Friday, December 27, 2013

Object of the Month: December 2013

Object No.: 2006.3.1
Donor: Stephanie Silverstein
Description: Menu from Comet Liquor and Deli, 1815 Columbia Road, NW, 1990s.

Comet Liquor menu, 2000s

Photography of Comet Liquor store front, 2005
Fisher Photography
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.

Sidney Drazin at the Comet Liquor counterShortly 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

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Object of the Month: October 2013

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

Photo of receipt books, early 1930s
Illustration in
Eating Pleasure by Sisterhood Measure
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.

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

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Object of the Month: September 2013

Accession No.: 1995.16
Donor: Ruth and Vivian Weinstein
Description: Two grabbers, made of wood and metal, each stand 50" tall.

Monday, September 9, 2013

JHSGW receives Ohev Sholom archives!

We are delighted to announce that Ohev Sholom – The National Synagogue has donated the synagogue’s extensive historical records to the JHSGW archives.

Board minutes, membership files, financial books, cemetery records, photographs, and other memorabilia reveal the synagogue's long and rich history.

In the coming months, our archivists will work to catalog and re-house the records in archival, acid-free boxes and folders to ensure their long-term preservation. In the meantime, join us on a sneak peek into the history of the third oldest congregation in Washington, D.C.
Newly arrived Russian immigrants founded Ohev Sholom in 1886 and rented temporary quarters on 7th Street, NW.  In 1906, the congregation moved into a former church at 5th and I Streets, NW  (left).
Across town, residents of Southwest founded Talmud Torah Congregation in 1887 and built a new synagogue on E Street, SW (right).

Minute books handwritten in Yiddish detail Talmud Torah's daily life in 1905, while a meeting notice for Ohev Sholom documents the congregation's efforts to hire a new cantor in 1927.

During World War II, Ohev Sholom supported Russian War Relief with a donation of $105 in 1942. A few years later, in 1948, Talmud Torah Congregation gathered in the sanctuary to accept a new American flag. 

The city's two oldest orthodox congregations merged in 1958 to become Ohev Sholom Talmud Torah Congregation, and in 1960 the newly combined congregation moved into a new white limestone synagogue at 16th and Jonquil Streets, N.W.
An extensive series of newsletters and anniversary booklets traces the synagogue's history and growth from the 1960s through the 1990s.

In 1994, the synagogue established a branch in Olney, Maryland. By 2006, the branch had become fully independent and the original congregation had officially changed its name to become Ohev Sholom - The National Synagogue.

We are grateful to the congregation for this opportunity to help preserve the community's history.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Object of the Month: August 2013

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.

Background: 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.”

Poster advertising Rich’s frozen cheese blintzes, c. 1950s.
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 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

Monday, July 22, 2013

Object of the Month: July 2013

Accession 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.

Background: 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 storiesshowing 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

Monday, July 1, 2013

Object of the Month: June 2013

Object No: 2012.30.1
Donor: Froma Sandler
Description: World War II ration book for Jacob Sandler, age 35, 5221 Chevy Chase Parkway, Washington, D.C., early 1940s.

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.

Pages of ration stamps in Lena Chidakel’s ration book.
JHSGW Collections. Gift of Edith and Charles Pascal.

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 cantor
and shochet (ritual butcher) Moshe Yoelson.
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."

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Celebrating Israel@65

On Sunday, June 9th, we participated in The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington's Israel@65 Festival at Union Market. More than 10,000 people, young and old, celebrated Israel's 65th

At our booth:
- Children created Israel birthday cards.
- An exhibition, Ties That Bind, told the story of Washington's role in the establishing the Jewish State.
- We handed out 600 fans as well as posters about Washington's celebration of Israel's independence.

View our photo album of the event!

Longtime JHSGW member Paul Pascal led a tour of the history of Union Terminal Market and former sites of Jewish merchants. Check out the pictures! We plan to offer this tour again soon, so keep an eye out.

If you attended the tour, please comment here or email to tell what you thought! If a friend was on the tour, please share this request.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Another Successful Jewish American Heritage Month

We've wrapped up another successful Jewish American Heritage Month, again showing our role as the source for community history!

You may have seen Arthur Welsh, the first American Jewish aviator, featured in the "Flashbacks" comic in the Sunday Washington Post. Our efforts led to this feature and the Society was mentioned in the final strip! You can now view the entire six-part series.

