This summer I am interning at the under-construction Lillian and Albert Small Capital Jewish Museum in Washington, D.C. The museum grew out of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, which has been operating out of a historic synagogue building since 1975. The museum is set to open next year and will physically incorporate the old synagogue building into its design. The photo on the left below shows the synagogue perched on the corner of 3rd and F Streets in northwest D.C. and the photo on the right is a digital representation of the future museum building. The brick building to the left in the second image is the relocated old synagogue, connected by a walkway to the newly constructed museum.
My work for the museum this past month has primarily been a combination of genealogical research and cemetery record documentation. The genealogical aspect involves researching and creating family trees of multi-generational families in the D.C. Jewish community. I have also been spending a great deal of time at historic cemeteries in D.C., photographing and creating comprehensive indexes of graves. This is a personal passion of mine, as grave photos can be incredibly valuable for genealogical research, and online grave photos are a resource for people all over the world who are unable to personally visit cemeteries.
The particular cemeteries I have been working with thus far are home to members of some prominent families in D.C. history. One of the goals of my internship is to create a self-guided tour so that visitors can walk through the cemetery, visit particular graves, and access information about deceased individuals and their contributions to the D.C. Jewish community. This project would combine the genealogical research and cemetery photography aspects of my work, offering a resource to those in the area interested in D.C.’s Jewish history.
I entered this internship with the hope to learn more about the D.C. Jewish community, its diversity, and the ways in which the Capital Jewish Museum is positioned to explore and preserve the community’s history and support its future. As a side benefit, the internship offers me the opportunity to delve deeper into my own history, as my grandfather’s family settled in D.C. in the early 20th century. During my first visit to Ohev Sholom Cemetery, a historic cemetery in southeast D.C., I was able to visit my great-great-grandparents’ graves, along with the graves of several of their children, and the grave of the founder of the synagogue, all together in a cemetery whose history covers multiple centuries.