Arts, Culture, and Humanities

Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, Inc.

  • Washington, DC

Mission Statement

The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington explores the unique Jewish heritage of Washington as a hometown and as the nation’s capital.

Main Programs

  1. General Information
  2. Jewish American Heritage Month (May) Reception
  3. Guided Walking Tours through Downtown Jewish Washington
Service Areas


District of Columbia

Washington, DC Metropolitan area

ruling year


Principal Officer since 1994


Mrs. Laura Cohen Apelbaum



jewish, historic, history, historical, museum, archives

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Also Known As







Cause Area (NTEE Code)

History Museums (A54)

Historical Societies and Related Activities (A80)

Jewish (X30)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Programs + Results

How does this organization make a difference?


Self-reported by organization


Community. As a hub of Jewish life and culture in the region, we celebrate the region's Jewish heritage and continuity. We build and strengthen relationships.

Preservation. Ensuring that future generations will have the resources to examine and study the past, we safeguard primary historical resources.

Learning. Education is fundamental to nurturing the human spirit; we provide experiences that are instructive, engaging, interactive, and fun.

Inclusivity. We welcome all backgrounds, faiths, beliefs, and abilities. Our broad audience is encouraged to participate and share their perspectives.

Collaboration. Partnerships are key to our success; we collaborate with a broad array of individuals and organizations.

Sustainability. We prepare for the future through making sound choices and utilizing financial, community, and environmental resources effectively.


Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Program 1

General Information

JHSGW and its Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum present the ongoing story of the local Jewish community through exhibits, lectures, panel discussions, walking tours of old Jewish Washington, children's programs, oral histories, videotape productions, and its extensive archival collection. In addition, the Society publishes a newsletter, Third Street Echoes, and an annual journal, The Record.

JHSGW has a volunteer, docent, and intern program to assist paid staff in reaching out to the community. Docents lead groups through the historic sanctuary and share the rich history of the building. Volunteers and interns enhance our resources by staffing public programs, facilitating school programs, assembling mailings in-house, and assiting the Society with archival and office work. The Society welcomes new volunteers

Examples of past exhibits include Half A Day on Sunday: Jewish Mom & Pop Grocers; Jewish Teen Life in Washington; and Louis D. Brandeis: American Zionist.


Population(s) Served

General Public/Unspecified


Program 2

Jewish American Heritage Month (May) Reception

Leaders of U.S. and local Jewish communal organizations including the United Jewish Communities, Society Board members, and U.S. legislators gathered on Capitol Hill to celebrate the fourth annual Jewish American Heritage Month (May). Legislators gave first-hand accounts of the accomplishments of immigrant groups, particularly contributions of the Jewish community to U.S. culture. With proceedings held at the U.S. Capitol, the program served as an opportunity to nationally combat stereotypes and celebrate diversity.


Population(s) Served



Program 3

Guided Walking Tours through Downtown Jewish Washington

Society curators, museum educators, and volunteers led guided tours of Washington, DC's historic downtown Jewish neighborhood, a commercial district centering on 7th Street, NW. Citing DC's Jewish community as an example, guides taught participants about the social and demographic evolution of a U.S. immigrant population and to recognize architectural elements and styles, as well as the location and condition of existing historic structures.


Population(s) Served

General Public/Unspecified


Charting Impact

Self-reported by organization

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

  1. What is the organization aiming to accomplish?
    The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington is the region's foremost destination and source for American Jewish history.
    We engage and inspire adults and children through our exhibitions, landmark historic synagogue, public programs, and educational initiatives.

    We collect, preserve, and share material culture that documents the story of the Jewish community in the Washington, D.C., region as a lens through which broader national and international history may be explored.

    The Society has a strategic plan that states clear goals and they will be accomplished.

  2. What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?
    The Jewish Historical Society is the only organization in the metropolitan area that is exclusively dedicated to preserving Washington's Jewish history. The Society explores the unique Jewish heritage of Washington as a hometown and as the nation's capital. We chronicle and present the story of the local Jewish community through archival collections, exhibits, educational programs, publications, and the restoration and preservation of the oldest synagogue building in the nation's capital.

    Through innovative exhibits, lectures, publications and children's programs, we educate both the Jewish and non-Jewish community as well as visitors from around the world about Jewish life.