Jewish Food Experience logo
Executive Director Laura Apelbaum and board member Diane Wattenberg were featured in The Federation's Jewish Food Experience blog -- read the post about the winning National Spelling Bee word: knaidel.

We partnered again this year with the National Archives on a very special program featuring Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissman Klein.

We were also featured in Moment Magazine (download article) and we were out in the community a great deal:

   - Exhibition, Jewish Life in Mr. Lincoln's City, was on display at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

   - Led 8 walking tours:
         - Washington Hebrew Congregation’s 6th grade, EntryPointDC’s young professionals group, and a public tour of Downtown DC
        - Arlington National Cemetery for the public, Women of Temple Rodef Shalom, and a Jewish school from North Carolina
        - Old Town Alexandria for the Adas Israel Congregation Sisterhood and Jewish Federations of North America staff

   - Presented 5 talks on topics about local Jewish heritage for:
        - OASIS at Montgomery Mall
        - U.S. Customs and Border Protection
        - EntryPointDC’s Shavuot Study Night
        - Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library
        - Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington's annual meeting (related blog post)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

100 Years of Jewish Community Life

Last week, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington held its annual meeting and celebrated its 100th anniversary. JHSGW Executive Director Laura Apelbaum spoke at the meeting and recounted a few highlights from the last 100 years of JCC history. Here are some excerpts from her talk:

Among the most treasured objects in our archival collections are 34 scrapbooks documenting the JCC from the 1920s into the 1980s. Each scrapbook is filled with invitations, programs, flyers, and newsclippings, creating a wonderfully colorful and rich compendium of the Center’s activities and our community's history.

Opening the first scrapbook page, we find a photograph of a 3-story brick townhouse at 415 M Street, NW. One hundred years ago, young Jewish men and women wanted to create a place for social interaction, cultural activities, and athletics. They formed the Young Men's and Young Women's Hebrew Associations - predecessors to today's JCC. In 1913, the YMHA purchased this home as their headquarters. They fielded baseball, tennis, and bowling teams, went on picnics and beach trips, held debates and dances, and raised funds for Jewish overseas relief during World War I. In 1914, they sold the building to the newly formed Hebrew Home and moved into other rented facilities.

The next scrapbook opens to a panoramic photograph of President Calvin Coolidge speaking to a crowd assembled at the corner of 16th and Q for the cornerstone laying ceremony of the JCC's new building. The national Jewish Welfare Board provided an initial $50,000, while developer Morris Cafritz and Jewish leader Joseph Wilner led the $500,000 building campaign.  In his speech, Coolidge remarked "Hebraic mortar cemented the foundations of American democracy."

Another scrapbook reveals a photograph of young men in uniform dancing cheek to cheek with young women in the JCC's gym during World War II. The Center’s policy "Your uniform is your admission" made the JCC the central place to meet and socialize for Jewish servicemen and women stationed in Washington. Young women called "government girls" were flocking to DC to work in war agencies, and a JCC room registry helped them find housing in Jewish homes that provided kosher meals.

As the Jewish community grew in postwar years and began moving north and west into the suburbs, many Jewish communal organizations and synagogues followed. Turning the page, we find a smiling Charles E. Smith holding a ceremonial shovel alongside the youngest student at the JCC's nursery school and the oldest resident of the Hebrew Home at the 1967 groundbreaking for the new Rockville facility on Montrose Road.

The JCC's history showcases our community's unique relationship as the nation’s capital where presidents attend holiday events and groundbreakings. At the same time, the JCC holds many personal connections and has played a central part in the lives of many families for the past century.

What are your memories from the JCC?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Celebrating a Centennial Birthday!

Henry Brylawski speaking at the
re-dedication of the historic synagogue, 1975
Please join us in celebrating the centennial birthday this June 8th of our past president Henry Brylawski.

Henry served as president of the Society in 1969-1970 and was instrumental in the move and preservation of our historic synagogue to its current location at 3rd and G Streets.

Since then, he has continued to share with us his deep knowledge and love of Washington history and is one of our favorite resources for historical information about our community and his hometown.

Henry is a great historian, a strong advocate for our historic synagogue, a fabulous cook, and a steadfast supporter of our work.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Object of the Month: May 2013

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. 1950s.
Left to right: Elaine Klawans & Morton Funger; Margie Blanken & Robert Funger; Phyllis Lidoff & Sonny Feldman; Lillian Witt and unknown.

