Thursday, March 29, 2012

Passover Cooking in the White House

On the way to the Passover cooking demo
with president of the Jewish Museum of Maryland,
Duke Zimmerman, and  others
I was really honored to be invited to the White House yesterday for a pre-Passover cooking demonstration with Joan Nathan and the WH Pastry Chef. Samples were abundant. The National Endowment for the Humanities and Jewish Museum of Maryland (which has an exhibit funded by NEH now on display about Jewish foodways) cosponsored the event with the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Read reporter Vered Guttman’s article from Haaretz to learn more about the afternoon. It was thrilling to have a content rich event in the President’s House – at least his office building b/c we were in the Old Executive Office Building!! Have a wonderful Passover.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Visitors from Polish Jewish Museums

Executive Director Laura Apelbaum and
President Sid Silver speak with visitor (at left)
Yesterday, we had the honor of hosting representatives of three Polish Jewish cultural institutions who are on a tour of Jewish cultural centers and museums in the U.S. The trip is part of a State Department program and its purpose is to show best practices of management, fundraising, outreach, educational programs, and community involvement.

Education Specialist Lisa Hershey (standing, left)
tells visitors about the synagogue's history
After viewing our short film about our 1876 historic synagogue (which we had outfitted with Polish subtitles for this visit!), our staff explained the many facets of our work.  We gave them a peek into the archives and samples of our PR materials.  They seemed to especially enjoy the coffee we offered, which was needed to help with jetlag!

After Washington, they’ll travel to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. We’re envious of all the places they’ll see on their trip and know they’ll return home with plenty of new ideas for their institutions.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Object of the Month: March 2012

Archives Record
Object #: 1995.12
Donor: James Cafritz
Description: Youth Aliyah pledge card

Background: In Washington, a number of women lobbied and raised funds for Youth Aliyah, which was founded in 1933 and worked to rescue Jewish children from increasing danger in Europe and bring them to safety in Palestine.

Mildred Cafritz used her radio show and her influence as chair of Hadassah’s local Youth Aliyah Committee to appeal for funds for refugee children. By March 1945, her committee had raised $33,000 for housing, education, and vocational training.

Please join us on April 19th for a special Holocaust Remembrance Day program of spoken word and music at La Maison Française. Poet and writer, Davi Walders, accompanied by cellist, Douglas Wolters, present a unique collaboration of story portraits of women resisters intertwined with music by composers whose lives were interrupted tragically during the Holocaust.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Intriguing volunteer work

Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall where decisions about world affairs are being discussed or the history of our community is being shared? Transcribing oral history recordings at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington can give you a taste of those experiences.

Since early February 2012, I've had the opportunity to work on the transcription of an oral history recorded in January 2011 with Ambassador Richard Schifter as part of the Society's Soviet Jewry Project.  Schifter is Jewish American lawyer living in the Washington, D.C., area, who served as Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs from 1985 to 1992. He is currently heading the American Jewish International Relations Institute and the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeastern Europe. He takes the title of Ambassador from his tenure as the Deputy United States Representative in the United Nations Security Council with the rank of Ambassador during the 1980s.

Using earphones and the Jewish Historical Society's new software – Express Scribe – is trouble-free. The software includes easily accessed commands for advancing, reversing, adjusting the speed and volume of the speech of the interviewer and interviewee. Transcribing a three-hour interview took approximately four 6-hour volunteer days at the Society's offices at 4th and G Streets, NW.

Listening to Ambassador Schifter's recounting of his early life in Vienna, Austria, his immigration the United States at the age of 15 in 1938, his army service during World War II, his law school education and his subsequent extensive service within the U.S. Government dealing with human rights issues was the fascinating part of the assignment.

More oral histories recorded by the Society are available for transcription by willing volunteers. Please contact at (202) 789-0900 or if you are interested.

Elsie Heyrman Klumpner
JHSGW Volunteer

Friday, March 9, 2012

Program Recap: Jewish Women in Sport

Last Tuesday, we, the Goethe-Institut, and the Washington Jewish Film Festival hosted a panel discussion and film screening revealing the little-known history of Jewish women in sport. The discussion, graciously hosted by our friends at the Goethe-Institut, included Dr. Linda Borish of Western Michigan University, a historian and the film's executive producer, and historian Dr. Pamela Nadell of American University.

We first learned of Dr. Borish's film when she came to our archives to do research many years ago. In fact, she used some images from Jewish Community Center scrapbooks in the film. The archivists and I cheered when we saw the pictures from our collections!

Drs. Borish (sitting, right) and Nadell (sitting, left) had a wonderful dynamic during the discussion, enlightening the audience about the achievements and obstacles faced by Jewish women athletes. I learned a lot of new information, and had a lot of food for thought. For example, I found out how quite a few female Jewish athletes boycotted the 1936 Olympics in Berlin--even though it could be their only chance to compete at that level. I learned about the gender, ethnic, and religious issues with which Jewish women athletes grappled.

Afterwards a group of us joined Drs. Borish and Nadell for a lively lunchtime discussion. Miss the program? Never to fear, the Goethe-Institut kindly recorded the audio for us. We're finishing cleaning up the audio, so keep an eye out for it on our website!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Remembering Arthur Welsh

This coming June will mark the centennial of Arthur Welsh's death in an airplane crash.

The story of Welsh, a Russian Jewish immigrant who settled in Washington, is one of our favorites. Likely after seeing an airplane demonstration at Fort Myer, Virginia, in 1908, he asked the Wright Brothers to hire him. After he persisted, they eventually agreed. He became one of their most trusted pilots and instructors, training several pilots (including "Hap" Arnold, head of the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II) and demonstrating the new technology of flight until his untimely death when his Wright Flyer C crashed at College Park airfield on June 11, 1912.

To commemorate the centennial of his death, we are collaborating with the College Park Aviation Museum to create a small exhibition and hold a special program. As part of the prep, we recently met with Paul Glenshaw, the exhibition's researcher and designer, and Tiffany Davis, Collection Curator at the Museum.

We ventured together to pay our respects to Welsh at Southeast Washington's Adas Israel Cemetery. This picture shows, from left, Paul, Tiffany, me, and Lisa.

Interested in learning more about this remarkable Jewish Washingtonian? Visit the online exhibition we created several years ago, and come join us at the program in June!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Exhibition Opening at French Embassy

Last night I, along with JHSGW board member Howard Morse (seen here), attended a special reception and exhibit opening at the Embassy of France for an exhibition about Hélène Berr, the French equivalent of Anne Frank. The exhibit “Hélène Berr—A Stolen Life” created by The Mémorial de la Shoah, is only on view for a few days at the embassy and then will travel to New York and eventually to the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond, VA. This touching exhibit is based on Hélène’s journal, a beautifully written account of her life in Nazi-occupied Paris. Her journal was saved by her cook and only published in 2008. Hélène, just like Anne Frank, still believed in the goodness of people, even through all of the indignities and horrors she experienced. I am moved by her overwhelming positive view of humanity at its darkest hour.

JHSGW will commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day, Thursday, April 19th at 7pm at the Embassy of France. I hope you will join us and La Maison Française as we remember courageous acts of women resisters, who proved that people are indeed good and stand up to injustice.