2014 in review for JewishDC!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

On a less personal but Jewish DC local note, before I get to my stats, I’d like to take a moment to comment on some of the bigger stories out of our area in the past few months–eg Barry Freundel’s voyeurism accusations and abuse of power at Kesher Israel, and more recently Ari Roth’s controversial departure from the DCJCC’s Theater J. I hope that we can all learn and grow, and find peace and renewal as a community in the secular new year.

But beyond these more negative chapters in our history, I’d like to pay credence to the overwhelming support that Rabbi Gil Steinlauf, of the synagogue to which I belong, Adas Israel, received after releasing his elegant missive about publicly coming out of the closet. I’m inspired not only by his bravery, but also by how local and worldwide Judaism is evolving to understand, respect and make room for LGBTQ people. Kol Hakavod!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,700 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 45 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Save a piece of local Jewish culture in Mount Vernon

The 415 M Street mural / photo courtesy of JHSGW

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.

Stats for Jews in DC and JewishDC!

Happy New Year’s Eve! Alas, this wasn’t exactly the way that I planned to write a December post. I had been hoping to make it to Sixth & I’s millenials panel discussion on the recent Pew Forum survey on Jewish American life moderated by Rabbi Shira Stutman, but bad weather detained me. That being said, I was delighted to learn that the entire panel was videotaped and posted online! You can also find the results of Sixth & I’s informal survey of DC-area millenial Jews.

I hope that this blog, like those results, show that Jewish pride is alive and well in the nation’s capital. I look forward to continue chronicling local events and culture in 2014, a year when I’ll be 100% free of grad school! 😀 In the meantime, check below for some highlights from 2013. Have a safe and fun holiday!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,000 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 50 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

New Internship at the United States Holocaust Museum Library!

Books in a staff member’s office overlook a repository of the names of Holocaust victims / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

With all luck I’m entering what should be my final semester of Library Science school. 😀 As a capstone experience for my master’s degree, I have to take part in a field study practicum. And I thought, what better place than the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum research library?

Unlike many museum libraries, this one is mandated by Congress to be free and open to the public. It caters to all manner of patrons, from grade school students to international doctorate candidates; genealogists looking for lost relatives and Museum staff creating a new programming event. The collection is ever-growing, including a multi-lingual array of books, journals, DVDS, VHS and audio, photographs, electronic databases, machine-readable microfilm and more. The reference staff also provides access to the Museum’s archival material found here. For the library catalog, click here.

I am grateful for this experience to round off my Library Science education in a hands-on, practical way, as well as the opportunity to work for another Jewish organization in DC. Be sure to check out the library the next time you’re at the Museum; it’s on the 5th floor and open weekdays 10-5:30!

Summer Internship at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington!

Sifting through the Society’s holdings on Jewish Community Centers in Washington, DC / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

Perhaps in tandem with Shavuot (studying old documents? OK, it’s a stretch :P), I’m pleased to check in with the news that I’ll be spending much of my summer at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, cataloging records spanning 100 years having to do with the Jewish Community Centers in the Washington area. I’m so excited to learn more about the storied histories of the JCC of Greater Washington and the DCJCC!

Beyond archival duties I’ll also be helping out in the Society where I can, including writing entries on their blog. Check out my inaugural post, chronicling a lecture by Interpretive Programs Manager David McKenzie on Jewish Washington: Scrapbook of an American Jewish Community.

And with school cooling off for a little while, I plan to be back here a bit more, too! Stay tuned for new features this summer, and chag sameach!

In Our Backyard: The S.L. and Eileen Shneiderman Collection of Yiddish Books

Most of the S.L. and Eileen Shneiderman Collection of Yiddish Books is available for public consumption on the 6th floor of McKeldin Library / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

As I journey into my second semester of Library Science school books are naturally on my mind. And studying at a university with a large Jewish Studies program, some of these books are invariably about Judaism.

Many of these texts are secondary sources—scholars who have written about Jewish history, culture, religion and etc. But libraries offer more than just scholarly articles sitting on shelves. Special collections handlers often care for and display primary sources…rare books, historical authors, and important pieces of our collective culture. In this day and age, these collections are often available to the public like never before as they get digitized and put online.

So you don’t even have to set foot on the University of Maryland College Park campus to be able to see part of the S.L. and Eileen Shneiderman Collection of Yiddish Books. Donated in 1996 by Mrs. Shneiderman when her husband passed, the collection consists of 395 international (and often autographed) books in Yiddish that the couple acquired during Mr. Shneiderman’s career as a journalist, poet and essayist. The books, ranging in subject matter from fiction, poetry and memoirs to journalism, shtetl history and Israeli policy, are largely available for public consumption at McKeldin Library. But you can find the full list of translated book titles on the university Web site, as well as a few scanned covers and inscriptions.

Living in a bustling city like Washington, DC with a large Jewish population often means that we’re involved in many forms of public activism. But let’s not forget, too, that we Jews are “the people of the book” with a long and detailed heritage written down for us. These cultural volumes are worth our attention. For more information on where to locate these books, check out the UMD card catalog.

Third Annual Jewish Community Hero Award Features Local Jewish Leaders


Graphic courtesy of Discovery Education

Who do you know who should be honored as a Jewish communal leader? The Jewish Federations of North America ask this question for a third year with their Jewish Community Heroes project. Individuals were allowed to nominate their mentors until late September. Official public voting wraps up the night of Nov. 10, then a panel of varied judges (including our own Rick Recht!) will choose five finalists from 20 semifinalists in the A small team will choose from 20 semifinalists from professional and volunteers categories. The overall winner will be announced in December.

Now’s your chance to stand up for Jewish heroes in the DC area! Close to home, several inspiring leaders have already been recognized for their contributions to the Jewish world. Learn more about them here, and click on their profile pages for more info!

    • Daniel Ratner, Rockville, Md. AishDC board member and Shabbat hoster.
    • Judy Lowitz, Rockville, Md. Pediatric nurse, community/Israel volunteer, kidney donor.
    • Rabbi Reeve Brenner, Rockville, Md. Founder of Inclusionary Sports for kids with special physical needs.
    • Dr. Erica Brown, Silver Spring, Md. Washington-area adult classes teacher on Jewish subjects.

A hearty mazel tov to all of these amazing leaders…and it’s just the tip of the iceberg here, folks. Check out the full nominees page for much more!

Read years’ past coverage here and here.