Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Featured in The Examiner!

Did you see this morning's copy of The Washington Examiner? I'm featured in the "3-Minute Interview" on page 5! Here's a picture of the article.

You can also check it out online. Thanks to Susan Ferrechio of The Examiner for thinking of us!

This is the second time someone from the Society has been featured--be sure to check out the interview with our director, Laura.

Just to note: the historic synagogue is actually at 3rd and G, NW. It's been corrected in the online version.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Lincoln Exhibition at JCCNV!

There are still 10 more days to see the framed panel version of our exhibition, Jewish Life in Mr. Lincoln's City, at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia. It's there until February 22.

The exhibition's 15 panels tell stories of Jewish life in Civil War-era Washington and Alexandria. As a bonus, we also have directories of known Jewish residents in Washington and Alexandria and extra pictures and documents on display.

Can't make it to JCCNV before February 22? Then come see the show at B'nai Israel Congregation (March 4-April 4) or the Washington, D.C., Jewish Community Center (April 10-30).

You can also buy the book and see illustrated lectures.

Thanks to board member John Tolleris for his generous contribution, which allowed us to create the traveling version!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Happy Birthday Mr. Lincoln

Today we hosted a Lunch & Learn talk in our historic synagogue featuring Jewish life in Mr. Lincoln's City. The talk centered around daily life for the some 2,000 Jews living in DC and Old Town during the Civil War. Wendy Turman, our archivist, joined me in telling some of the colorful stories associated with personalities like Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate spy Eugenia Levy Phillips, and Medal of Honor recipient Leopold Karpeles.

Birthday cake was served to all in attendance. This is the first in a series of programs to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. To learn more about Civil War programming, click here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Object of the Month: February 2011

Brass eternal light, 1898
Archives Record
Object #: 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.

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. King's Palace, Washington, DCThe 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 (seen at left). 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 new 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 or (202) 789-0900.
Photo: King’s Palace, early 1900s. Courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-DIG-npcc-32044.
The fa├žade of the building survives, now integrated into an office building at 810 Seventh Street, NW, which houses a local bar on the first floor.

Check out our previous Objects of the Month!