Historic synagogue makes its final move

The historic Adas Israel Synagogue at its final location, where it will become part of the Capital Jewish Museum. Photo by Jared Foretek

The oldest standing synagogue in Washington — which once housed Adas Israel Congregation and will soon become part of the Capital Jewish Museum — made the third and final leg of its journey Wednesday, a roughly block-and-a-half trek to its permanent location at the southwest corner of 3rd and F Streets in downtown Washington.

Set on its way with a traveler’s prayer from Rabbi Hanna Spiro of Hill Havurah, the 368-ton building, which opened in 1876 with President Ulysses S. Grant in attendance, began its roughly 200-yard journey at about 9:30 a.m.

And it was a treacherous one. Set atop what the moving company, Wolfe House & Building Movers, said were 11 “self-propelled Buckingham Dollies,” the building got up to speed on 3rd Street but quickly had to maneuver around a protruding tree, slowing its progress.

About an hour later, the synagogue reached the intersection, but had to rotate into the proper alignment. Finally, its pirouette complete, the travelling synagogue was brought to rest at its final location at about 11:30 a.m. Cheers rang out from the assembled crowd of onlookers and dignitaries.


“May God bless you in your comings, and may God always bless you in your goings,” Rabbi Aaron Alexander of Adas Israel said as the building was moved onto its final plot.

A project of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, the building move and its rehabilitation began in 2016. Hopes are that the museum itself will open in 2021 with additional facilities built onto the old Adas Israel building. Most recently, the building housed the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum at 3rd and G Street, three blocks from its original location at 6th & G.

Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington Executive Director Kara Blond said the new museum will have a local focus, showcasing the history of Jews in the Washington area and that of the building itself.

“It’s really giving us a chance to build a new museum facility around the historic building and tell lots of new stories about the intersection between Jewish life and the nation’s capital,” Blond said.

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