Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Object of the Month: February 2013

Object No.: 2008.3.1
Donor: Fae Brodie
Description: White, satin-covered heart-shaped box, with monograph LPN and the date 8-6-66 embossed in gold on the top

Box Background:
In 1966, Fae Brodie, then Fae Lee Rubin – owner of Party-Go-Round, received a telephone call asking if she stocked white, satin, heart-shaped wedding cake boxes. The next day, the caller came to the shop to purchase one and later called in an order for 750 of the boxes. When Mrs. Rubin requested a deposit or purchase order, the caller assured her that the father of the bride, President Lyndon Baines Johnson, would pay the bill promptly.

While work on the gold monogram stamping for the box tops progressed, the White House requested decorative materials for the wedding such as gold metallic cord, narrow gold foil paper, and personalized napkins. Then, one day, the White House housekeeper called to ask if Mrs. Rubin would assist with the wedding plans. How could she say no?

President Johnson escorting daughter Luci
from the White House to her wedding, 1966
Mrs. Rubin later wrote, "As I drove onto the White House grounds, my eyes filled with tears. I was overwhelmed by the unique experience I was about to encounter." Her tasks included helping cut 750 pieces of groom's cake, wrapping each piece in gold foil, and placing them into the satin cake boxes, which were then tied with gold cord. By the time the wedding was over, she'd been working at the White House off and on for two weeks. Mrs. Rubin went on to help plan the wedding of Lynda Baines Johnson to Chuck Robb the next year.

Business Background:
Mrs. Rubin's Party-Go-Round started as a small part of the Jewish-owned Jacobs Paper Co. at 5609 Georgia Avenue, NW. After realizing that party supplies would sell well with paper supplies and cards, Mrs. Rubin expanded into the party planning business. One day, after ordering invitations for her daughter's Sweet 16 party, a customer asked if Mrs. Rubin could decorate the party room. Despite having no experience, she agreed. Just two weeks after the party, another mother hired her to decorate her daughter's Sweet 16 party.

Business took off -- more invitation catalogs, more paper stock, and more party decorations. With the expansion, Mrs. Rubin relocated to downtown Silver Spring, Maryland. In her busiest year, she had an event every weekend except two. In addition to the White House weddings, Mrs. Rubin helped with the Naval Academy Ring Dance and parties for General Omar and Kitty Bradley.

With the death of her husband in 1978, Mrs. Rubin decided put party planning aside and focus on the shop, which then carried a full offering of party and holiday decorations, New Years Eve kits (hats, horns, etc.), Halloween costumes, and custom-print cards. Eleven years later, she retired and sold the shop. A Takoma Park couple has owned the business since.

Do you have materials you would like to donate to the archives that document a local Jewish-owned business? Please contact us at info@jhsgw.org or (202) 789-0900.

This year, in conjunction with the Jewish Food Experience, our Objects of the Month feature DC's rich Jewish food history. For stories about this history and the latest on the local Jewish food scene – recipes, restaurants, chefs, events, and volunteer opportunities – visit jewishfoodexperience.com.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Remembering Ambassador Max Kampelman

We at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington mourn Ambassador Max Kampelman, who passed away January 25 at the age of 92.

Kampelman was a leading figure in the Washington community from his arrival here in Washington in 1949. After serving on Senator Hubert Humphrey’s staff, Kampelman joined the law firm that is now Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson. He remained with the firm until his death.

 Kampelman is most known for his diplomatic achievements, representing the United States in negotiations with the Soviet Union in Madrid from 1980 to 1983, and in negotiations to reduce nuclear weapons from 1985 to 1989. Along with Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Richard Schifter, Kampelman insisted on coupling weapons reductions with progress on human rights issues.

In addition to being involved internationally, Kampelman took a strong interest in the local community, serving as chairman of, among other organizations, WETA and the Friends of the National Zoo.

You can read more about his accomplished life here.

One of the biggest honors in my life was conducting an oral history with Ambassador Kampelman in March 2011. The interview was part of our Soviet Jewry movement project—I interviewed both Kampelman and Schifter to get the “view from the top,” to learn what role the movement played in U.S. government decision-making and diplomacy with the Soviet Union.

Our two-hour discussion, held at Kampelman’s law office two blocks from the White House, touched on many subjects—arms negotiations, the role of human rights, and Kampelman’s fascinating life story. Here is one of the more memorable stories he told me. He had just finished a speech in New York when a once-imprisoned Soviet Jewish refusenik approached him: