It’s been a truly rewarding year at the Lillian and Albert Small Capital Jewish Museum. As we near the final stages of the Museum’s construction, our work in the community and behind the scenes has offered many exciting, joyful, thoughtful, and inspiring moments. Our accomplishments have prepared us for the launch of DC’s newest museum. It is only with the help of members of the community, like you, that we are able to share the great progress we’ve made.
While building the Museum, we’ve been operating as a museum without walls. We hosted several engaging speakers. Recently, we were inspired to hear Ambassador Alfred Moses discuss his life and career, from facilitating the immigration of Jews from Romania to Israel, to his support for Jewish museums. We also explored the value of museums and the power of place in a fascinating talk by James Snyder, Director Emeritus of the Israel Museum. Our Capital Jewish Food Festival featured high-profile speakers and chefs—including renowned cookbook author Joan Nathan, cooking demos with chefs Susan Barocas and Vered Guttman, and a thoughtful and lively conversation between food journalist Nycci Nellis and Michael Twitty, culinary historian and author of KosherSoul.
“…Everything I’ve done is not despite the fact I’m Jewish, but because I’m Jewish.”
— Ambassador Alfred Moses
By the spring, the new building was water-tight and the bulk of construction shifted to details and finishes. Whether hanging drywall or painting surfaces, the galleries and program spaces are revealing their rich potential. Exciting work continues in the historic synagogue with the ongoing restoration—from refinishing the wood floors to installing antique light fixtures and the original Torah Ark doors. A special highlight, the ner tamid (eternal light) from 1898 has been conserved to hang in the sanctuary once construction is complete. It has been reconfigured to hold an LED light, a safer option than the original gas flame.
Behind the Scenes
Planning for the opening is well under way with the official date set in June. Our team is planning for a series of preview events for members, neighbors, and the community. Meanwhile, our communications team is finishing a brand refresh and redesigning our website. The new website, set to launch in the spring, will support visitor services and better feature our collections and exhibitions. Another significant accomplishment this past year was the upgrade from a dated collection management software to a new online system, as well as the continued digitization of our collections database.
“Sit at our tables, eat, listen to our stories, and we hope, you will know us.”
— Michael Twitty, KosherSoul
If you’re affiliated with a local synagogue, you may have seen our curators speaking to your congregants about the Museum and highlighting works in the collection related to your congregation and location. We are prepared to offer this popular program throughout the region at secular and religious spaces as we lead up to the opening. Additionally, our educators created a new walking tour—available March through November—to explore the Museum’s neighborhood, inspired by the Jewish value Zachor (memory). A big accomplishment this year was our inaugural Capital Jewish Food Festival and it’s 2,000 visitors! The Festival explored food as an expression of identity, tradition, and community, and was inspired by the fall harvest festival of Sukkot.
Collections and Acquisitions
Recent acquisitions include 19th-century hand-carved chairs from Talmud Torah, one of DC’s first synagogues; 75 years of institutional archival material from the Jewish Community Relations Council; and several family collections. Additional collections have been secured to ensure our archive better represents the diversity of the community, including Northern Virginia, LGBTQ Jews, and Jews of color. For direct access to our scholarship, please visit our blog, The Whole Spiel, where we tell stories from the collection, consider recent events, and celebrate holidays.
We can’t do any of this without your help. A tax-deductible contribution will support our opening celebrations, conservation projects, exhibitions, educational materials and programs—establishing the Museum as an invaluable resource for everyone in our community.
Images: Capital Jewish Food Festival entrance with the Capital Jewish Museum in the background, October 9, 2022. Photo: Chris Ferenzi Photography / Nycci Nellis and Michael Twitty in conversation—Capital Jewish Food Festival, October 9, 2022. Photo: Chris Ferenzi Photography / Construction test for the ner tamid (eternal light), Spring 2022. / Museum staff at the Ulysses S. Grant memorial during a walking tour, April 2022. / Bimah chair, with visible disrepair, from Talmud Torah synagogue. Capital Jewish Museum collection. Gift of Ohev Sholom – The National Synagogue.