Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jewish History on the Air

Had a great chance the other day to share some of our community's Civil War stories with a wider audience. Kojo Nnamdi on WAMU - 88.5 FM - interviewed me about stories of Civil War soldiers (such as Leopold Karpeles, shown here), General Grant's Order No. 11, and the Jewish community in Washington during the war years. My first time on live radio and really fun to share some of these little known stories. You can still listen in or read the transcript through a link on our website:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Youth Summit for “Parade”

Cynthia Peterman, guest instructor,
leads a discussion about
American Jewish history in the 1900s
This past Sunday, eighth and ninth graders from Beth El Hebrew Congregation (Alexandria) and Shaare Torah (Gaithersburg) participated in a workshop with Lisa Hershey, our Education Consultant, to prepare them to see the musical Parade at Ford’s Theatre.  The workshop took place at Ford’s Theatre’s brand new education space: The Center for Education and Leadership.  Students spent time reviewing the Leo Frank case, learning about stereotypes, and discussing the role of media today and back in the 1900s.  Students even had a chance to use their cell phones to create a pretend text message, as part of a larger conversation about using social media to stand up to injustice.  Students’ theater tickets and lunch were underwritten by supporters of JHSGW.

The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington is partnering with Ford's Theatre on its upcoming production of Parade, a drama with music based on the true story of the trial and lynching of Leo Frank. Parade runs September 23 - October 30, 2011  
Parade is the first production of Ford's Lincoln Legacy Project, a five-year effort to create a dialogue around the issues of tolerance, equality, and acceptance.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Object of the Month: October 2011

Archives Record

Object #: NNCF48
Description: Photograph of the exterior an early Giant supermarket, 1940s. Courtesy of Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation

Background: Nehemiah Cohen, a grocery store owner, and Samuel Lehrman, a food distributor, met in Pennsylvania, at Lehrman’s Harrisburg Wholesale Grocery Co. warehouse.  Eventually, they partnered to start a supermarket business and chose Washington for their new business venture.  They hoped federal workers would provide a strong market even during the Depression.

Samuel Lehrman and Nehemiah Cohen
shake hands
Their first Giant supermarket opened at Georgia Avenue & Park Road, NW, in February 1936.  Giant Food soon became one of the leading businesses in the Washington region as well a leader in corporate philanthropy.  By the 1950s, Giant Food had grown into a regional chain with more than 50 stores in the city and suburbs. Giant remained a locally owned family business until 1998 when it was sold to Royal Ahold, Inc.

Society archivists recently completed a five-year project funded by the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation to preserve the history of Giant Food through oral histories and archival cataloging.  The Giant Food Archival Collection includes corporate records, correspondence, marketing and publicity files, and an extensive set of photographs and negatives. The project also includes 17 oral history interviews.  A selection of the photographs may be seen on the Jewish Historical Society’s online catalog here.

Birthday cake from Giant’s Heidi Bakery
made in celebration
of Israel’s bar-mitzvah birthday, 1961
Nehemiah Cohen’s granddaughter Nina Cohen, added Giant material to the Society’s archives earlier this year.  Her donation includes papers and photographs (such as the one seen here) documenting the activities and philanthropy of her grandfather as well as her father, Emanuel Cohen.

Join the Society at Adas Israel Congregation on Sunday, November 6, 2011, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., when we will celebrate the Giant Food Archival Project at our annual meeting. Visit our Programs page for more information!