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'Jewish Washington: Scrapbook of an American Community' at the National Building Museum highlights the evolving Washington Jewish community
A flag-raising ceremony takes place in 1917 at the Washington Hebrew Congregation at Eighth and I streets, N.W. The image is on view at the National Building Museum.
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Date published: 8/18/2005
Jews also opened movie houses. One local boy, known as Al Jolson, the son of cantor Moshe Yoelson, would become the biggest singing star of the era. Another, Shirley Povich, whose typewriter is on display in the exhibit, started his reporting career in the 1920s and would go on to be a major sports writer at The Washington Post.
The 1930s and '40s were a time of great trial, horror and triumph. The Great Depression, The New Deal, World War II and the Holocaust, and the struggle to forge a Jewish state all had an effect on the Jewish community, and in turn, that community influenced world events.
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis stands out among Washington Jews who made their mark on FDR's New Deal and those who were influential in the formation of Israel.
Another notable, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first Jewess to become a Supreme Court justice, would come to Washington later in the 1970s.
As the federal government began to grow in the post World War II era, more Jews moved into the region. And with Washington's transformation into a major metropolitan area, the center of Jewish life shifted from city to suburb.
In one of several videos accompanying the "Jewish Washington" exhibit, New York Times writer Frank Rich, whose father owned Rich's shoe store and who grew up in Washington, talks about that changing environment.
In the last 15 years, the Jewish population has grown and become more diverse, with more than 200,000 Jews living in Virginia and Maryland.
Two centuries after Isaac Polock first came to build six houses in the federal city, real estate developers like Morris Cafritz, Abe Kay and Charles E. Smith have built complexes beyond what anyone could have dreamed.
The NBM is a short walk from two of the synagogues featured in this exhibit, including the original Adas Israel Synagogue (1876-1906), located at Third and G streets, N.W. The historic sanctuary is a distinct reminder of the community that made its home in the area.
A second Adas Israel Synagogue, which is now renovated, is located in Chinatown at Sixth and I streets, N.W.
A fine companion exhibit is the NBM's long term and more encompassing show "Washington: Symbol and City."