tv 1876 Synagogue Capital Jewish Museum CSPAN February 16, 2019 10:30am-11:01am EST
announcer: washington, d.c.'s first synagogue, dedicated in 1876, was saved and demolition -- saved from demolition in the 1960's, and the building has been moved three times. most recently on january 29, 2019. planners expect this location to be its permanent home. where the synagogue will be incorporated into a capital jewish museum, currently under construction. next on american history tv, elected officials, museum staff, rabbis, and the national endowment for the humanities chairman hold a press conference as the synagogue completes its block long the move in the background. this is about a half-hour. >> welcome, and thank you for joining us today at the future home of the lillian and albert small capital jewish museum.
[applause] my name is cara blond, and i am the executive director of the new museum, and i particularly would like to welcome the members of the small and albert families, and our generous donors who are here today. also a special thanks to the father of the holy rose church. our soon to be come up for hosting our celebration this morning area as many of you know, today marks another step in a really long journey for this historic synagogue behind us. i mean that very literally. this is the third relocation for this landmark building, which is the original home of the congregation that celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. in recognition of that shared history, we are thrilled to welcome the co-senior rabbis. i would like to welcome them to offer a blessing for this exciting moment.
[applause] >> this is rabbi alexander. thank you to the capital jewish museum for this monumental project. this has made more moving pieces than any of us could even imagine. at the center of this project, you have treated this building as a movable sanctuary with god's presence at its center. this is particularly meaningful for us as senior rabbis as we approach our congregation's 150th year. [applause] >> every time the jewish community returns the sacred scrolls, the torah, back into the ark, we say the words, may our days be renewed like the days of old. what we are not looking for is to live in days that have
passed. what we are looking for is that history informs our present so that it can animate our future. the capital jewish museum. and all of its activities allow us to live so that our past can inform our present and animate our future. to this beautiful, sacred building, may god bless you and your comings. may god always bless you in your goings. amen. >> amen. >> thank you. it is so tempting to go all metaphor today. yes, this is literally a building rolling down the street behind us, but it is also a remarkable symbol of our city. and the jewish community here,
of resilience and adaptation, of mobility, memory, and change. this tiny building is the first synagogue that was built in our nations capital. it was dedicated in 1876 with ulysses s grant as president looking on. it was built in just three months. more than just 300 people would pack into its narrow sanctuary for services. 30 years later, after that congregation built a brand-new synagogue, this building was sold and it became a part of the city's fabric. it was home to greek orthodox, and african-american churches, and then a bicycle shop, a deli, a dentist, coffee shop, a barbecue restaurant, chinese and jewish grocers. then in 1959, with the metro headquarters slated for that same corner lot, this little building that could was given
landmark status. it was picked up off its foundation and rolled, for the first time, across g street, to 3rd, where it has been home to programs for the jewish community for the past 50 years. now the synagogue is on the move again to a really exciting future as the heart of the new capital jewish museum, which will embrace that historic synagogue with a two story atrium that connects the old and the new. construction of that new museum will begin later this year. we plan to open our doors in 2021. designed for families, school groups, and tourists from around the world, the new museum will invite visitors to connect, reflect, and act. connect across generations and diverse communities. reflect on the relevance of history to today. and ask visitors to explore
their own role in making change. through interactive media, and immersive theater, experimental gaming and extensive programming, we want to use history to help our visitors think about themselves differently, and add context to what they are hearing on the news and talking about at the dinner table. we will tell the story of the jews who came to washington who have an impact on public discourse and on the course of our country, and about those with deep roots who shaped the city we know today. we will focus on those who have made change at the local personal level, and at the national and international level, making their voices heard in congress, at the white house, and the supreme court. and as activists with leadership roles in every major social movement in our history. here we are, right at the heart of the nation's capital, at the center of a tourist city, just down the street from the capital.
what happen here's matters, and yet we are the only major city in the united states without a jewish museum. with so many scary examples of anti-semitism over the past year, i think there has never been a more important moment to make this kind of statement about jewish life in our capital. the capital jewish museum will be a critical addition to the city's cultural landscape. a forum for some of those difficult conversations and for civil discourse. a place where families of all faiths and cultures can explore questions around culture, identity, and change. we invite you to join us on this exciting journey as we build the capital jewish museum. today is an important milestone but it is just the beginning. join our email list, follow us on facebook and twitter, come to our public programs and conversations that will be ongoing even before the museum opens its doors.