Background: 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 here).

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.

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.

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 (z'l) about his AZA days.

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.

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

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

Monday, May 20, 2013

Featured in Moment Magazine!

First page of the article - a sneak peak!
We want to share a terrific feature on the Washington Jewish Community that appears in this month’s issue of Moment Magazine in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month.

The article, “Jewish Routes,” highlights Washington’s Jewish community and features images from our collection and content from interviews with me and others on our staff. In addition to the main article, there is a list of local Jewish American Heritage sites and profiles of community members, who share memories of growing up and their lives in Washington. Included are Society members Josephine Ammerman, Lois England, Irene Kaplan, Robert Kogod, Albert Small, and David Bruce Smith. You can download all of it here. Bonus content, a Jewish D.C. reading list, was posted on Moment's blog.

As we continue to plan for the future move of the synagogue and the building of a new Jewish museum in Washington, we are honored to have our role featured in Moment Magazine—a national publication of Jewish thought and culture.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Making history with Giant Food

Laura Apelbaum, JHSGW Executive Director, holding the GIANT check
with John Hicks and Charlton Clarke of Giant Food.
In the background are D.C. City Councilmember Tommy Wells and
Giant Food President Anthony Hucker.
Courtesy of Giant Food

Last week JHSGW staff attended the grand opening of Washington’s newest corner grocery store – the H Street NE Giant Food.  As you can see, we were thrilled to receive a generous $2,500 contribution from Giant in appreciation for our work preserving Giant Food’s historical archives and photographs. With support from the Naomi &  Nehemiah Cohen Foundation, JHSGW archivists spent five years cataloging Giant Food’s historical documents and photographs and conducting oral histories to help preserve Giant’s remarkable legacy in our community.

For a sneak peek into the Giant Food archives, check out this slideshow of historic Giant photos and a short film featuring memories of Giant Food and its founders, Samuel Lehrman and Nehemiah Cohen, from interviews with community leaders, former employees of Giant Food, family, and friends.

Recognize the big G? Most of these iconic Giant  store signs have been replaced in recent years so we were especially delighted to receive this sign last month when the Queenstown Giant in Hyattsville, Maryland closed. Opened in 1954 on Queens Chapel Road, the store achieved a brief moment of fame in 1957 when Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip stopped in for a brief tour of the store after visiting the University of Maryland.

We plan to make the GIANT sign a centerpiece of our new museum in the future - but in the meantime our costs to preserve and store the sign will come to $12,000 over the next five years. Won't you help us support the care and preservation of this GIANT piece of history? Click here to donate to the Giant Food Sign Preservation Fund.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Intern Report: Rachel Ripps

I have greatly enjoyed my eight-month internship experience at the JHSGW. During my four years at American University, I have worked at a variety of internships, but this internship ranks highest in quality among all my previous experiences. The opportunity has been truly educational, inspiring, and rewarding.

JHSGW provides its interns with a variety of important tasks, ranging from programming, archiving, social media, historic tour guiding, and development. In this way, I have been able to participate in many interesting events and meet some amazing people. I have worked on countless memorable projects, including a silent auction at the 2012 Annual Meeting, which I created and managed.  I implemented marketing initiatives for public programs and contributed to youth education programming for local children. I even contributed weekly to JHSGW’s Pinterest account. Most importantly, I always felt that my time, work, and opinions were greatly appreciated by the staff.

Undoubtedly, the skills I have learned from my time at JHSGW will assist me in furthering both my personal and career goals in the museum management field. I am grateful to the staff for mentoring and providing me with this invaluable experience.

Rachel Ripps is a senior at American University, working on a B.A. in History and a B.S. in Business Administration.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of "We Will Never Die"

Cover of original pageant, 1943.
JHSGW Collections.
In April 1943, official Washington was alerted to the Nazi massacre of Europe's Jews when the pageant We Will Never Die was presented at Constitution Hall. Controversial activist Peter Bergson collaborated with Hollywood's leading screenwriter Ben Hecht to create the pageant. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was among the dignitaries who attended the Washington performance.

On April 25, 2013, the Society hosted two academics, Drs. Rafael Medoff and Allan Lichtman, who discussed the history and politics of the pageant in 1943. The event included readings from the pageant's original script by Adas Israel Cantor Arianne Brown, Ford's Theatre Director Paul R. Tetreault, Washington Jewish Week’s Meredith Jacobs, and  D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans. Holocaust survivor Dr. Alfred Munzer also shared his experiences hidden as an infant in the Netherlands. Click here to listen to the entire program or on the links below to hear individual segments.

