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)


  1. These are great! Do you have any other older quizzes?

  2. Marc, glad you enjoyed it! This was our first quiz and it was quite a success, so we'll be sure to try more in the future. Email info@jhsgw.org if you'd like to be added to our email list.

  3. These are amazing facts, I did not knew that Al Gore had a Jewish running mate. This shows that history Jewish migration to America is very old and they have been contributing to the economic and social upliftment of America since centuries.

    No wonder today Jews stand out as prominent businessmen, scientists, economists, movie producers, film directors, actors, singers and artists. Traditional Jewish traits like hardwork, modesty and family have been crucial factors in their amazing success. Today Jewish lobby is respected across all political spectrum.

    So if today America is the top most military and economic super power, a lot of credit goes to hardworking and diligent Jewish community.