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The Jewish Community of Washington, D.C. (DC) (Images of America) Paperback – October 5, 2005
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About the Author
Dr. Martin Garfinkle, an associate professor at New York City College of Technology (CUNY), has collected nearly 200 images for this informative and engaging collection. Although Dr. Garfinkle currently resides on Staten Island, he considers himself a native Washingtonian. His great-grandfather Morris Garfinkle was the founder of many Jewish organizations and institutions that exist and thrive in Washington, D.C. to this day. The Jewish Community of Washington, D.C., was written with the help and support of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington.
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Top Customer Reviews
I had a similar reaction to another book in the Images of America Series, "Jewish Milwaukee" by Martin Hintz, which is a photographic documentary of the city in which I grew up. But Dr. Martin Garfinkle's book, "The Jewish Community of Washington, D.C." has, somehow, a tougher, livelier feel. It brought the Washington Jewish community to life and, equally important, it brought Washington D.C. to life.
Dr Garfinkle is a fourth-generation Washingtonian who currently holds an academic position in New York City. The many pictures of his family give this book a highly personal touch. Although some Jews, such as the Garfinkles, have deep roots in the city, most have come to the city from somewhere else, just as I have done, and lack long generational ties to Washington D.C.
The book focuses on Washington D.C. itself rather than the subtantial Jewish communities that have arisen in recent years in suburban Maryland and Virginia. The book is in ten chapters, the first three of which are comparatively lengthy with the remaining seven chapters short and particularized. There is much emphasis in the book on American patriotism within the Jewish community which I found gratifying and important.
The first chapter of the book describes, appropriately, Jewish worship in Washington D.C. I particularly enjoyed seeing the photographs of the earliest synagogues in what is today a part of the city near Chinatown and the Martin Luther King library. Many of these old buildings are still functional houses of worship for Christian churches. Garfinkle also offers photographs of former Jewish synagogues in Southwest D.C. and along the Georgia Avenue and 16th Street corridors, areas I know well.
In the second chapter of the book, "Making a Living", Garfinkle offers some wonderfully rare old photographs of small shops, grocery stores, "bargain" stores, clothing and jewelry stores, gas stations, auto parts stores, book stores, liquor stores, and restaurants. He offers a portrait of a striving, vibrant people and community. We see the inside of shops and small storefronts on Georgia Avenue and downtown Washington that are no more. The book offers a fascinating portrayal of the everyday life of newcomers to the city and of middle-class people. The photos date from the pre-New Deal era in which Jewish people were not a large presence in the Federal Civil Service.
The third chapter of the book discusses the many organizations and activities in which the D.C. Jewish community has been engaged over the years. Family activities, such as a home seder, and community activities, such as athletic activities, confirmations and groundbreakings for new buildings are featured. Presidents including Grant, McKinley, Coolidge, Hoover, Truman and Eisenhower took an active part over the years in activities involving the dedication of buildings and institutions of Jewish life in Washington D.C. Surprisingly to me, Calvin Coolidge appeared particularly and sincerely interested in these ceremonial functions.
The remaining sections of the book deal with interesting specific themes. Garfinkle, sharing the passion of many Jewish people for baseball, discusses three Jewish players on the old Washington Senators. Further chapters focus on Al Jolson, the son of a famous Rabbi in Southwest D.C, an early Jewish avaiation pioneer, Washington D.C. Jews who gave their lives in WW II, Jews and African-Americans, a subject that deserves further exploration, U.S. Presidents, and individual moments, such as the unsolved murder of Rabbi Philip Rabinowitz of the Orthodox Kesher Israel Congreation in Georgetown in 1984.
I loved this book with its focus on the city and on the diverse and active lives of Jews in Washington D.C. Garfinkle offers an eloquent, individualized portrayal of a Jewish community in urban America.