WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — A new museum that is now open in D.C. explores the history of the Jewish community in the DMV.
The area around the nation’s capital has one of the highest Jewish populations in the country.
“It’s not just one community. It’s lots of communities. What’s the variety of the story of the history of Jews in this region, not just in D.C. itself in the district, but also in the suburbs,” said curator Sarah Leavitt.
The Lillian and Albert Small Capital Jewish Museum has been more than a decade in the making.
“The mall has all the Smithsonian’s and they’re all really… impressive and feature different things, but there’s no museum solely dedicated to the Jewish community in D.C.,” said Adah Svetlik.
The museum showcases a range of local Jewish figures — like U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and other Jewish folks from Maryland, D.C. and Virginia who have something interesting about them.
“Marsha Greenberger — she’s an attorney who helped fight for Title IX, and at the 25th anniversary of Title IX, the NCAA Women’s Basketball Association gave her this basketball as a like a token of their appreciation,” Leavitt said.
Bill Black came on opening day to learn about the history of Mott’s Market, “and how that connects to the whole history of Jewish families, Jewish immigrants, particularly coming and opening grocery stores,” Black said.
Curators want visitors of all backgrounds to learn.
“As we all learn more about each other, of course, you know, hopefully, we can build empathy in that way and build our instinct for social justice and for taking care of one another,” Leavitt said.
While fighting antisemitism isn’t the main story, it is addressed.
“This is a story of this community in which there’s balance right between trying to overcome a place that can be clubby that can be prejudicial, that can have assumptions about people and also a place where there’s proximity to power,” said Eric Yellin, visiting curator and associate professor of history at the University of Richmond.
“Having a museum here that can tell the story of Jews in Washington is critical to people knowing the story of this community,” Yellin said.
The museum has two connected parts. The brick building was the first building built to be a synagogue in D.C., which opened in 1876.
Admission is free, but you have to reserve a ticket online.