool field tripswalking tours, and private events such as bar/bat mitzvahs and weddings take place in the former sanctuary.

November 2012: Photograph of Walter Washington and Janice Eichhorn, 1973

Photograph of Walter Washington and Janice Eichhorn, 1973
  • Object No.: 2011.2.32
  • Donor: Diane Liebert
  • Description:

    Photograph of D.C. Mayor Walter Washington presenting Janice Eichhorn with a framed letter that thanks her for Home Rule efforts, October 11, 1973

Jan Eichhorn first arrived in Washington from Illinois in 1964 to work for her local Congressman, Ken Grey, but by the early 1970s, her focus had shifted. She became entrenched in Washington, D.C.'s struggle for Home Rule and representation in Congress. Eichhorn became the executive director of the Self-Determination for DC Coalition, which lobbied for Home Rule on behalf of more than 80 organizations. After Home Rule legislation passed in 1974, Eichhorn continued her political activism, serving as the first Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner of Ward 6B (South side of Capitol Hill to the Anacostia River), delegate to the DC Statehood Constitutional Convention, and remaining an active member of local Democratic organizations.

Eichhorn's devotion to her community was not only political.  She became involved in the Washington DC Jewish Community Center when it first returned to the city and served on its board from 1985 to 1990. Additionally, she formed Friends of Tyler School, an after-school mentoring and tutoring program near Barney Circle in 1990. The program, now called Jan's Tutoring House in her memory, has served more than 300 students.

October 2012: Handmade tallit bag, c. 1800s

Handmade tallit bag, c. 1800s
  • Object No.: 2012.08.01
  • Donor: Rabbi Arnold Saltzman
  • Description:

    Tallit bag (15"x10.5") made of burgundy velvet with a red, yellow, green, and blue flower trim. Features Star of David design.

This hand-sewn tallit bag was used by three generations of Rabbi Saltzman's family. Tallit is Hebrew for "prayer shawl." The bag, which likely dates to the 19th century, was handmade by Saltzman's maternal grandfather, Samuel Holzman, a tailor who emigrated from Russia to the United States. 

In Holzman's bequest, each of his 18 grandchildren received something he had made for them from fabric. Their grandmother presented an item to each grandchild after their grandfather's death. Saltzman received the bag prior to his bar mitzvah in 1961.

Saltzman's father, Max, was a tailor who left Poland for America in 1904. By age 18, he owned a clothing manufacturing business in New York. As a fellow artisan, Max so admired his father-in-law's tallit bag that he soon "borrowed" it from his son. Not until Max's death in 1983 did his son reclaim the precious object.

Rabbi Saltzman used it through his remaining 22 years as Adas Israel Congregation's cantor and it accompanied him on his numerous trips to Israel. Once it became too fragile to use, Saltzman, now a rabbi, donated it to the Jewish Historical Society. The tallit bag is a wonderful reminder of beloved relatives and a world gone by.

Do you have Judaica items related to the Washington, D.C. area that you'd like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society's collection? Please contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

August 2012: Photograph of 76th Board of Commissioners, 1965

Photograph of 76th Board of Commissioners, 1965
  • Object No.: 2004.13.1
  • Donor: Constance Tobriner Povich
  • Description:

    Photograph of the 76th Board of Commissioners of Washington D.C.: (left to right) John Duncan, Walter Tobriner, Charles M. Duke, July 22, 1965.

Walter N. Tobriner was a native Washingtonian and lawyer whose career was distinguished by his service to his hometown. He was appointed by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 to the city's Board of Commissioners. At that time, the Board was D.C.'s governing body whose three members were Presidential appointees. Tobriner served as its president for six years.

Although he had always been a strong advocate for some form of home rule for the city, Tobriner knew that 1961 was not the year to push for it. He felt, as The Washington Post reported, Congress would not pass a home rule bill unless the President actively worked for its enactment; the newly elected John F. Kennedy would be occupied with more pressing matters. Nevertheless, Tobriner was a visionary for positive change.

July 2012: Stained glass window

Stained glass window
  • Object No.: 2003.6.1
  • Donor: Fred Litwin
  • Description:

    Stained glass window in wooden frame, approx. 3' x 5'. Purple, green, and orange design with central Star of David.

Originally from a Brooklyn synagogue, this stained glass window was purchased by Fred Litwin in 1980. For more than 20 years, he displayed it in his antique furniture store at 637 Indiana Avenue, NW.

Housed in one of the oldest remaining commercial buildings in the city, Litwin's was one of the last furniture stores that once crowded the Seventh Street area. The 1960s had brought redevelopment to the area and small businesses struggled to stay. When Litwin closed his shop in 2003, he donated the window to JHSGW. 

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.

June 2012: District Grocery Stores sign, 1920s

District Grocery Stores sign, 1920s
  • Object No.: 1999.36.1
  • Donor: Milton Weinstein
  • Description:

    Two-part green metal sign (28" x 116") with orange letters reading District Grocery Stores, 1920s

This sign hung over Harry's Market in Mt. Rainier, Maryland for more than 70 years. Leah and Harry Weinstein bought the market in 1924 and became members of District Grocery Store (DGS), a cooperative. DGS was formed in 1921 by a dozen Jewish grocers, providing cooperative buying power and a means to fight discrimination from non-Jewish wholesalers.

Through out its 72 years, Harry's Market supplied the neighborhood with groceries, beer and wine, diapers, school supplies, candy and other small necessitates. When Harry and Leah got older and could no longer run the store, daughters Vivian and Ruth (seen here), took over until closing in 1996.

UPDATE: The legacy of DGS lives on in DGS Delicatessen, a "next generation delicatessen" in Dupont Circle owned by descendants of DGS grocers.

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.

