Capital Jewish Museum, set to open in 2022, will incorporate first DC synagogue

Those involved in supporting the Capital Jewish Museum, set to open in D.C., participated in a groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 17. (Courtesy Chris Kleponis / CNP)

Councilmember Brooke Pinto spoke Thursday at the groundbreaking. (Courtesy Chris Kleponis / CNP)

Yolanda Savage-Narva, Executive Director, Operation Understanding DC, speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony. (Courtesy Chris Kleponis / CNP)

Participants at the groundbreaking ceremony all contribute to a time capsule that will be placed within the building walls during construction. (Courtesy Chris Kleponis / CNP)

Rabbi Aaron Potek, of the Sixth & I Synagogue, blows the shofar at the groundbreaking. (Courtesy Chris Kleponis / CNP)

Howard Morse, President, Capital Jewish Museum, speaks at the groundbreaking of the new museum, set to open in the spring of 2022. (Courtesy Chris Kleponis / CNP)

D.C. Councilmember At-Large Elissa Silverman speaks at the groundbreaking. (Chris Kleponis / CNP)

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After more than a decade of planning and anticipation, construction now can begin on the Capital Jewish Museum in downtown D.C.

Groundbreaking for what will be the museum’s permanent home, at 3rd and F Streets Northwest, occurred Monday. It is expected to open in the spring of 2022.

“We’re just incredibly excited to get going; to get started,” said Kara Blond, executive director of the Lillian and Albert Small Capital Jewish Museum.

“It’s going to be a really special place for the city, for the Jewish community, but also very much also for non-Jews to come and learn about Jewish culture, Jewish life and values, particularly with themes around civic engagement and social action,” she said.

The museum is being built on top of a parking garage. Part of the experience will include the first synagogue built in Washington in 1876.

“We are in the process of renovating it, restoring it,” Blond said. “It’s really cool, and actually Ulysses Grant was at the dedication ceremony for this little building at the country’s centennial. So, we’re excited to follow in Ulysses Grant’s footsteps as we dedicate the new museum.”

Blond said, for the first time, there will be accessibility for everyone to get up into the sanctuary on the synagogue’s second story.

“There will be a connection across a sky bridge from the new construction, the new museum galleries, across to the historic building,” she said.

Although the museum is long-awaited, Blond feels fortunate not to open amid a pandemic.

“We have the luxury of watching and learning from all the museums in our city that are going through this painful process of figuring out what post-COVID life will look like, and we have some time to try to figure out how to get it right by the time we open our doors,” Blond said.

The goal is for museum to serve as a secular space for storytelling, connection, and dialogue across cultural communities for the District and the nation.

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