remember the metaphor of this little building that could about the profusion of life over its first 143 years, and a vibrant future that is still to come. thanks. we are so honored -- oh, thank you. [applause] we are so honored to have support from our congressional leadership, including senate minority leader chuck schumer, who sends his last-minute regrets. i know. [laughter] no comment. [laughter] however, we are pleased to have congresswoman eleanor holmes. [applause] washington's delegate in congress here with us today as a representative for our nation's capital. she understands that the history of our city is a mirror of the
history of our nation, which we intend to celebrate with the new capital jewish museum. we are honored to have her with us today. [applause] >> i am honored to be here. i have come to say, to those of you who keep moving our synagogue around -- [laughter] you can move it as much as you want to, but you will never move it out of the district of columbia. [laughter] [applause] for god's sake, the third move? this has got to be the last move. we insist this is its permanent home. seriously. i can think of no better way to commemorate the historic contributions of our jewish community than by finally opening this capital jewish museum.
it is such a pleasure to welcome a new museum and hear a new jewish museum to our city. you will become a new tourist attraction in the district of columbia. and i love the way you are doing it. you are doing it by preserving the city's first synagogue. we cannot afford to lose the city's first synagogue. you can use it in all those multiple ways, but it is very important to the history of this city that its first synagogue be preserved. and i love that you are rendering it a national gathering place, an educational space. at the same time, the structure
will help us to understand how the jewish community, along with others, essentially built this city. a priceless contribution to the nation's capital. i am enormously grateful to the capital jewish museum for the way you have preserved the synagogue. i just cannot get over it. you simply picked it up and just kept moving it. [laughter] i know of no other example of this in our city. i recall your program in 2003, yet another move, but somehow i feel this is where you are going
to belong. that this is the final move and we are very glad for what it means for the nation's capital, and for all who live here and all who will visit us. thank you again for this vital contribution to the district of columbia. [applause] >> thank you, congresswoman. as chairman of the national endowment for the humanities, john parrish deeply understands the impact that museums can have on a community, and on the collective memory of our country. we are honored to have the support of the neh for this project. we are grateful to him to have him here as we begin our journey to create this new museum, which honors the shared stories of our past. [applause] >> shalom. i am honored to be here today on behalf of the national endowment for the humanities and my dedicated colleagues on this historic occasion.
when i became neh chairman last year, i pledged to bring back the funding of cultural infrastructure projects. these public-private partnerships not only preserve our nation's history, they are anchor investments in our community's future. i am happy that the jewish historical society of greater washington, now known as the capital jewish museum, received a quarter of a million dollar grant and our inaugural challenge match cycle. [applause] our agency has awarded seven grants to this organization over the past 16 years. each one making this day more possible. our federal funding will support the design and construction of a new jewish museum in our city, including this relocation and renovation of the historic 1876 synagogue. as you have heard, when the synagogue was dedicated, president grant was in
attendance, thus he became our nation's first president to attend a synagogue service. it is fitting that neh has played a vital role in preserving our nation's religious history, as well as presidential, legislative, and judicial history. the humanities endowment has always understood that any comprehensive telling of american history requires the telling of american jewish history. over five decades, we have funded dozens of projects that underscore this commitment. indeed, when neh decided to highlight 50 of our most notable grants, we chose our grants of more than half a million dollars to scholars who support the preservation, publication, and analysis of the dead sea scrolls from jerusalem's second temple. yes, we can discuss neh funding as an economic engine and as a civic good.
but on a day such as this one, in the presence of the holy, maybe it is best to say that our endeavor is about the unceasing nature of human inquiry. about coming closer to knowing the unknowable. as our nation approaches its 250th anniversary in the year 2026, neh wants to ensure that the buildings, objects, documents associated with our nation's founding and development as a republic are protected for future generations. along with our grantees, such as the capital jewish museum, the neh sees our duty as not only preserving artifacts, or underwriting research, or presenting presentations of exhibitions in film, but it is a sacred duty appointing the way so the next generation can live meaningful, impactful, fulfilling lives. today we recognize a museum, indeed a sacred space, where
such lives may be well nurtured. thank you. shalom. [applause] >> thank you, chairman. we are honored to have a number of members of the city council with us today, including alyssa silverman. while the mayor was scheduled to be with us before we had to move the day of the event, we know she is here with us in spirit, and her support for our project remains strong. the capital jewish museum will sit in the new neighborhood of capital crossing inside the district's ward two. i am delighted to invite district two's councilmember to speak about how the museum will impact this neighborhood and city in the coming years. [applause] >> thank you, thank you. good morning, everyone. >> good morning. >> we can do better than that. good morning! >> good morning!
