At the height of unrest following the murders in 2020 of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Catharina Jacknow took a walk through the historic Black neighborhood of Tinner Hill in Falls Church. When she told fellow congregants at Temple Rodef Shalom about Tinner Hill, they expressed interest. Jacknow suggested they all take a walk there.
“Everybody had such a great time,” Jacknow said. “And we all said, ‘We really should do this again sometime.’”
That was the start of History Hikers of Rodef Shalom. The group is one of many special-interest “tents” that the synagogue offers members. A member will suggest a place of historical interest to hike through. (They have to be a moderate or easy hike.) The hikes have been led by the congregants themselves — except for the most recent one on Feb. 6.
Fort C.F. Smith is one of nine Union Forts along the “Arlington Line,” built to defend Washington from a Confederate assault in 1862. It is the best preserved of the earthen forts that protected Washington during the war. After the tour, the 25 hikers enjoyed hot chocolate and home-baked cookies.
For Jacknow, an Annandale native, learning more about the area she grew up in is a large part of what draws her to History Hikers.
“I just really like knowing more about the place that I live, getting some exercise, fresh air and to see actual people in person,” Jacknow said. “It’s fun these days.”
A Temple Rodef Shalom congregant for more than 25 years, Jacknow did not think the temple would be a way to get exercise. But History Hikers does, in addition to socializing and connection to the Jewish community.
Jacknow said the group has been “extremely valuable” in connecting people.
“I want it to continue to be a source of connection for the congregants,” Jacknow said, “as well as with people in the larger Northern Virginia and D.C.-area community, too. I think by knowing a bit about the history of the place, it gives you roots.”