B'nia B'rith Museum 

Inside Scott Circle

By Theodore Fischer, Sidewalk

The B'nai B'rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum is a good reason to come in out of the rain (or sun) of Scott Circle. The building itself endured a moment in the media sun back in 1977 when a group of Hanafi Muslim terrorists invaded it and occupied the building for three days before a peaceful settlement was negotiated. At the same time, another contingent of Hanafis invaded the District Building, shooting then-City Council member Marion Barry in the chest.

Today, the building serves as a center of local Jewish life and museum of Jewish culture. One section houses temporary exhibitions currently "Compassion Around the World: The Art of Edna Hibel" from the Hibel Museum of Art in Palm Beach, Fla. The permanent exhibit, "The Life Cycle," displays artwork, religious articles and household items in sections common to any culture Birth (including nifty circumcision kits), Marriage (contracts and hairpieces) and Death and in Jewish ones including Bar Mitzvah, Synagogue and every one of the Jewish holidays.

Except for some bogus scrip produced by the Germans to impress concentration camp monitors and a "Schutz-Pass" issued by Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg permitting a Jewish family to escape Germany, there's not a trace of the Holocaust. The highlight of the museum is a 1790 letter from George Washington to the sexton of a Newport, R.I., synagogue declaring the United States "a government which, happily, gives to bigotry no sanction; to persecution no assistance." The letter is displayed under a brownstone replica of the synagogue.

Across the lobby from the museum is the cozy Jewish American Sports Hall of Fame. Mementos from the top "Stars of David" baseball slugger Hank Greenberg, pitcher Sandy Koufax, first female boxing judge Eva Shah and Boston Celtics coach (and George Washington University player) Red Auerbach are displayed in individual lockers. Second-string players memorialized by mere plaques include the incomparable Howard Cosell, sportswriter Shirley Povich, Wizards and Caps owner Abe Pollin and yes, sports fans defrocked broadcaster Marv Albert. On your way out, stop at the museum store for dazzling candles and candleholders, Jewish-themed toys and games and a copy of the huge current international bestseller, Kosher Sex.

Cross Rhode Island Avenue to the Governor's House Hotel, named after Gov. Gifford Pinchot of Pennsylvania, the first chief of the Forest Service, whose home once occupied the site. Now the hotel is home of the 17th Street Bar and Grill, the former Herb's recycled into a clubby and attractive spot for good deals on tasty sandwiches and pizzas and nightly specials ranging from jambalaya to ribs to catfish to half-price burgers. There's a "free-flowing champagne" sit-down brunch ($13.95) on Sunday, cocktail hours with live music and $4 martinis nightly and plenty of space on the outdoor patio whenever weather permits.

Other Scott Circle hotels offer more upscale dining. Spending a lot of loot at Chardonnay in the DoubleTree Hotel Park Terrace won't guarantee a fabulous meal. You can do better just south of the circle by taking tea at the Jefferson Hotel Bar or a meal at the New American-style Jefferson Restaurant. Remember the Jefferson Hotel? That's the place where President Clinton's former spinmeister, Dick Morris, was photographed with a hooker right under "Old Fuss and Feathers'" (Gen. Winfield Scott's) very nose.


B'nai B'rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum, 1640 Rhode Island Ave. N.W., (202) 857-6583
17th Street Bar and Grill, Governor's House Hotel, 1615 Rhode Island Ave. N.W., (202) 331-0227
Chardonnay, DoubleTree Hotel Park Terrace, 1515 Rhode Island Ave. N.W., (202) 232-7000
Jefferson Hotel Restaurant/Bar, 1200 16th St. N.W., (202) 833-6206

See also: Scott Circle's startling statuary

Theodore Fischer, 1801 August Drive, Silver Spring, MD 20902, Tel: 301-593-9797, Fax: 301-593-9798, email: tfischer11@hotmail.com