>> it is a great celebration. isn't it? i cannot tell you how honored and pleased i am to be here for the third moving of the synagogue. i was at all of them. i would remember welcoming president grant when he showed up at 1876. [laughter] what an experience that was to have him in ward two. [laughter] and all the different iterations over the years. what an exciting time this is for our city. i have been here for 28 years. is that right, alyssa? is it 27? almost 28 years. alyssa, come over and join me. this is alyssa silverman. is breanne here? alyssa silverman just got reelected for another four years. she is doing a great job and she will say a couple of words. but i just wanted to say, when i first represented this area, it was lost. it was an area that was desolate, there was nothing here, and it took a long time.
in many ways, what is happening here today symbolizes the history of washington, d.c. in the last 30 years from a city that was lost, literally, to a city today that is the most dynamic city in america. it really is. that deserves a big round of applause. [applause] what has happened in this neighborhood is many changes have taken place in this neighborhood. with the capital crossing's project, that was a scar through our city. to cover that over and connect the east and west of our city will be an enormous achievement. now to have the capital jewish museum centered right here in this location is going to be an enormous addition. i have been around when we did a couple other things, too. if you remember the jewish community center on 16th street. that was an abandoned building. i was the ac chairman. that's how long ago that was. back in those days we were able to reclaim the building for the jewish community, and now it is
one of the most vibrant community centers in the district of columbia located on 16th street. and the synagogue on sixth street. what is the name of that one? it had some name, i knew. [laughter] i get them all mixed up. we claimed that. now it has become such a great center in our community. i do want to take this opportunity to thank the family. give him a round of applause. sister susan right behind who was my classmate at the university of pennsylvania. we graduated just a couple of years ago. here we are, excited to be here today. i want to thank you all for coming out. i want to thank everybody involved in the project. it is so exciting to see this moved here, to get it in place, and to see the project to continue and develop. as a politician i always look forward to the ribbon-cutting. we will all be back for the ribbon-cutting. get a little hat or whatever we get, get the scissors. what an exciting opportunity. let me ask my colleague, councilmember silverman to say a
couple words. >> good morning, everyone. i think we are still in morning. it is an exciting day. i think the moving of the synagogue shows that, even though cities change and populations change, we are in the center of what was the italian community in our city, to. -- too that our stories are -- too. that our stories are interwoven. i think at this time, we need to understand all the stories of our city. and understand how they are interwoven with each other. i am especially excited about the programming that will take place at the museum. i have some friends who were involved with it. and i am excited that we can use it as an opportunity. i think it was said before, to have discussions about how our faiths are intertwined.
we are stronger appreciating our diversity and understanding that we might say different prayers or pray in different spaces, but that we are stronger as a city when we appreciate our diversity. i am excited that we will be able to tell the jewish community story in a stronger way and have the city understand our part in the story of washington and the evolution of our city. so, congratulations to everyone. thank you to the small family, and thank you to everyone for making this little synagogue that could, happen. thank you. [applause] >> very well said. thank you. i would like to introduce our last speaker. a member of our board. adam has been a core part of bringing the museum to life, and he really recognizes what it will mean for our city and our country.
adam? [applause] >> thank you. on the sunday, after the attack on the pittsburgh synagogue, i was walking with my daughter to hebrew school at the current synagogue in cleveland park. she wanted to know why there were suddenly so many policemen and guards protecting the building. she recognized one of the guards as a nice man who used to guard comet pizza. she wondered if there was a connection between the pizza shop and the synagogue. as i talked to her about some of the issues, she asked if anyone in our synagogue could fix the problem. like most congregations in the district, it includes members of congress and key government officials. even a ivanka trump has a child in the preschool. and our rabbis, didn't they get arrested for protesting the plight of the dreamers in the capital? couldn't they do something?
