Oldest DC synagogue moving to new location

Workers will soon cut off the bottom beams of the oldest synagogue in DC to move it down the street not once, but twice.

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - The oldest synagogue in D.C. will soon have a new address.

Workers are preparing the Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum to move the entire building down the street. 

The synagogue built in 1876 is a historical landmark in D.C. and cannot be torn down. It sits on the edge of I-395 at Massachusetts Avenue, but that area is now needed for the Capitol Crossing project and a new on-ramp to I-395.

The move will happen in two parts. Next month, construction workers will lift up the entire building and move it about 30 feet. Then in a few years, they will move the synagogue down the street to its permanent home at the corner of 3rd and F Streets.

“The synagogue has witnessed so much of our city’s history and has been a lens for which to look at Jewish history in the Nation’s Capital,” said Wendy Turman, Deputy Director of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington.

Turman said they cleared out the synagogue and moved everything into storage. Now construction crews are preparing the building for the move, which Turman said includes cutting off the base of the building at about four feet.

“I spent a lot of time and a lot of energy reviewing their plans I have a lot of faith in them I think they're going to do a great job,” said Stuart Zuckerman, Past President of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington.

Zuckerman said the plan is to incorporate the synagogue into the middle of an even bigger Jewish Cultural Institution.

“The city has really changed a lot in the last five and 10 years and I feel like we're part of that change now,” said Zuckerman. “I don't feel like we are being kicked out, I feel like we're entering sort of the stream of the changing city.”

This isn’t the first time the synagogue has had to move in D.C. either. It moved from its original location at 6th and G Streets when Metro wanted to build a headquarters at that location.

“The Jewish community rallied and in a very audacious act of historic preservation was able to pick up the building and save it and move it down to this spot where we are here,” said Turman.

But the Jewish Historical Society is looking forward to the next chapter of the Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum too, especially its location next to the Judiciary Square Metro Station.

“I've been looking forward to this for a very long time,” said Turman.


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