May 2012: Photograph of Arthur Welsh, c. 1910

Photograph of Arthur Welsh, c. 1910
  • Object No.: C1-21
  • Description:

    Photograph of Arthur Welsh, at the controls of a Wright brothers airplane, and smoking cigar, 1909-1912.

Born in Russia in 1881, Laibel Willcher immigrated with his family to Philadelphia and moved to Washington as a teen. His family lived above the grocery store his mother ran at 900 G Street, SW. When he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1901, Willcher changed his name to Arthur Welsh. His marriage to Anna Harmel in 1907 was the first wedding in Adas Israel's new synagogue at 6th and I Streets, NW.

Welsh checking on the engine of the Wright C flyer prior to a successful test flight, June 3, 1912. Welsh's back is to the camera; Lieutenant Leighton Hazelhurst is seated in the plane, and Lieutenant Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, far left, holds the strut of the plane.

JHSGW Collection. 

After watching Orville Wright's flight demonstrations at Fort Myer, Virginia, in 1909, Welsh joined the Wright brothers' first training class. A skilled pilot, Welsh trained many of America's first aviators. One of his students was Henry "Hap" Arnold, who went on to become the Commanding General of the Army Air Forces during World War II. Arnold later remembered, "Welsh taught me all he knew. Or rather, he taught me all he could teach. He knew much more."

In 1912, Welsh was tragically killed in a crash at the College Park Airfield during a test flight of a new military plane designed by the Wright brothers. He was buried in the Adas Israel cemetery in southeast Washington. The Yiddish newspaper Forward reported, "All present were in tears including Mr. Orville Wright and his sister who were doing all they could to console the mother and wife of the deceased."

Commemorate Welsh's centennial and legacy with a special medal commissioned by the Jewish Historical Society. This limited edition, 2¼" medal is available in several finishes including Bronze ($50), Silver-plated ($75), and Gold-plated ($100) from our online shop.

April 2012: Invitation to Grant Army of the Republic event, 1892

Invitation to Grant Army of the Republic event, 1892
  • Object No.: 2008.4.1
  • Donor: Frank Rich, Sr.
  • Description:

    Invitation to reception for the Grand Army of the Republic's National Encampment, 1892

In 1861, German immigrant Abraham Hart joined the Union forces in Pennsylvania. He was wounded in battle the next year and convalesced in Washington. Hart remained in the city and, after the war, he worked as a lawyer and served as commander of the Department of the Potomac, Grand Army of the Republic (a Union veterans' organization). Union veterans attended annual multi-day gatherings, or encampments, to commemorate their Civil War service. This invitation to a reception during an encampment is in a scrapbook that Hart's great-grandson Frank Rich, Sr., donated to the Society.

Do you have material documenting local Jewish life during the Civil War that you'd like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society's collection? Please contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

March 2012: Youth Aliyah pledge card, 1930s-1940s

Youth Aliyah pledge card, 1930s-1940s
  • Accession No.: 1995.12
  • Donor: James Cafritz
  • Description:

    Youth Aliyah pledge card

In Washington, a number of women lobbied and raised funds for Youth Aliyah, which was founded in 1934 and worked to rescue Jewish children from increasing danger in Europe and bring them to safety in Palestine.

Washingtonian Mildred Cafritz used her radio show and influence as chair of the local Youth Aliyah Committee to appeal for funds for refugee children. By March 1945, her committee had raised $33,000 for housing, education, and vocational training.

Do you have material documenting local efforts to help European refugees that you'd like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society? Contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

February 2013: White House wedding cake box, 1966

White House wedding cake box, 1966
  • 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

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 documenting a local Jewish-owned business that you would like to donate to the archives? 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.

February 2012: Newsclipping about JCC women basketball players, 1935

Newsclipping about JCC women basketball players, 1935
  • Object No.: 2002.11.2
  • Donor: Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington
  • Description:

    Newsclipping featuring Jewish Community Center women basketball players practicing, February 22, 1935, Washington Times, included in JCC scrapbook.
    From left to right, Betty Kronman, Alto Schnitzer, Dorothy Shatzman (with ball), Sally Parker, and Helen Bushlow.

This 1935 newsclipping of JCC basketball players is from a collection of scrapbooks that document the Jewish Community Center at 16th & Q Streets, NW. The scrapbooks date from 1919 to 1980s and include many newsclippings, program invitations, photographs, and calendars of events documenting lectures, music recitals, and sporting events.

The photo in this clipping is featured in a documentary, Jewish Women in American Sport: Settlement Houses to the Olympics. Executive Producer Dr. Linda Borish of Western Michigan University visited our archives while conducting research for the film. We are proud that she selected this photograph for inclusion in the documentary. 

Do you have material documenting local Jewish athletics or an Jewish athlete that you'd like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society? Contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

January 2012: Photograph of Hebrew Academy students, c. 1965

Photograph of Hebrew Academy students, c. 1965
  • Accession No.: 1993.09
  • Donor: Washington Jewish Week
  • Description:

    Photograph of students standing outside the Hebrew Academy, c. 1965

Two years ago, the National Museum of American Jewish History requested this photo of Hebrew Academy students from our collection to include in its core exhibition and accompanying catalog. We proudly gave permission for the photograph's reproduction and use in this new major museum, which opened in Philadelphia in 2010.  The photograph is featured in the museum's core exhibition in the "Jewish Education, American Classrooms" segment, which is part of the larger section called "Choices and Challenges of Freedom: 1945 – Today."

The academy, later renamed the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy of Greater Washington, was founded in 1944. It occupied the pictured building at 16th Street and Fort Stevens Drive, NW, from 1951 to 1976. Coincidentally, the building continues to serve Jewish education today as home to Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation's Capital.

This photo is part of a large photographic collection donated by the Washington Jewish Week in 1993. The collection is composed of nearly 500 photographs that had been published in the newspaper throughout the preceding years. 

