The oldest synagogue building in Washington, D.C., rolled through the city streets for the third — and hopefully last — time on Wednesday, Jan. 9. Built in 1867 as the home of Adas Israel Congregation, the building was relocated to the corner of 3rd and F Streets NW, where it will be a part of the new Capital Jewish Museum, which is scheduled to open in 2021.
Originally located at 6th and G Streets NW, the historic building was first moved in 1969 to make way for the Metro headquarters. It was then moved to the corner of 3rd and G Streets NW in 2016 to make way for the Capitol Crossing development.
Washingtonians young and old gathered to watch as the historic building was hauled down the street again. Many attendees said that the building, whose inauguration was overseen by then-President Ulysses S. Grant, and which has served different purposes since being built, was always a symbol of the Jewish community’s presence in the city.
“My family belonged to the Adas Israel Synagogue for generations and my great grandfather davened in this shul [synagogue],” said Michael Goldman, who is the Jewish chaplain at the nearby Georgetown Law School. “My wife and I actually got married there 17 years ago. There’s a lot of family history in there.”
Naomi and Steve Kline came to DC from their home in Leisure World in Silver Spring, Maryland, to see the synagogue being moved.
“We’ve brought groups of people to come see the synagogue over the years,” Naomi Kline said. “This is like another home for us here in DC, and we look forward to doing it in the new location.”
A Momentous Occasion
Several community leaders and local officials spoke at the press conference following the move, including Rabbis Aaron Alexander and Lauren Holtzblatt of Adas Israel, DC Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans.
“You have treated this building as
a mishkan, a movable sanctuary with G-d at its center,” Rabbi Holtzblatt said to the crowd. “This is particularly meaningful for us as Adas Israel approaches its 150th year.”
“What an exciting time this is for our city,” said Councilmember Evans. “When I came to the area, this place was a bit lost. There was nothing here. This move symbolizes the development of the city for the past 30 years, from a city that was lost to the most dynamic city in America.”
Recently-reelected Councilmember Elissa Silverman addressed the crowd, saying that “even though cities change,” much like DC has, “our stories are interwoven.”
“We need to understand all the stories of our city and how they’re interwoven together,” Silverman said. “We might pray differently, say different prayers and in different spaces, but we’re stronger when we appreciate our diversity.”
Joey Shoemaker of Property Partners LLC, one of the companies involved in the shul’s relocation, said the day was the result of years of work.
“We’ve had hundreds of people working on this project,” Shoemaker said. “We tried to ensure the structural integrity of the building throughout the move, and we’re happy to see it happening finally.”
By Anis Modi
Anis Modi is a writer based in Washington, D.C.