finally, as i reached for the door to the classroom, she asked me is there anything we can do about ending hatred? as i contemplated her question, it reinforced to me how much the history of the nation's capital is the history of america. many communities and key figures have come here and not only lived out their everyday american experience in this city, but because they were in the nation's capital, they were uniquely positioned to shape our country. the capital jewish museum will not merely tell that story, it will live that story. guided by an unconventional, experimental spirit, it will engage visitors through immersive storytelling, compelling artifacts, hands-on interactive experiences, and nimble, up-to-the-moment programming. it will engage in our national city story, past, present, and future.
it will do it through a remarkable lens. not merely a traditional museum with objects under glass, the capital jewish museum will provide a strong sense of place. a place for gathering, for discussion, debate, collaboration, and cross-cultural understanding. a place for community, offering safety, togetherness, and an opportunity for celebration of memory. a place for action and activism, where people can engage on how to repair the world. a place for learning, encouraging local school children, families, and tourists from around the world to reconcile their beliefs as a hear tales of resilience and continuity. at its core, it will be a place for hearing and telling stories. stories about people who have come to washington and impacted the city, the nation, and the world.
some are stories of everyday people who get caught up in mass movements. some are those who shape the world as advisors to the powerful. some are stories of people who themselves rose to public positions of power. men and women who came to washington and shaped policy for the national discourse. stories that can inspire us today on how we think about how to make a difference. this unique institution provides a place for all of us, and more for visitors of all faiths and background. that will be anchored around this historical synagogue building. the original congregation. it was a place where jews in the nation's capital could maintain their traditions, and study and celebrate their identity. while unique in its own way, this building was representative of synagogue life in the mid-19th century. now it's history and preservation and final location have come to symbolize the wave of jewish cultural migration. from urban centers to the suburbs of the 20th century and now back to downtown in the 21st.
as this building is being wheeled into place, and soon will be breaking ground on a new museum complex rising around it, i would like to think i can bring my daughter to this new institution very soon. not only to learn about her people's history, but to get better answers to her questions and perhaps help shape the type of person she wants to become. thank you. [applause] >> thank you. this is pretty awesome timing. [laughter] thanks to all of you for joining us today. i would like to give a special welcome to our many longtime supporters of the jewish historical society, and some other local and national leaders. to our partners at the jewish federation of greater washington. our friends and colleagues at sixth and i, to property group partners and the general contractor for safely moving our
building onto the site. [applause] with appreciation to our neighbors at the communications workers of america building behind us. and our many colleagues from the national building museum, from the smithsonian. from the bible museum and the holocaust museum, thank you for sharing this day with us. to our colleagues from the israeli embassy, thank you for being here. and thanks to all of you who have joined us for this awesome milestone. stick with us, there is more excitement to come. [applause] >> this presents day weekend --
president's day weekend on american history tv. the migration of african-americans in the u.s.. starting today at 12:15 eastern with live coverage from the association of african-american blacknd history annual history luncheon. with discussions on black migration by columbia universities cobb. the university of delaware's tiffany. u radio. watch american history tv this weekend on c-span3. on lectures and history, brooklyn college professor casey johnson teaches a class on presidents lyndon johnson and richard nixon's supreme court nominations. he described johnson's plan to fill the court with liberal justices. here is a preview. >> this is highly inappropriate behavior.
they should not be having private conversations with lbj. he should not be cooperating with -- he refuses himself. and you have to assume that these kinds of conversations occurred with truman and with fdr and with eisenhower. it is just that we do not have recordings of these conversations. to some extent, we have moved toward a more ethical supreme court. it is highly unlikely that in 2015, ilia kagan -- elena kagan which i with present obama. she would realize that that would be improper. nor johnson sees anything wrong with this kind of conduct in the 1960's. you have to assume -- let's say there was a constitutional challenge to a johnsonville, could any of us be confident that he would look at this. and say this is unconstitutional so i will vote against lbj, even
though i like him. it raises questions of partiality. >> to learn more about president johnson and president nixon's supreme court nominations, tonight at 8:00 p.m. and midnight eastern. joint students in the classroom every weekend right here -- join students in every classroom every weekend. >> next on american history tv, university of chicago law professor laura weinrib talks about how the u.s. supreme court addressed free speech cases in world war i. she's the author of the book, "the taming of free speech: america's civil liberties compromise." the supreme court historical society hosted this hour-long event. >> i'm pleased to welcome you to this evening's program, which is the fourth and final lecture in the society's leon silverman lecture series.