Do you have material documenting a local Jewish day school that you'd like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society? Contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

December 2011: Hanukkah banner, mid-20th century

Hanukkah banner, mid-20th century
  • Object No.: 1998.17.2
  • Donor: Nancy Bushwick Malloy
  • Description:

    Metallic, hinged Chanukah banner, 31" long, 1950s-1960s

This banner, an example of holiday decorations manufactured after World War II, adorned the Georgetown home of Ukrainian immigrants Louis and Rebecca Weinstein, to celebrate Hanukkah. This trend toward observing Hanukkah with songs, gifts, and decorations developed as the 20th century progressed. 

Do you have material documenting the local Jewish community 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 2011: Photograph of Fred Kolker with President Truman's turkey, 1948

Photograph of Fred Kolker with President Truman's turkey, 1948
  • Object No.: 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."

 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, sometimes called Union Terminal Market or 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.

October 2011: Photograph of first Giant supermarket, 1936

Photograph of first Giant supermarket, 1936
  • Object No.: NNCF48
  • Description:

    Photograph of the exterior of the first Giant supermarket, located at 3509 Georgia Avenue, NW, 1936.
    Courtesy of Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation

Nehemiah Cohen, a grocery store owner, and Samuel Lehrman, a food distributor, met in Pennsylvania, at Lehrman's Harrisburg Wholesale Grocery Co. warehouse. Eventually, they partnered to start a supermarket business and chose Washington for their new business venture. They hoped federal workers would provide a strong market even during the Depression.

Samuel Lehrman and Nehemiah Cohen shake hands

Their first Giant supermarket opened at Georgia Avenue & Park Road, NW, in February 1936. Giant Food soon became one of the leading businesses in the Washington region as well a leader in corporate philanthropy. By the 1950s, Giant Food had grown into a regional chain with more than 50 stores in the city and suburbs. Giant remained a locally owned family business until 1998 when it was sold to Royal Ahold, Inc.

In 2011, Society archivists completed a five-year project funded by the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation to preserve the history of Giant Food through oral histories and archival cataloging. The Giant Food Archival Collection includes corporate records, correspondence, marketing and publicity files, and an extensive set of photographs and negatives. The project also includes 17 oral history interviews. A selection of the photographs may be seen on the Jewish Historical Society's online catalog.

Birthday cake from Giant's Heidi Bakery made in celebration of Israel's bar-mitzvah birthday, 1961

Nehemiah Cohen's granddaughter Nina Cohen, added Giant material to the Society's archives. Her donation includes papers and photographs (such as the one seen here) documenting the activities and philanthropy of her grandfather as well as her father, Emanuel Cohen.

September 2011: Flier for Aleph Zadik Aleph's Yom Kippur dance, 1939

Flier for Aleph Zadik Aleph's Yom Kippur dance, 1939
  • Object No.: 2001.07.1
  • Donor: Sol Lynn
  • Description:

     Flier for Aleph Zadik Aleph's Yom Kippur dance, 1939

Starting in 1933, the local Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA), a Jewish boys' fraternity affiliated with B'nai B'rith, sponsored an annual post-Yom Kippur Dance. AZA was one of one of the more than 60 fraternities, sororities, clubs, and Zionist youth groups around which the social lives of Washington's Jewish teenagers revolved for nearly half a century. These organizations provided settings where teens could mingle and forge an American identity. Jewish teens canoed on the Potomac, danced in Glen Echo's pavilion, and organized Purim Balls at the Jewish Community Center.

Excluded from the sororities, fraternities, and clubs of their non-Jewish classmates, Jewish teenagers created their own social sphere blending their Jewish identity with secular activities. AZA's mission was "to provide athletic, social, and educational programs, to serve both community and Judaic interest, and to host oratory and debate competitions." Members met on Sunday afternoons at the Jewish Community Center at 16th & Q Streets, NW.

In 1934, the local AZA hosted more than 500 members from across the country at the 11th annual national convention at the Willard Hotel. Six years later, they welcomed some 300 members from neighboring states to the nation's capital for a conference and party at the Raleigh Hotel (12th & Pennsylvania Ave, NW). The four-day event included oratorical and debate contests and bowling and basketball tournaments, as well as a banquet and dance.

Do you have any material documenting local Jewish teen life that you'd like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society? Contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

August 2011: Jake Flax at Republic Pictures, c.1950

Jake Flax at Republic Pictures, c.1950
  • Object No.: 2010.25.4
  • Donor: Steven Blacher
  • Description:

    Photograph of Jake Flax holding a lasso while seated on a horse on location at Republic Pictures during a Variety Club convention in Hollywood. His sister Gertrude (woman on the right) watches in the background. c.1950

By 1913, brothers Sam (aged 26) and Jake Flax (aged 19) were both working as film distributors. Distributors, who found potential movie exhibitors in their local market, generally worked from buildings called film exchanges, which were owned by studios. Film exchanges stored films and often contained screening rooms.

In 1920, the Flax brothers joined together to own and operate Liberty Film Exchange. When Liberty's parent company unified its distributors, the Flaxes' office became Republic Pictures Corporation of Washington, D.C. Republic Pictures was one of the first major independent movie studios. It was known for Westerns, launching the careers of cowboy icons John Wayne, Gene Autry, and Roy Rodgers. The Flaxes' office was the first of 39 Republic exchanges to operate under the new company.

The Washington Post reported that a crowd in excess of 600 including "practically all of the 'show people' in the Washington territory" attended the seven-hour housewarming at Republic Pictures' new building at 925 New Jersey Avenue, NW, on May 20, 1935. Congratulatory telegrams, letters, and flowers arrived from across the country. When Sam died five years later, Jake continued with the business. Jake was also very active in the Variety Club, an organization of people in the entertainment industry that raised money for charities. Around the time of this photo, Jake was president of the local chapter, Tent No. 11. In 1947, he sold his Republic Pictures franchise but served as a branch manager until retiring in 1958. He passed away about a year later.

