Oldest Synagogue in D.C. packs up and moves…a little bit

Moving day for historic downtown synagogue

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - It was a moving experience, literally. On Thursday, the oldest synagogue in the District was picked up and wheeled more than a dozen feet.

The experience moved several people as well, including Bernard Glassman.

"It's almost like the building has a soul of its own," the 95-year-old said.

The new site will allow the Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum, run by the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, to expand its facilities.

A soul that Glassman decided needed saving when he first spotted the historic building in 1969. That's when he and others helped move it from its original downtown D.C. location to the corner of G and Third Streets Northwest where it sits now.

"Indeed I was, I was freezing my ass off," Glassman said.

He came back to see the Adas Israel synagogue being moved just 15 feet today. Developers bought the land and this will let them start building an underground parking garage. The garage is a small part of a new development by Capitol Crossing, which will include retail, office, residential and open space.

In a few years, the 140-year-old synagogue will move to its final resting place, a block away at F and Third Streets Northwest.

Saddia Greenberg's mother Evelyn was one of the people who first came across the building. She used to give tours.

"It's a symbol of the continuity of the Jewish people, how the Jewish people address challenges, cherish their heritage,” he said. “And how they look to the physical objects of their heritage to symbolize the greater philosophy behind that."

"It's the most important project in my entire life and I've been around for a long time and who knows what's coming," Glassman said.

While Glassman said he's not sure he'll see the building's final move, he said don't discount an old building or person's ability to teach about perseverance, no matter what you believe in.

He said the building teaches us “how to make every day count for something of consequence.”

“And that's enough pontificating for one day, I think," he said.

The synagogue houses a museum and educational facility for Jewish history.


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