Tuesday, January 17, 2012

White House Liaison Visits!

This morning we welcomed Jarrod Bernstein, Director of Jewish Outreach in the White House's Office of Public Engagement, to the Museum.

Archivist Wendy Turman (wearing the white gloves below!) gave Jarrod a taste of the archives focusing on some of our items related to the presidency (including a panoramic photo of President Coolidge dedicating the Washington DCJCC in 1925).

We are proud that our building has presidential connections. When President Ulysses S. Grant attended the synagogue's dedication service in 1876, he became the first sitting US president to attend a synagogue service.

We are now "connected" and exploring ways to work together.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Object of the Month: January 2012

Archives Record
Object #: 1993.09
Donor: Washington Jewish Week
Description: Photograph of students standing outside the Hebrew Academy, c. 1965

Background: Two years ago, the National Museum of American Jewish History requested this photo of Hebrew Academy students from our collection to include in its core exhibition and accompanying catalog.  We proudly gave permission for the photograph’s reproduction and use in this new major museum, which opened on Independence Mall in Philadelphia in November 2010.  The photograph is featured in the museum’s core exhibition in the "Jewish Education, American Classrooms" segment, which is part of the larger section called Choices and Challenges of Freedom: 1945 – Today.

The academy, later renamed the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy of Greater Washington, was founded in 1944.  It occupied the pictured building at 16th Street and Fort Stevens Drive, NW, from 1951 to 1976.  Coincidentally, the building continues to serve Jewish education today as home to Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital.

This photo is part of a large photographic collection donated by the Washington Jewish Week in 1993.  The collection is composed of nearly 500 photographs that had been published in the newspaper throughout the preceding years.

Do you have material documenting the local Jewish community that you’d like to donate to the Jewish Historical Society? Contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Surprise visitors

Yesterday, Linda Silvern came to our office with a simple request: to see the photographs of the Jewish Foster Home that her uncle had taken. It turned into a visit that touched on many elements of local Jewish history.

Mrs. Silvern's parents met while living at the Jewish Foster Home.  Her father, Bucky Rosenthal, was one of five brothers; Bucky's future wife, Ann Gnatt, was also one of five.  Bucky's older brother, Joe, who also lived in the Foster Home and possibly took the two photographs of the Home that are in our archival collection, became a professional photographer. In fact, one of his photographs became internationally famous: Linda Silvern's uncle Joe Rosenthal took the famous photograph of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima.

Sol Gnatt, displaying his journal article, with me,
holding a copy of his photograph
With Mrs. Silvern yesterday was Sol Gnatt, an uncle from the other side of her family.  We'd known Mr. Gnatt to be the donor of the Jewish Foster Home photograph that was in our Jewish Washington exhibition.  Like photographer Joe Rosenthal, Mr. Gnatt spent his childhood in the Jewish Foster Home. He wrote an article about this experience for our journal, The Record, in 1989.  We were excited to have the opportunity to talk to him again and hear about his time at the Foster Home, eating ice cream with Aunt Minnie, going to religious school at Washington Hebrew, being a member of the Jewish Lions Club and one of the four men in his class at Wilson Teachers College (predecessor to the University of the District of Columbia).