The Flax brothers were far from the only Washington-area Jews in the movie business. Because Jews were often shut out of traditional white-collar jobs, they were drawn to the opportunities offered by a new, high-risk enterprise in which they could be independent decision-makers. Aaron and Julius Brylawski, Max Burka, Fred Kogod, and Sidney Lust were among the local Jewish theater owners of the era.

Do you have material documenting local Jewish-owned entertainment industry that you'd like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society's collection? Please contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

July 2011: First Lady "Lady Bird" Johnson's leather gloves, c. 1967

First Lady
  • Object No.: 2011.15.1
  • Donor: Robert Rosenfeld
  • Description:

     Pair of First Lady "Lady Bird" Johnson's brown leather gloves, c. 1967

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.

Murial Humphrey, center, and Mr. Rosenfeld, right, c.1965

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), 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 exterior, 1979

Parkway Cleaners still operates today at the same Connecticut Avenue location it has occupied since 1930.

In 2011, 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.

June 2011: Leo M. Bernstein Archival Collection

Leo M. Bernstein Archival Collection
  • Accession No.: 2011.7
  • Donor: Leo M. Bernstein Family Foundation
  • Description:

    Leo M. Bernstein Archival Collection, which includes biographical materials, correspondence, family history, professional & community recognition, photographs, scrapbooks, and other memorabilia about the life and work of Leo M. Bernstein, D.C. banker, real estate broker, Zionist, civil rights promoter, philanthropist, American history enthusiast and collector.

Professional Life
Born in Washington, D.C. in 1915, Leo Bernstein graduated from the city's Central High School. He received an informal education in real estate while working with his father's real estate investments. The 1906 deed for his grandfather's kosher butcher shop and home at 816 Sixth Street, NW, is in the collection. He founded his own real estate company at age 18. Within a year, Bernstein challenged racial and religious covenants, which barred the sale of properties to persons of color or to Jews, selling a house in a "whites only" neighborhood near Howard University to an African-American professor.

Bernstein (right) and D.C. Commissioner Gilbert Hahn, Jr., raise the District of Columbia flag, D.C. National Bank headquarters,18th & K Streets, NW, 1971.

While working in real estate, Bernstein went to night law school, graduating in 1936 from the Columbus Law School (now Catholic University's Columbus School of Law). Over the next few decades, Bernstein owned and ran several D.C. banks.

History Enthusiast
Bernstein enjoyed collecting historic documents, especially those relating to American presidents; furniture; and other objects, exhibiting some of them in the lobbies of his banks. This interest led him to become involved in historic preservation in the Shenandoah Valley communities of Middletown and Strasburg, Virginia starting in 1960. There, Bernstein helped save and restore several buildings, including the 18th-century Wayside Inn. As documented by itineraries, correspondence, and photographs, Bernstein organized and hosted family reunions and getaway weekends for friends and colleagues there and at other hotels he owned in the region. Among the groups Bernstein welcomed was the Washington Board of Rabbis, which met at the Wayside Inn many times during the 1970s and 1980s.

Jewish Community Involvement

Certificate of appreciation from the D.C. Section of the National Council of Jewish Women presented to Bernstein for his support on the occasion of NCJW's 90th birthday, 1983

Bernstein's involvement in Jewish causes and organizations was local, national, and international. These included Adas Israel Congregation, United Jewish Appeal, Hebrew Academy of Greater Washington, American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science, Anti-Defamation League, and Yeshiva University. Bernstein served on the board of the Jewish Historical Society for nine years in the 1970s and ‘80s. 

As a young man, Bernstein was active locally in the cause of Zionism. In a 1999 oral history, Bernstein told of secret meetings attended by community leaders like Abraham Kay, Joe Cherner, and Morris Pollin: "Before Israel was a state, we had many Haganah meetings. We were getting ready to help Jews get into Palestine. They needed money for guns, ammunition and ships. We met at my office at 718 Fifth Street." One highlight of the collection is a 1948 letter from Joseph Cherner, president of the Louis D. Brandeis District of the Zionist Organization of America, appointing Bernstein chair of the Embassy Building Committee, charged with finding a suitable building for the first Israeli Embassy.

Donation of Collection
Bernstein passed away 2008 at the age of 93. The following year, the Jewish Historical Society started a major archival project funded by the Leo M. Bernstein Family Foundation to organize and preserve this extensive collection of Bernstein's business and personal papers. The Society completed the project in 2010 and was honored to accept the Leo M. Bernstein Archival Collection when the Foundation formally donated it the following year.

Do you have material documenting a local Jewish individual you'd like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society's collection? Contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

May 2011: Photograph of Mayor Walter Washington dancing the hora with Isaac Franck, 1973

Photograph of Mayor Walter Washington dancing the hora with Isaac Franck, 1973
  • Object No.: 1999.13.1
  • Donor: Pearl Franck
  • Description:

    Celebration for the 25th Anniversary of the State of Israel, May 1973.
    L to R: Bernie Rosenberg (celebration chair for Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington), D.C. Mayor Walter Washington, and Isaac Franck (executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington).

Isaac Franck became executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington in 1949. Franck, working with such influential Council presidents as Rabbi Isadore Breslau, Aaron Goldman, Albert E. Arent, Louis Grossberg, and Seymour D. Wolf, led the Community Council as it addressed a wide range of social and political problems.

Isaac Franck (lower right) at the
1963 March for Jobs and Freedom,

While the Council was formed to serve the local Jewish community, it did not shy away from issues that affected the greater good. Among these were issues of civil rights and desegregation, education, assistance to the poor, separation of church and state, equal opportunity, and Home Rule for the District of Columbia. For example, in 1953, the Council lent its name to the Thompson's Restaurant court case, decided by the Supreme Court. The case ended segregation in public accommodations in Washington, D.C. Following desegregation of public schools the subsequent year, the Council worked with city and religious leaders to encourage a peaceful transition. In 1963, Franck arranged for Martin Luther King, Jr., to address a citywide meeting at Adas Israel. That August, King returned to Washington to give his "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The Council coordinated local Jewish involvement in the historic event.

