Forward Thinking

Can Washington D.C. Save This Rare Synagogue Mural?

By Michael Kaminer

Washington’s Synagogue Mural / Jewish Historical Society

Stephanie Slewka was peeling layers of paint and plaster from her just-purchased house in downtown Washington, D.C. when she spied a blue patch — unusual in the mildewy mess of browns and beiges. Removing a few more gunky strata revealed a Star of David. And tearing off even more exposed an arc of Hebrew letters across a sky-blue background speckled with stars. “We didn’t know what it meant, but it seemed awfully cool,” she told the Forward.

The artwork turned out to be a 1920s mural commissioned by Shomrei Shabbos, an Orthodox congregation that occupied the house in the early 20th century. To understand its history, Slewka called on the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington. To restore it, she tapped local artist Nicholas Kahn, who also added a Venice-inspired winged lion. And so the non-Jewish homeowner became the unlikely guardian of a rare and valuable piece of the region’s Jewish history. “It just became part of the house,” Slewka said.

That was 1993. Now, ten years after Slewka sold the house, the mural is facing a new threat to its survival. A developer plans to convert the house to condominiums. And the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington is mounting a last-ditch effort to save the artwork, believed to be the only surviving synagogue mural in Washington.

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Lukewarm Response to Anti-Palestinian Letter

By Nathan Guttman

Congressional efforts to shut down the Palestinian delegation office in Washington have garnered only tepid support.

A letter, co-authored by the outgoing and incoming leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee from both parties and calling on the President to close the PLO office in Washington, has closed on Friday with only 239 signatures.

The letter came in response to the United Nations November 29 vote recognizing Palestine as a non-member observer state, a status strongly opposed by Israel and by the United States.

While not a bad number for a congressional effort, this figure is on the lower end of support for AIPAC-backed initiative. Letters supported by the pro-Israel lobby in recent years easily got more than 300 signatures.

The party breakdown shows clearly more support for the measure by Republicans, with 172 co-signers. Only 67 Democrats signed on.

Why the chilly reception to the anti-Palestinian measure?

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VA, FL Close But Leaning Dem; CO OKs Weed

By J.J. Goldberg

Chuck Todd on MSNBC is saying Virginia and Florida are too close to call but look likely to go for Obama, because the counties still outstanding are generally Democratic-leaning. The call in Ohio by the networks was for the same reason, as Michael Barone explained rather patiently to Karl Rove on air at Fox: the outstanding votes are mostly in overwhelmingly Democratic counties - and in Democratic precincts within those counties, as Barone explained.

An MSNBC reporter at Romney HQ reports that Romney had prepared an acceptance speech but no concession speech. Nobody from the campaign is around to answer questions. If the margin is close, they will go to provisional ballots, which won’t be counted until the end of the month.

Colorado and Washington both approved ballot measures legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Not medical marijuana - happy weed. That could set up a conflict with the incoming Obama administration. Up to now his Justice Department has opposed California’s medical marijuana law, which effectively nullifies federal drug laws. Tho without much conviction. Recreational use might change the equation and set up a real constitutional confrontation.

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