    The Society has restored and saved our 1876 historic synagogue (the oldest in the area and a project of Save America's Treasures).Over the years, the Society has completed exterior and interior restoration work to the historic building. Mostly recently, a historic paint analysis in the sanctuary added greater depth to our knowledge of the interior's appearance at during different times, and uncovered new information such as decorative gold-leafing in some areas.
    The Society is planning the second move of the historic synagogue -- this time, to the southeast corner of Third and F Street, NW. The new location will allow the synagogue to regain its original orientation facing east toward Jerusalem and will provide the Society with land on which to build an adjacent museum. Planning for this new facility has begun.
  3. What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?
    The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington was incorporated in 1965 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to interpreting Jewish history in the greater Washington area. In 1969, galvanized by the pending demolition of the oldest synagogue building in the nation's capital, Society members arranged for the historic building to be moved three city blocks to its present location.

    The historic synagogue will be restored and showcase the immigrant stories and religious beliefs of its founders through the use of creative technology.

    The adjacent new building will include three galleries -- the core exhibition will explore the heritage of the Washington-area Jewish community through formative political and social issues in the history of the region and the nation; a gallery to engage children and their parents; and a third to host terrific traveling shows from other communities or shows we might develop here in Washington. Other spaces include program space, classrooms, archival storage, offices.
  4. How will they know if they are making progress?
    The 1876 synagogue is moving a block south to Third & F Streets, NW, where the Society will build an adjacent, state-of-the-art Jewish museum. The new complex will anchor a $1.3-billion mixed-used project called Capitol Crossing, which will include a newly-built platform over Interstate 395.

    Capitol Crossing, a major new development by Property Group Partners, is erecting six new buildings over the I-395 highway, and the Museum sits in the way of its plans.

    The building will move first to a temporary holding area before reaching its final home just one block south at the corner of Third & F Street, NW. The first move is expected to occur in the first quarter of 2016.
  5. What have and haven't they accomplished so far?
    The Society was awarded a prestigious grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to plan the core exhibition in our new museum. The central experience of the museum, the core exhibition will reflect stories that distinguish the Washington-area Jewish community and its history. Our issues-oriented exhibition will enable visitors to explore regional and national history through the lens of area Jewish history.
    In June, we kicked off our NEH advisory panel with a meeting to discuss themes and storylines for the exhibition. Our team includes top scholars, board members with related expertise, community advisors, and technical experts. Their insight and feedback on a variety of issues is helping us plan the core exhibition, develop a list of artifacts and topics to showcase, and test new ideas.
    A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the Capitol Crossing project will enable the Jewish Historical Society to write the next chapter in its history. The new museum will be a welcoming place, showcasing the Washington region's Jewish life and heritage and reinterpreting our historic synagogue in engaging ways. New spaces will include galleries, classrooms, an archival reading room, an oral-history studio, and offices.

    Planning for the new facility is underway with completion projected in 2020-22. We are grateful to generous donors who have made contributions to support our upcoming multi-million dollar fundraising campaign.
Service Areas


District of Columbia

Washington, DC Metropolitan area

Social Media


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Financial information is an important part of gauging the short- and long-term health of the organization.

Fiscal year: Jan 01-Dec 31
Yes, financials were audited by an independent accountant.


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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, Inc.



Free: Gain immediate access to the following:
  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2015, 2014 and 2013
  • Board Chair and Board Members
  • Access to the GuideStar Community
Need the ability to download nonprofit data and more advanced search options? Consider a Premium or Pro Search subscription.

Principal Officer

Mrs. Laura Cohen Apelbaum


Laura Cohen Apelbaum has been the Executive Director since June 1994. She holds a BA in History from Duke University, a JD from George Washington University Law School and a Masters in Taxation from Georgetown University. She is a member of the Maryland and DC Bars. Prior to joining JHSGW, Mrs. Apelbaum was an attorney/advisor to the IRS, Office of the Associate Chief Counsel; an attorney/advisor to the US Tax Court, Chambers of the Honorable Theodore Tannenwald, Jr.; Assistant Corporation Counsel in the Office of the Corporation Counsel, DC Government. She is the current Chair, Council of American Jewish Museums and was the Chair, Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Annual Meeting Panel, Theater on a Shoestring. In addition, she served on the National Trust for Historic Preservation Steering Committee, Sacred & Secular Conference.



Samuel Brylawski

No Affiliation

Term: Nov 2013 - Nov 2015


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Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?