When Isaac Franck retired in 1973, Jewish Community Council membership had more than tripled. The Washington Post wrote that he "gave [the Jewish community] not only a degree of cohesion, he also sought for it a special place because of its location in the nation's capital." During Franck's tenure, the Council grew dramatically and worked with other organizations and faiths. He enabled 173 local organizations to speak as one while taking action on a wide range of community matters.

Today, the Council continues its important work with a new organizational name, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.

Do you have any material documenting local social action that you'd like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society? Contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

April 2011: Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz's Shoulder Marks, c. 1945

Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz's Shoulder Marks, c. 1945
  • Object No.: 2006.2.23
  • Donor: Mitchell Slavitt
  • Description:

    Pair of shoulder marks worn by Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, c. 1945

Handwritten note from Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz to Harry Slavitt, 1940s

Shortly after World War II, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz sent his five-star shoulder boards, discolored from Pacific sea water, with an accompanying note, 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.

Liquor bottle with custom label for General George Patton, 1940s

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 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.

March 2011: Birthday postcard from Rich's Shoes, 1935

Birthday postcard from Rich's Shoes, 1935
  • Object No.: 2001.21.13
  • Donor: Flora Atkin
  • Description:

    Birthday postcard addressed to Eleanor Blumenthal from Rich's shoe store, postmarked January 23, 1935

Bernard Rich opened a men's clothing store at 1322-1324 Seventh Street, NW, in 1869. His sons, Louis and Max, soon joined the business. In 1894, B. Rich & Sons became a family shoe shop and, four years later, moved into the four-story building they had built at 10th & F Streets, NW.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Rich's Shoes remained at 10th & F for more than half a century, becoming a downtown landmark. In addition to this main store, Rich's opened a branch in Georgetown by 1954 and another in Chevy Chase Shopping Center two years later. In 1961, the downtown shop relocated a few blocks west to a modern, new store at 1319-21 F Street, NW. A final branch opened in Farragut Square in 1968.

Throughout the years, the business passed to Max's son, Herbert, and then to Herbert's son, Frank. When the last of the four stores closed its doors in 1987, Frank's youngest son, Ned, was also part of the family business.

Frank Rich, Sr., remembers the sender of the birthday postcard, Rae Solomon, as a "very competent children's shoe salesperson" with loyal customers who returned to her year after year with their growing children. Eleanor Blumenthal, the 12-year-old postcard recipient, lived at 2012 Klingle Road, NW, with her parents, Joseph and Anna, and older sister, Flora. Eleanor's grandparents, Rachel and Herman Blumenthal, lived above their store on Seventh Street, NW, in the heart of the downtown Jewish community.

Rachel kept albums of penny postcards that she received for holidays from family and friends. Rosh Hashanah, birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Valentine's Day were among the many events commemorated in her collection. Her granddaughter, Flora, now an Honorary Director of the Jewish Historical Society, has donated more than two dozen of her family's postcards to the Society's archives. The Society has used the postcards in youth education programs and as invitation illustrations for special events.

Do you have materials from your childhood in the Washington, D.C. area that you'd like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society's collection? Please contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

Point of Interest: The Rich's building at 10th & F Streets, NW, is now home to Madame Tussauds, which came to Washington, D.C., in 2007.

February 2011: Washington Hebrew Congregation's Henry King, Jr. Eternal Light, 1898

Washington Hebrew Congregation's Henry King, Jr. Eternal Light, 1898
  • Accession No.: 1975.01
  • Donor: Robert Reich
  • Description:

    Brass eternal light, 1898

Caroline King donated the ner tamid (eternal light) to Washington Hebrew Congregation in memory of her late husband, Henry King, Jr. The inscription reads "In memory of H. King Jr. by his wife and children." A ner tamid is an eternal light that hangs over a synagogue's ark where the Torah is kept, and symbolizes God's constant presence.

King's Palace, early 1900s. The façade of the building survives, now integrated into an office building at 810 Seventh Street, NW, which houses a local bar on the first floor.

Courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-DIG-npcc-32044

Henry King, Jr., came to the United States in 1848 as a teenager. He and Caroline Straus married and opened a millinery business on Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, in 1861. The business expanded and relocated a number of times before finding its permanent home at 814 Seventh Street, NW, in 1877. In the meantime, the couple had welcomed seven children into their lives, three of whom would eventually take over the business. Over time, the millinery grew into a department store known as King's Palace that occupied four adjacent addresses. King died in 1897 and the business continued under the management of three of his sons and later a grandson.

In 1898, when Washington Hebrew dedicated a new synagogue on Eighth Street, NW, this ner tamid was donated in memory of Henry King, who had been largely responsible for campaigning and fundraising for the new synagogue in his role as congregational president.

About 75 years later, when Robert Reich, a local collector of architectural remnants, unearthed the light, he knew that Henry Brylawski, Chair of the Restoration Committee for the 1876 historic synagogue, was looking for a ner tamid to hang in synagogue. A newer ner tamid had already been installed, however, so the blackened, brass light fixture was donated to the Society's archival collection. To prepare it for display in 2005 in our exhibition, Jewish Washington: Scrapbook of an American Community, at the National Building Museum, the ner tamid was repaired, polished, and restored.