Welcome: Laura Cohen Apelbaum, JHSGW Executive Director
Introduction: Wilma Probst Levy, JHSGW Program Committee Co-Chair
The Politics of a Pageant: Dr. Rafael Medoff, Director, The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies
Local Connections: Laura Cohen Apelbaum, JHSGW Executive Director

Recreation of Portions of the Pageant
"Prayer": Cantor Arianne Brown, Adas Israel Congregation
"Corregidor": Paul R. Tetreault, Director, Ford's Theatre
"Remember Us": Meredith Jacobs, Managing Editor, Washington Jewish Week
"Words for Washington": The Hon. Jack Evans, D.C. Councilmember

Introduction of Final Speakers: Howard Morse, JHSGW Program Committee Co-Chair
American Jewry in 1943: Dr. Allan Lichtman, Professor, American University Department of History
A Survivor’s Perspective: Dr. Alfred Munzer
Conclusion: Wilma Probst Levy, JHSGW Program Committee Co-Chair

Friday, April 26, 2013

Object of the Month: April 2013

Object No.: 1998.24.4
Donor: Ann Hofberg Richards
Description: Hofberg's menu, yellow and maroon printed cardboard, c.1950s

Background: 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.

When Abe launched his first deli at 116 Kennedy Street, NW (seen left) 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.

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 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

Monday, April 22, 2013

In Memory of Jack Kay

Please join us in extending condolences to the family of Jack Kay, Jewish Historical Society Honorary Director, who passed away this weekend. Mr. Kay’s funeral will be held at Adas Israel Congregation, 2850 Quebec Street, NW, at 1 pm tomorrow, Tuesday, April 23, 2013.

Barbara and Jack Kay at our Guardian
event at the Halcyon House, 2008
Mr. Kay was a key supporter of our work for many years. He began his Board service in 1999, became an Honorary Director in 2005 and served in this capacity until his death. He and his first wife, Ina, were among our first Guardian members. As a member of our Presidents Circle, he and his wife Barbara were major donors supporting the many aspects of our programs and operations. He generously supported our exhibitions during the past 20 years, including our Israel exhibition, Ties That Bind, in 1998 and Jewish Washington in 2005.

Mr. Kay understood the importance of our work preserving Jewish history in the nation's capital and established the Kay Family Archives through his many donations to the Society's collections. The Kay Family Archives include numerous photographs, scrapbooks, correspondence, personal papers, and other materials documenting the remarkable legacy that both he and his parents, Minnie and Abraham Kay, left in our community.

Our heartfelt condolences to Jack’s wife Barbara, his daughter Lauren, and his grandchildren.
May his memory be a blessing.

In Memory of Richard England

It is with great sadness to notify you that Richard “Dick” England, husband of Honorary Director Lois England, passed away on Monday, April 1, 2013.

A memorial service was held on Thursday, April 4th at Washington Hebrew Congregation. Family suggests memorial gifts be made to Chess Challenge, The Multicultural Career Intern Program (at the Columbia Heights Educational Campus), or Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.

Lois has served on our Board for more than 20 years with a particular interest in archives.  Both she and Dick were among our earliest and staunchest supporters and boosters. They were among the original donors creating an endowment in their names in the late 1980s to perpetuate museum activities. They were among the original Guardian members, increasing their support annually. With each special project and exhibition, Lois and Dick were there with their support.  They hosted a wonderful event for major donors in their home about 10 years ago. When our exhibition Jewish Washington: Scrapbook of an American Community opened in the National Building Museum, the Englands thought that we should have a 30’ banner hang in the Great Hall and their support made that possible.

The Englands announced a major contribution to the Society
at the 50th anniversary annual meeting, 2010.
When we started our Capital Campaign to purchase our administrative office building, Lois and Dick were among the first supporters, later increasing their support so that they would be in a position to ask others for support—which they did. Again they were the first donors to the new museum generous giving us a $250,000 gift that they hoped would be used for the new museum, but were kind enough to designate as unrestricted.

We have benefited from their wisdom and support.

