Family Reflections at the Capital Jewish Museum
Images Courtesy of the Capital Jewish Museum

Family Reflections at the Capital Jewish Museum

Through thoughtful presentations of history, art and culture, the newly opened Capital Jewish Museum seeks to encourage families of all faiths to reflect on the meaning and history of Jewish life in the D.C. Metropolitan area.

Formally known as the Lillian and Albert Small Capital Jewish Museum, the museum opened its doors to the public on June 9, 2023. The opening date was in remembrance of June 9, 1876, the date of the dedication ceremony for Adas Israel Hebrew congregation’s first synagogue built in the District of Columbia. Today, museum officials refer to it as a purpose-built synagogue because it was created in the 1870s with the specific purpose to worship Orthodox Judaism and now in 2023 embraces the purpose of creating the museum.

Visiting the Capital Jewish Museum

With 32,000 square feet of beautiful space to be filled with Jewish artifacts and memorabilia, the museum offers visitors three full floors of thought-provoking exhibits. Parents are encouraged to take their children to see the exhibits, read the placards and reflect thoughtfully on the diversity of local Jewish people and their lifestyles within the last 200 years.

  • Perhaps the museum’s most highly anticipated exhibition is one that promises to blend equal parts seriousness and clever pop culture references: “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” a traveling exhibition that will be at the museum until November 30, 2023. The exhibition, based on a book by the same name, is a collection of archival photos, documents and media stations that tells the inspiring story of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a playful style. Everything is inspired by attorney Shana Knizhnik, who posted on the Tumblr website and the post went viral when she compared the late justice with famed rapper Notorious B.I.G.
  • Other exhibitions at the museum explore the history of local Jews and present the Jewish perspective on modern social justice issues and their difficult and painful connections with the past. The museum invites all visitors to consciously explore the exhibits and consider their own identity and values. Parents and children are invited to reflect on their own lives and privileges with an understanding of the challenges Jewish people have faced due to their religious beliefs.

Special Programs for Families

The Capital Jewish Museum expands its educational goals of guiding the public to a greater awareness of Jewish life by offering fun, lively programs for children and their families. In the RBG Workout, for example, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s former trainer, Bryant Johnson, intersperses real plank-strengthening exercise skills with pleasant memories about his famous client. The museum also offers weekly story times for children and an open maker space known as the Community Action Lab, which invites visitors of all ages to further explore Jewish life through hands-on activities, workshops and games that touch upon different themes.

The Museum’s Origins

The origins of the museum were with the Adas Israel congregation, whose history began humbly in the 1870s with the desire of 30 Jewish European families to protest the Reform Judaism movement by creating a new place of worship based on conservative Judaism with Orthodox values. Lacking funds, the families rented rooms including a small loft space on the top level of a carriage factory close to the U.S. Capitol.

Building 1 – Adas Israel

Years of planning and fundraising allowed the congregation to erect its first building, Building 1, on the corner of 6th and G Streets, NW in Washington, D.C. The dedication ceremony took place on June 9, 1876. The congregation worshipped at Building 1 until 1908. Over the years at various points a number of changes took place, with the building being sold, then changed to retail space at one point. The Jewish Historical Society of Great Washington saved it from destruction during plans for the building of D.C.’s Metro system in 1969 and moved it to 3rd and G Streets.

Preservation efforts went on for many years. In 2019, developers moved Building 1 to 3rd and F Streets. This is the building that now houses the Lillian and Albert Small Capital Jewish Museum and the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington. In 2020, mixed media artist Zachary Oxman created an art installation for the lobby of the museum consisting of intersecting tubes that would serve as its overarching theme – “to connect, reflect and act.”

(One of the other buildings Adas Israel also occupied over the years was eventually converted to its modern use as an educational hub of all things Jewish. Now known as Sixth and I, it focuses on Jewish programming for young professionals.)

The Capital Jewish Museum has many educational exhibits and learning opportunities ready for children and their families. Visit


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