District of Columbia
"The Jewish Messenger" Jan. 24, 1862
WASHINGTON. The city of Washington necessarily attracts more attention at this time, than at any previous season. It is thronged with strangers, the hotels and boarding houses are full, and a fair proportion of the "old inhabitants" find themselves dispossessed, and forced to put up with rather confined quarters, in order to accommodate the additional residents of whom Washington boasts.
The number of Israelites quartered at Washington and its vicinity (exclusive of those in the army) cannot fall short of two thousand. As an evidence of their presence, there are, at least, half a dozen kosher Restaurants, all of which appear to flourish to the satisfaction of their proprietors. At one of them in particular, about dinner hour, there were some forty guests seated at the same time, and on their departure, an equal number ready to take their places. Many are the commercial establishments, conducted under names familiar to a New Yorker. All departments of trade seem to be favored with a full representation from the metropolitan district.
The Synagogue, belonging to the "First Hebrew Congregation of Washington, D.C.," is located on G. Street, above 12th. It is a spacious room on the second story of a building, and will accommodate about two hundred, we should judge. There being at present no regular minister, a young man, named [Samuel] Weil, conducts the services. He has a pleasant voice, and his style of reading is not too pronounced. We observe he has introduced some changes in the Minhag-- whether they are conducive to increased decorum and devoutness, we cannot say. The portion of the Prophets is read in German, and certain parts of the liturgy are omitted. The prayer for the government [Ha Noteyn Tshuah] was likewise, by some oversight, forgotten. Strange to say, they still retain the selling of Mitzvahs [auctioning of the aliyot], which did not add, on our opinion, to the solemnity of the service. Otherwise, the congregants conducted themselves with marked decorum, and there was a pretty good attendance. It is a great pity that the congregation of Washington should not be enabled to support a competent minister, qualified to deliver discourses in the vernacular. It would lend additional interest to the proceedings, besides improving the religious status of the Israelites there.
We had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Fischel, who was convalescing, having had a severe attack of fever. Mr. M.S. Cohen, and others, of New York, several co-religionists rejoicing in the titles of captain and colonel, etc. in addition to the celebrities with whose presence, of course, the city was graced. The Dr. had somewhat overexerted himself in visiting the camps and hospitals, which cover an area of some miles in circuit, and had been quite ill. He was, however, recovering, and almost able to resume his daily round of visits to the sick and wounded.
Mr. Adolphus Solomons, (of Philp & Solomons, whose place of business in Pennsylvania Ave. is the resort of the men of letters, for whose accommodation they have a costly "study" attached to their store), extended us the hospitalities of his house; and we passed a pleasant Sabbath with him, and his good family. We were pleased to find Mr. S. doing so well at the capital, especially as he is one of the very few Israelites there who observe the Sabbath.
The public buildings at Washington justly absorb much of the stranger's attention. The Capitol, with the new extensions, is pronounced equal to any structure of the kind in the world, and certainly, if beauty and harmony of design and exquisite taste in execution, are capable of lending a charm to an edifice, erected on a commanding position, with all the advantages that modern art and improvement can contribute, the structure in which the National Legislature and Judiciary holds their sittings has been singularly favored, and will ultimately, when entirely finished, more than please the eye, and gratify the pride of Americans.
The Patent Office, with its rich treasures of interesting relics and myriads of evidences of skill and inventive genius, the Smithsonian Institution, with its splendid collections of Natural History, Minerals, Indian remains, Ethnological Galleries, Chemical apparatus and Books, the Treasury Building, White House, Post Office, Navy Yard, Monument, and all the other objects of interest in which Washington abounds, well repay an extended visit.
Crossing into Virginia, you have the various fortifications thrown up secundum artem, the many encampments, and grand features of natural scenery, together comprehending a landscape which one is seldom permitted to witness.
Of course, the characteristics of the Capital just now are warlike. All the paraphernalia of an army greet you, and you can well realize the actual presence of war, however doubtful you may be of its existence, while promenading Broadway. The city appears to be under strict military rule, mounted sentries guard each corner, officers and soldiers are subjected to the necessity of showing "passes" and even civilians are marched through a double file of bristling bayonets on entering, and leaving the city. If we should hereafter be enabled to see Washington again, we shall not fail to recall our visit in war time.