Do you have artifacts from a local synagogue that you'd like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society? Contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

January 2011: Photograph in Milton S. Kronheim, Sr.'s lunchroom, early 1970s

Photograph in Milton S. Kronheim, Sr.'s lunchroom, early 1970s
  • Object No.: 1998.54
  • Donor: Estate of Milton S. Kronheim, Sr.
  • Description:

    Photograph of Chief Justice Earl Warren's birthday party in the dining room at Milton S. Kronheim's warehouse, early 1970s.
    From left (sitting): Associate Justice William O. Douglas, Judge Simon Sobeloff, Milton S. Kronheim, Sr., Chief Justice Earl Warren, and Associate Justice Thurgood S. Marshall. Standing from left are Milton King, Judge David L. Bazelon, former Maryland Governor Theodore R. McKeldin, Stanley Rosenzweig, Judge J. Skelly Wright, and Associate Justice William E. Brennan, Jr.

Milton S. Kronheim, Sr., owner of Milton S. Kronheim & Son, at one time the area's largest liquor distributor, presided over a modestly appointed lunchroom at his liquor warehouse in Northeast Washington. There, he attracted gathering of presidents, lawmakers, Supreme Court Justices, sports figures, religious leaders and representatives of numerous charities. Kronheim gave his first lunch in 1928. He continued informally hosting the city's most influential persons until his death in 1986, at age 97.

Kronheim devoted himself to an array of political and charitable causes as well as national Jewish organizations. He was a major supporter of the Democratic Party and his fundraising for Israel Bonds was so successful that a town, Nachalat Kronheim, was named after him. Kronheim also found time to pitch for his baseball team, the Kronheim A.C. Bearcats, until his arm gave out when he was in his mid-eighties. D.C. delegate, Walter Fauntroy, often played for the team.

Kronheim's treasured photographs lined the walls of his company's lunchroom. In 1998, his family donated more than 400 photographs and other items to the Jewish Historical Society, and the Society produced an exhibition of a selection of them the following year. The photographs are both a pictorial biography and a who's who of Washington throughout most of the 20th century.

Do you have material documenting a notable local Jewish community member that you'd like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society? Contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

December 2010: Photograph of Hanukah celebration at the daily Soviet Jewry vigil, 1973

Photograph of Hanukah celebration at the daily Soviet Jewry vigil, 1973
  • Object No.: 2009.30.4
  • Donor: Ida Jervis
  • Description:

    Photograph of a group from Arlington Fairfax Jewish Congregation celebrating Hanukkah at the daily vigil for Soviet Jewry, 1973. Photograph by Ida Jervis.

In 1970, protesting on behalf of Soviet Jews who were denied permission to emigrate from the Soviet Union, Washington Jews started a daily vigil across the street from the Soviet Embassy on 16th Street, NW. Local synagogues and Jewish organizations were assigned specific days to ensure daily attendance. The vigil was maintained until 1991 when Soviet policies began changing and Jews were permitted to emigrate.

The vigil was the most acclaimed of Washington's Soviet Jewry activities. The Soviet Jewry movement (c. 1963-1991) was a worldwide effort to free Soviet Jews, who were unable to emigrate or practice Judaism without persecution or discrimination. Across the United States, grassroots groups sprang up to work on behalf of these disenfranchised people. Washington's Jewish community organized and participated in rallies, demonstrations, and other protest activities.

Button from the rally for Soviet Jewry on the National Mall, 1987
Washington-area activists came together again in 2008 when they partnered with the Jewish Historical Society to discuss how to ensure the community's contribution to the Soviet Jewry movement would be documented for posterity. The first meeting resulted in a new collection in the Society's archives of more than 20 written or recorded memoirs of movement activists, more than 50 photographs, political buttons, t-shirts, organizational records, and Prisoner of Conscience bracelets.

Commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the start of the daily vigil for Soviet Jewry, 2010
On December 10, 2010, the community gathered across the street from the former site of Soviet Embassy to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the start of the daily vigil. This event kicked off the beginning of the Society project's to create a new exhibition and public programs to highlight the efforts of the local community on behalf of the Soviet Jews.

UPDATE: The exhibition, Voices of the Vigil, debuted in December 2013. Rent or view online!

November 2010: Four Immortal Chaplains postage stamps, 1948

Four Immortal Chaplains postage stamps, 1948
  • Object No.: 1995.06.2
  • Donor: Teresa Goode Kaplan
  • Description:

    Sheet of postage stamps, 1948. Stamps depict the sinking S.S. Dorchester and portraits of the Four Immortal Chaplains

In 1948, Chaplain Alexander Goode (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.

Photograph of Chaplain Alexander Goode, early 1940s
At age 32, Rabbi Goode enlisted as a military chaplain. He was assigned to the USAT 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 fourteen Jewish chaplains who has perished while in service. In 2011, the Jewish Chaplains Monument was unveiled on Chaplains Hill at Arlington National Cemetery, joining the monuments for World War I chaplains, Protestant chaplains and Catholic chaplains. To complement the new memorial, the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington partnered with the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington to create a guide to Jewish sites in Arlington National Cemetery. Published in 2013, it highlights memorials and individual burials of Jewish interest.

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

October 2010: World War II Jewish Lions Club banner, 1940s

World War II Jewish Lions Club banner, 1940s
  • Object No.: 2010.21.1
  • Donor: Jewish Lions Club
  • Description:

    Banner, 33 ¼" x 53 ½"

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.

Photograph of Jewish Lions Club reunion, October 1966

October 1996 reunion. Standing, left to right: Dave Gruber, Jack Newman, Charles Futrovsky, Dave Gordin, Alvin Steinberg, Sam Zweig, Sol Gnatt, Louis Kornhauser, Don Balfour, Allan Kamerow, and Harry Kramer. Seated from left to right: Lou Rosenbloom, Phil Shepsle, Herbert Wechsler, and Harold Brill.

The Jewish Lions Club is perhaps the only Jewish social club in the area whose original members continue to meet and host reunions. Club members loaned the banner for public display in two of the Society's exhibitions, Members of the Club: Jewish Teen Life in Washington, 1920s–1960s and Jewish Washington: Scrapbook of an American Community.

