As Jewish American History Month draws to a close, and amidst more distressing news of Jewish communities abroad, I thought this might be a good time to highlight a local effort to save a piece of our religious culture.
The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington has set up a donation page, hoping to raise at least $20,000 to remove and preserve the only known synagogue mural in Washington, DC.
The property at 415 M Street was purchased 100 years ago by the Young Men’s Hebrew Association, an organization, which ultimately grew into the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington. (Full disclosure: I interned two years ago at JHGW, where I organized the archival papers pertaining to local JCCs, starting with YMHA at this address. My favorite artifact was a bound book of brochures and programs from 1918-23).
The property was then sold to the Hebrew Home for the Aged, which now exists as the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington, and Orthodox congregation Shomrei Shabbos, which painted the mural 90 years ago. From there, the property belonged to a couple of churches, and will be converted to condominiums later this summer.
As amazing as it is to consider the varied history of this one house, to say nothing of the rest of DC, it would be a shame for this meaningful staple of Jewish presence in DC to be lost. Please do what you can to donate and/or spread the word! In the mean time, check out this short documentary film about the property by former resident Stephanie Slewka.