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Washington Jews Strive to Save Capital’s First Synagogue from Demolition

The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington and members of Adas Israel Synagogue are trying to rescue that structure that once housed the national capital’s first synagogue. The landmark, built 88 years ago in downtown Washington, is scheduled for demolition to make way for a new subway line. The metropolitan area transit authority offered to give the former synagogue to the preservationist if they will move it to another site. But a spokesman for the Jewish group demanded that the transit authority move the building as part of the expense of building the subway system.

Efforts are being made meanwhile to place the synagogue, unused by Jews for over 50 years, on the official register of the National Historic Landmarks. It was the first building specially constructed here for Jewish worship. President U.S. Grant was a guest at dedication ceremonies on July 9, 1876. The congregation moved out in 1907 and the building was used by a Greek Orthodox church. In recent years the church moved and the former synagogue became a restaurant specializing in carryout “soul food,” including pork chops and similar specialties.

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