On September 13, 2010, the Jewish Historical Society hosted a special gathering at which Jewish Lions Club members donated the banner to the Society's archival collections. Society archivist Wendy Turman conducted an oral history interview with the four men present to record their stories about the club, its activities, and each member's military service during World War II.

Photograph of presentation of Jewish Lions Club banner to the Jewish Historical Society, 2010

Seen here presenting the banner are (left to right) Dave Gordin, Louis Kornhauser, Harry Kramer, and Sol Gnatt. 

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.

September 2010: Jewish New Years card, 1909

Jewish New Years card, 1909
  • Object No.: 1997.06.1
  • Donor: Edith and Charles Pascal
  • Description:

    Rosh Hashanah pop-up card featuring welcomed immigrants, 6" x 3.5" (1.75" deep when pop-up is unfolded), 1909

The central image on this Rosh Hashanah pop-up card is known as "Finding Refuge in America" and is attributed to Joseph Keller. In the illustration, American Jews (left) await their East European brethren who are seeking refuge. Above, at the left is an eagle bearing a crest of the stars and stripes and holding a banner with words from King David's plea, "Hide me in the shadow of your wings [from the wicked who oppress me]." A second eagle on the right has two heads and clutches a crown and scepter, symbolizing Czarist Russia.

Embossed chromolithographs were used by publishing companies to create elaborate greeting cards such as this. They were also purchased by individuals as collectibles or for use in constructing personal cards. This particular card is a pop-up card: the lower third of the card folds forward, forming a base and the image of the people pops out, displaying the "bronze" candelabra at right, a bit of greenery (hidden when the card is closed) and more of the blue-and-white house seen at the top of the card.

Do you have special greeting cards that you'd like to donate to the archival collection? Contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

August 2010: Camp Louise bracelet, 1950s

Camp Louise bracelet, 1950s
  • Object No.: 2005.1.1
  • Donor: Penny Feuerzeig
  • Description:

    Metal chain bracelet. Individual letter charms on the bracelet spell out CAMP LOUISE, 1950s

Located in western Maryland's Catoctin Mountains, Camp Louise was founded by Lillie and Aaron Straus and Baltimore's Jewish community in 1922 to provide a week's rest to immigrant women who worked in sweatshops. With assistance from Ida Sharogrodsky of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, it evolved into a summer camp for girls. Nearby Camp Airy for boys opened in 1924. The Jewish Community Center in D.C. gave scholarships for local children to go to these camps until it opened its own camp in 1942.

Photograph of Camp Louise girls, 1950s

Camp Louise girls in their "Shabbat whites", 1950s.

JHSGW Collections, Gift of Penny Feuerzeig.

Today, the camps offer Israeli folk dance, drama, crafts, and athletics. On Friday nights, Camp Louise girls wear "Shabbat whites" and line up to salute the flag. On Saturday mornings, boys at Camp Airy participate in creative Sabbath services under the trees of the camp's outdoor theater.

The first joint Camp Airy & Louise alumni reunion was in 2010 and included camp activities, tours, and a dinner with seating by decade of camp attendance.

Do you have materials documenting your summer camp experiences? To donate, contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

July 2010: Bicentennial Oval Office photograph with President Gerald Ford, 1976

Bicentennial Oval Office photograph with President Gerald Ford, 1976
  • Object No.: 2008.18.6
  • Donor: Sandra and Dr. Clement Alpert
  • Description:

    6.5"x10" black and white photograph. Rabbi Louis Gerstein, Amy Gerstein (left) and Cecile and Dr. Seymour Alpert (right) with President Gerald Ford (center) on July 12, 1976 in the Oval Office of the White House.

On July 12, 1976, as part of the nationwide bicentennial celebrations, rabbis from six colonial-era congregations presented President Ford with a bicentennial letter. Representatives were present from Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (Charleston, SC), Congregation Shearith Israel (New York, NY), Congregation Jeshuat Israel (Newport, RI), Congregation Mikveh Israel (Philadelphia, PA), Congregation Mickve Israel (Savannah, GA), and Congregation Beth Ahabah (Richmond, VA).

In this photo, Rabbi Louis Gerstein, who served Shearith Israel for 32 years, posed in the Oval Office with his wife Amy, President Ford, and Dr. Seymour and Cecile Alpert. Dr. Alpert was on the Jewish Bicentennial Commission of Greater Washington. The Alperts were active members of Washington, D.C.'s Jewish community. They were philanthropists and leaders in organizations such as the Jewish Community Council, Israel Bonds, and United Jewish Appeal (a predecessor to The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington).

Do you have materials documenting the D.C.-area Jewish community's bicentennial celebrations? To donate, contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

June 2010: 1876 Synagogue / Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum

1876 Synagogue / Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum
  • Description:

    Adas Israel Congregation's first synagogue building, 1876

The 1876 synagogue, built by Adas Israel Congregation as its first home, is the largest item in our collection.  President Ulysses S. Grant attended the dedication services on June 9, 1876, and donated $10 to the synagogue's building fund, the equivalent of $200 today.

The congregation soon outgrew its home and built a new synagogue at Sixth & I Streets, NW, in 1908. Its first building was sold and used by a succession of churches, a bicycle shop, a dentist, a barber, and even a pork BBQ!

Photograph of synagogue on large dolley, moving onto street, 1969
It stood for more than 90 years on the site before the new subway system (Metro) wanted to demolish the building to build its new headquarters. After a series of urgent letters and frantic preparations, several dedicated members of the Jewish Historical Society saved the building from the wrecking ball. On December 18, 1969, the building was moved three blocks to its present site, Third and G Streets, NW. 

Group of school children with actress Sue Holliday dressed as Anna Shulman
Community contributions and a gift from Lillian & Albert Small helped restore the synagogue. Rededicated in 1975 as the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum, the building is used for public programs, youth educational programs and private life-cycle events.

