Wednesday, September 28, 2011

L'Shana Tova/Happy New Year

May you have a year of health, happiness, and peace.

From the Board and Staff of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington and its Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum.

We hope to see you at an upcoming program!

Visitors from Everywhere

August and September seem to be our "high season" at the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum. We've had several walk-in visitors each week, including some from overseas. In the last two months we've had the privilege of giving tours to people from:
  • North Carolina
  • Colorado
  • California
  • New York
  • Michigan
  • Pennsylvania
  • Florida
  • Missouri
  • Slovenia
  • Czech Republic
  • The Netherlands
  • Germany
A lovely couple from the Czech Republic sent me some nice photos after their tour, two of which I've posted here. It's been a great experience meeting people from so many places--I've learned a lot through the back-and-forth with our visitors.

Want to come visit our synagogue? Bring your friends or family when they're in town? Just get in touch--we'd love to have you visit.

And a Happy New Year to all!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Object of the Month: September 2011

Archives Record
Object #: 2001.07.1
Donor: Sol Lynn
Description: Flier for Aleph Zadik Aleph’s Yom Kippur dance, 1939

Background: Starting in 1933, the local Alpha Zadik Alpha (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 material documenting local Jewish teen life that you'd like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society’s collection?  Please contact us at or (202) 789-0900.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Telling Jewish Washington's Story

Last week I was honored to visit Revitz House, part of Charles E. Smith Life Communities, to speak to the Haifa Group of Hadassah of Greater Washington. When I arrived in Rockville--unfortunately a few minutes late, thanks to the joys of Connecticut Avenue--I walked into a room full of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed people ready to learn--at 8 p.m.(!)--about the history of Jewish Washington, from 1795 to the present day.

Over the next 40 minutes, we exchanged in a lively give-and take. The group did not hesitate to ask questions, and many shared their memories with this 31-year-old non-native Washingtonian. I was sad to leave, as we were all ready to continue, even at 9 p.m.!

A special thanks to Marsha Werner, who arranged the talk. Want a speaker from JHSGW to come to your group? Just let us know!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sending Books with Rabbi Howard Gorin

Rabbi Howard Gorin and me
with the donated books
A few weeks ago, we boxed up around 70 books about Judaism or Jewish history that we had accumulated in the office.  We wondered if we'd find one person who'd want them all, but we needn't have worried -- Rabbi Howard Gorin stepped up and very enthusiastically, too!

Not only does Rabbi Gorin serve the local congregation of Tikvat Israel, he's also involved Jewish communities throughout the world.  He'll sort through these books and send some to developing Jewish communities in Nigeria, some to a new Judaica collection in a university library in India, and he'll keep others for book sales, whose profits will help ship other books  When Rabbi Gorin picked up the books from our office, we were intrigued to learn about their potential futures.

If you're interested in Rabbi Gorin's various book projects, visit his website and read this article.