WASHINGTON, D. C.:
Capital of the United States; situated in the District of Columbia, on the Potomac River. In 1849 there were in Washington six Jews, who were engaged in business on Pennsylvania avenue, and who went to Baltimore for the important holy-day services. On April 25, 1852, the First Washington Hebrew Congregation was organized; it numbered twenty-one members, and Solomon Pribram was elected its first president. Two years later the membership had increased to forty-two; and on Dec. 13, 1855, at the thirty-fourth session of Congress, a special act was passed, "that all the rights, privileges, and immunities heretofore granted by the law to the Christian churches in the city of Washington be and the same hereby are extended to the Hebrew Congregation of said city."
This marks the incorporation of the first Jewish institution in the District of Columbia. The congregation grew steadily in membership and in influence; and in 1863 it acquired for a place of worship the old Methodist church, which had been utilized by the government for hospital purposes during the Civil war. In 1898 the congregation moved into its present stately edifice, the corner-stone of which was laid by President McKinley in the presence of his entire cabinet, on Sept. 16, 1897. The First Washington Hebrew Congregation is the only Reform congregation in the District of Columbia. Its present (1905) membership is 350, and its religious school is attended by 200 children. The following readers and rabbis have officiated since 1854: S. M. Lansburgh, S. Weil, J. L. Jacobson, Herman Baar, Isaac Stampel, M. Goldberg, Louis Stern, and Abram Simon. Rabbis Simon and Stern are officiating conjointly.
In 1870 thirty-five members left the parent body to form an independent congregation, with Isaac Stampel as ḥazzan. This congregation, which was called Adath Israel, was organized as a protest against the Reform tendencies of the old congregation. In 1873 Adath Israel moved into its present home on the corner of Sixth and G streets, its synagogue being dedicated in the presence of President Grant and his cabinet. Its present membership includes 150 families, ministered to by Rabbi Julius T. Loeb; and its religious school is attended by sixty-five pupils.
The Ahabai Shalom congregation was organized in 1902 as a result of the union of two smaller ḥebrot, the Chayai Odom (founded 1890) and the Agoodath Achim (1898). It has a membership of 125 families, and its present ḥazzan is Robert Graffman, who conducts a day-school at 607 H street for twenty-five pupils. The Talmud Torah congregation (present ḥazzan, M. R. Joelson) was founded in 1890, and meets on 4½ street, southwest. It has a membership of seventy persons, but no religious school. All four congregations maintain cemeteries on the same plot of ground on Harrison road.
The leading charitable, religious, and literary societies are: (1) The United Hebrew Charities (founded 1882; incorporated 1893; annual income about $3,000; president, I. L. Blout, appointed 1894); (2) The Hebrew Free Inn, for the temporary care of the indigent; controlled by the executive board of the United Hebrew Charities; (3) The Hebrew Relief Society (founded 1905); (4) The Ladies' Auxiliary Society of Adath Israel; (5) The Old B'nai Zion; (6) The Rebecca Lodge (1863); (7) The Deborah Lodge (1875); (8) The Liberty Lodge No. 19, I.O.S.B. (1894); (9) The Friendship Circle (1897); (10) The Senior and Junior Councils of Jewish Women; (11) The Elijah, Grace Aguilar, and Argo lodges, I.O.B.B.; (12) The B'rith Abraham and the Independent B'rith Abraham; (13) The Sons of Judah; (14) The Mercantile Club; (15) The Hebrew Literary Society; (16) The Free Sons of Benjamin; (17) The Young People's Union of Zion.
While most of the Jews of Washington are engaged in commerce, the legal and medical professions are also creditably represented. Among the most prominent Jews may be mentioned: CommodoreUriah P. Levy, Simon Wolf (publicist and author), Max Weyl (artist), Emile Berliner (inventor), Adolphus S. Solomons, Cyrus Adler (assistant secretary, Smithsonian Institution), and Dr. Milton J. Rosenau (director, Hygienic Laboratory, Marine Hospital Service). The Jewish population of the District of Columbia may be placed at 4,000.