UPDATE: The museum's future is affect by a major new development project. As part of the project, the Society is planning the movie of the synagogue one block south to Third and F Streets, NW. The new location will allow the synagogue to regain its original orientation facing east toward Jerusalem and will provide the Society with land on which to build an adjacent museum. Learn more

To donate materials that document downtown synagogues to the Jewish Historical Society, contact us at (202) 789-0900 or info@jhsgw.org.

May 2010: Flag of Israel signed by community leaders, 1948

Flag of Israel signed by community leaders, 1948
  • Object No.: 2003.22.1
  • Donor: Ruthe Katz
  • Description:

    Israeli flag signed by leaders of local Zionist movement, May 14, 1948

Leaders of Washington's Zionist community signed this Israeli flag at Isador and Bessie Turover's celebration of Israel's independence. Signers included Ruth and Joseph Cherner, Rebecca and John Safer, Minnie and Abe Kay, and Louis Grossberg. See enlarged signature area of the flag.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Judith Bernhardt. 

Washington Jews celebrated. A wildly jubilant crowd gathered at the Jewish Agency at 2210 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, spilling out the door and onto the lawn. Rabbi Zemach Green offered a prayer of thanks. Members of the Habonim danced the hora and the crowd sang "Hatikvah."

We offer a poster and education guide called "Washington-area Teens and the Birth of Israel" for students and teachers.

To donate materials that document the D.C. area's contribution to the establishment of Israel to the Jewish Historical Society, contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

April 2010: Rudolph Behrend's circumcision gown, 1877

Rudolph Behrend's circumcision gown, 1877
  • Object No.: 2000.04.1
  • Donor: Amy Goldstein
  • Description:

    White cotton circumcision gown with white embroidery and eyelet work on the bottom of the skirt and bodice, 1877.

Illustrated business card for B.J. Behrend & Son, Fancy Goods & Millinery, 816-818 Seventh Street, NW, c.1870s.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Lawrence Gichner.

Bernhard Behrend immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1849 with his wife, Eliza, and most of their children. By the 1850s, several of their sons had relocated from New York to Washington, D.C., and the new arrivals became part of the small but thriving German immigrant community. Several Behrend boys had businesses downtown and were founding members of Washington's oldest congregation – Washington Hebrew Congregation. Over the next century, the extended family became active participants in building Jewish institutions throughout the city.

Amnon (one of Bernhard's 14 children) and Sarah Behrend dressed their infant son, Rudolph, in this handmade gown for his brit (ritual circumcision). In 1877, Rudolph was born at 706 Seventh Street, NW, now home to Legal Sea Food and part of the revival of the downtown neighborhood.

Do you have unique family objects that were used in your D.C.-area home?  To donate your materials to the Jewish Historical Society, contact us at (202) 789-0900 or info@jhsgw.org.

To learn more about Jewish life around the Seventh Street, NW, corridor between 1850 and 1950, join us on a Downtown Jewish Washington walking tour!

March 2010: Passover salt-water bowl

Passover salt-water bowl
  • Object No.: 2009.34.10
  • Donor: Robert Barkin
  • Description:

    Egg-shaped salt-water bowl, date unknown

Canter Jacob Barkin headshot
This bowl was donated by Robert Barkin, son of esteemed cantor and opera singer Jacob Barkin. Cantor Barkin served Adas Israel Congregation for more than 10 years during the 1940s and ‘50s. He performed in many concerts, secular and religious, appearing with the National Symphony Orchestra many times. While at Adas Israel, Barkin received an offer to join the Metropolitan Opera, but he turned it down so he could continue being a cantor.

This three-legged saltwater bowl would have been used at a seder (ceremonial Passover meal). Salt water's role during the seder is to remind the meal participants of their Jewish ancestors' tears and sweat when they were slaves in Egypt.

The open book depicted on the bowl is a Haggadah, which tells the story of the Exodus to be recited at the seder. The Hebrew seen here is the beginning of the Four Questions, "Why is this night different from all other nights?" The Four Questions, a fundamental part of every seder, point out ways in which the seder is different from all other meals.  Traditionally, the youngest child present recites the questions and answers.

Do you have unique ritual objects that were used in your D.C.-area home or synagogue?  To donate your materials to the Jewish Historical Society, contact us at (202) 789-0900 or info@jhsgw.org.

January 2010: March on Washington pennant, 1963

March on Washington pennant, 1963
  • Object No.: 2007.23.1
  • Donor: Hyman Bookbinder
  • Description:

    Fabric pennant mounted on wooden stick, carried by Hyman Bookbinder in the March on Washington, August 28, 1963.

As the seat of the federal government, Washington, D.C., is the primary site for citizens gather in support of a cause or to air their grievances. The local Jewish community has long been involved in national social activism by attending and supporting the many rallies, protests, and demonstrations in the city.

During the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the D.C.-area Jewish community took on several roles. Some marched. Others provided marchers with food or shelter. Congregations opened their doors to hundreds of student marchers, sleeping bags in tow. Over 250,000 people attended the massive civil rights march and rally, which closed with the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s now-famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

Hyman "Bookie" Bookbinder (a lobbyist for the AFL-CIO and, later, Washington representative for the American Jewish Committee for 30 years), waved this pennant at the March. Mr. Bookbinder told us of the summer heat and his rising awareness of the remarkable words of Dr. King. Along with those around him, by the end of the speech, he was on his feet, applauding wildly as King finished, "…in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

After loaning the pennant for our award-winning exhibition, Jewish Washington: Scrapbook of an American Community, at the National Building Museum, Mr. Bookbinder decided to donate it to the Jewish Historical Society collections.

To donate your materials that document social movements in the D.C. area (civil rights, Soviet Jewry, D.C. voting, etc.) to the Jewish Historical Society, contact us at (202) 789-0900 or info@jhsgw.org.