Though Lois served on the Board, Dick was present at Guardian events, exhibit openings and annual meetings, lending his voice and support to our work. We will greatly miss him.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Object of the Month: February 2013

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

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

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

President Johnson escorting daughter Luci
from the White House to her wedding, 1966
Mrs. Rubin later wrote, "As I drove onto the White House grounds, my eyes filled with tears. I was overwhelmed by the unique experience I was about to encounter." Her tasks included helping cut 750 pieces of groom's cake, wrapping each piece in gold foil, and placing them into the satin cake boxes, which were then tied with gold cord. By the time the wedding was over, she'd been working at the White House off and on for two weeks. Mrs. Rubin went on to help plan the wedding of Lynda Baines Johnson to Chuck Robb the next year.

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

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

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

Do you have materials you would like to donate to the archives that document a local Jewish-owned business? Please contact us at 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

Monday, February 11, 2013

Remembering Ambassador Max Kampelman

We at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington mourn Ambassador Max Kampelman, who passed away January 25 at the age of 92.

Kampelman was a leading figure in the Washington community from his arrival here in Washington in 1949. After serving on Senator Hubert Humphrey’s staff, Kampelman joined the law firm that is now Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson. He remained with the firm until his death.

 Kampelman is most known for his diplomatic achievements, representing the United States in negotiations with the Soviet Union in Madrid from 1980 to 1983, and in negotiations to reduce nuclear weapons from 1985 to 1989. Along with Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Richard Schifter, Kampelman insisted on coupling weapons reductions with progress on human rights issues.

In addition to being involved internationally, Kampelman took a strong interest in the local community, serving as chairman of, among other organizations, WETA and the Friends of the National Zoo.

You can read more about his accomplished life here.

One of the biggest honors in my life was conducting an oral history with Ambassador Kampelman in March 2011. The interview was part of our Soviet Jewry movement project—I interviewed both Kampelman and Schifter to get the “view from the top,” to learn what role the movement played in U.S. government decision-making and diplomacy with the Soviet Union.

Our two-hour discussion, held at Kampelman’s law office two blocks from the White House, touched on many subjects—arms negotiations, the role of human rights, and Kampelman’s fascinating life story. Here is one of the more memorable stories he told me. He had just finished a speech in New York when a once-imprisoned Soviet Jewish refusenik approached him:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Presidents and the Jews: Fun Facts for the Inauguration

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

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

President Ulysses S. Grant attended the dedication of the Adas Israel synagogue (now the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum) on June 9, 1876. Grant remained for the entire three-hour service and gave a $10 donation to the synagogue building fund.
(Other answer options: George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt.)

2.  Which president spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Jewish Community Center on 16th Street, NW?

President Calvin Coolidge addressed the crowd in 1925 and closed his remarks by saying, "As those who come and go shall gaze upon this civic landmark, may it be a constant reminder of the inspiring service that has been rendered to civilization by men and women of the Jewish faith."
(Other answer options: Woodrow Wilson and Warren G. Harding)

3.  Who was the first Jewish candidate on a major-party presidential ticket?

Senator Joseph Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew who did not campaign on the Sabbath, was Senator Al Gore’s running mate in 2000.
(Other answer options: Jacob K. Javits and Abraham Ribicoff)

4.  What enterprising Washington businessman provided lumber to build the inaugural stands for Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, and Dwight D. Eisenhower?

Sidney Hechinger first donated lumber to build the inaugural platform in front of the Capitol in 1933. After the ceremonies, he dismantled the stand and sold pieces cut from the wood as inaugural souvenirs.
(Other answer options: Alexander Hecht and Max Lansburgh)

5.  Which congregation is named in an Act signed into law by President Franklin Pierce that entitles Jewish congregations in Washington, D.C. to the same rights and privileges as churches?

President Franklin Pierce signed “An Act for the Benefit of the Hebrew Congregation in the city of Washington” on June 2, 1856. Washington Hebrew had petitioned Congress for legislation to ensure its right to own property in the city.
(Other answer options: Adas Israel Congregation and Kesher Israel)

6.  Which President sent his Jewish chiropodist (foot doctor) on a secret wartime peace mission?

Isachar Zacharie tended the feet of President Abraham Lincoln and several other Cabinet officials during the Civil War. In 1863 Lincoln sent him to Richmond to meet with Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin to propose peace negotiations.  The errand was unsuccessful.
(Other answer options: Theodore Roosevelt and James Monroe)

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

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

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Object of the Month: January 2013

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

Background: 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 that document a local Jewish-owned business? Please contact us at 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