Jews in Washington, D.C.

February 27, 1801: Pursuant to the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801, Washington, D.C. is placed under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Congress. “The first recorded Jewish resident of the city was Isaac Polock. He arrived in 1795. Polock, a grandson of a founder of the Newport, Rhode Island synagogue, was a small time real estate developer. He built a number of fine homes along present day Pennsylvania Ave. An early renter of one of Polock’s houses and his neighbor was James Madison, a later President.”  Major Alfred Mordecai was another of D.C.’s first Jewish residents. The North Carolina native entered West Point at the age of 15 and was in the first graduating class when he completed his studies in 1823.  Mordecai came to Washington in 1828 where he served as the commander of the Washington Arsenal. Washington Hebrew Congregation founded in 1852 was the city’s first Jewish Congregation.  Adas Israel, which was originally founded as an Orthodox synagogue in 1869 received a donation from President Grant for its building fund. The congregation later switched to the Conservative movement.  Today the downtown location of Adas Israel is remembered as the Historic 6th& I Street Synagogue.  Mitch Levin, author of the blog, “This Day … In Jewish History” reminisces, “For me, the synagogue at 6th & I was the place in the late 1940’s and 1950’s where I went for my first Simchat Torah Services, my first Megillah readings and a whole lot more.”  The synagogue at 6th& I was famous because Al Jolson’s father had been its cantor and Jolson sang there as a little boy.  Adas Israel moved to its Connecticut and Porter location where it remains today. During the 1950’s Israeli Ambassador Abba Eban spoke from its pulpit on more than one occasion much to the congregation’s joy and delight.  For more about the history of the Jewish community in Washington you might want to look at the website of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington:

On November 22, 1950, the United States Postal Service issued a 3-cent stamp commemorating the Sesquicentennial of the National Capital in Washington, D.C. (Scott #992).

Washington DC 150th Anniversary - U.S.



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