Monday, April 26, 2010

Special VIP Guests on Arlington National Cemetery Walking Tour

Yesterday I had the amazing experience of accompanying Ambassador and Mrs. Michael Oren on our walking tour of Jewish "sites" in Arlington National Cemetery. Volunteer guides Les Bergen and Ernie Marcus provided a terrific insider's tour.

The most touching moments were watching the Israeli Ambassador place stones atop the headstones of one of Hadassah's first two nurses in Palestine in 1913-- Rae Landy and on the grave of Justice Arthur Goldberg. The Ambassador, a history professor himself, gave a wonderfully inspiring talk at the grave of Orde Wingate-- the British officer who was the father of the Israeli IDF teaching the nascent Jewish army how to fight. Orgate was killed along with other Brits and Americans when their plane was downed in the Burma theater during WWII.

It was a day filled with JHSGW programming -- uber-volunteer Marc Livingston led a walking tour of downtown DC, David McKenzie led an exhibit tour of Jewish Washington now on display at the Historical Society of Washington, and Maryann and Al Friedman hosted a salon for members to view their incredible collection of Hudson River School paintings.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Yom Ha'atzmaut

Today is Israel's Independence Day. Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, declared the State’s independence on May 14, 1948. At 6:11 pm, President Truman officially recognized the new State. As pictured at right, Washingtonians gathered at the Jewish Agency building on Massachusetts Avenue, NW. The crowd cheered as the flag of the new State of Israel was raised on Embassy Row.

To celebrate, we invite you to peruse our online slideshow that chronicles the involvement of the Washington Jewish community in the struggle for Jewish statehood.

Copyright The Washington Post. Reproduced with permission.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Days of Remembrance

Today Congress gathered to remember the tragedy of the Holocaust. Almost on a daily basis we receive phone calls asking for the Holocaust Museum's phone number. I answered such a call just now.

Every member of our staff has its number by their phone to assist. Why? Our organization has the benefit of having "Jewish" as the first word of its name-- hence we are listed in the phone book under "Jewish." The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is harder to find. So we have been an unofficial directory for years. Filling a role to help visitors and our community locate this important colleague museum and in a small way faciliatate remembering the hard lessons of the past.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Barnes & Noble Talk Success

I was thrilled to have an enthusiastic audience for a book talk on Jewish Life in Mr. Lincoln's City yesterday at Barnes & Noble in Rockville. The talk originally schedule for a snowy February evening to coincide with the president's birthday had been moved to April and what turned out to be the prettiest day of this spring.

Thanks to those who gave up their sunny Sunday to listen in. April has many connections to Jewish life during the Civil War in our area. Many are sad and associated with Lincoln's assassination on April 14, 1865-- the arrival of Dr. Charles Liebermann to the president's bedside vigil at the Peterson Boarding House, the marching of 125 members of Washington Hebrew Congregation in the funeral procession on April 19, and the Lansburgh brother's donation to the creation of a memorial statue to the fallen president (which still stands in front of the old City Hall now the DC Court of Appeals at 5th and D Streets, NW).

The date of the assassination was also the fifth day of Passover that year and the associations were not lost on those that eulogized the fallen leader. Lincoln was referred to as Moses leading the nation out of the house of bondage. He was eulogized both at Washington Hebrew Congregation and Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria.

Disney's Lessons

So what could my Spring break vacation to Walt Disney World possibly teach me about working in an authentic historic site?? After all, the kids were immediately on to it. They quickly said, "Mommy, everything here is fake."

Here's the thing. I noticed that even at Disney folks are looking for ways to create personal experiences. Their staff or "cast members" as they are called play a prominent role in leading programs, asking questions, involving the audience. Far different than my last Disney experience. It seems visitors like the personal touch. That confirms what we have been working to achieve for years-- staff, volunteers, and board members interacting with the public at programs, walking tours, and other activities. Putting a face to our communal history.

Plus we have the added bonus of a real, authentic historic site. We will soon unveil great new plans for our site to educate and enthuse our visitors. And unique new ways to give a personal and unique touch to our tours and programming-- stay tuned!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Object of the Month: April 2010

JHSGW 50th anniversary logoTo honor our 50th anniversary, we invite you to peek into our archives each month.

From the Archives...
Circumcision gown, 1877

Archives Record
Object #: 2000.04.1
Donor: Amy Goldstein
Description: Circumcision gown, 1877. White cotton with white embroidery and eyelet work on the bottom of the skirt and bodice

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

Read more about Rudolph's family!