The DC Shul/Church Project (2017)
The DC Shul/Church Project is an exploration of three buildings in Washington DC that were built as or used by Synagogues from 1900-1930, and their current uses. This work as exhibited as a solo exhibition at the Arlington Art Center in 2017.
The Presence of God Can Be Here is an audio piece that accompanies the visual work. I conducted interviews with leaders from Sixth & I, The Chinese Community Church, and Greater New Hope Baptist Church, asking them to reflect on the Jewish history of their buildings. Listen by following this link and then return to view the images.
These works depict both the past and present use of these spaces, in order to encourage curiosity and insight into the history, current reality, and potential for connection between Philadelphia Jewish and Black communities. Embedded in these works are the echoes of the White Flight of the 1950’s-80’s, during which urban Jews moved to the suburbs as black populations were increasing in city neighborhoods. These works acknowledge both the anti-Semitism and racism that Jewish and Black communities have struggled with, and the beauty and strength of the congregations that share the history of these buildings and neighborhoods.This ongoing project is an attempt to offer a glimpse of the vibrant communities that have been held and shaped by these buildings, and to suggest the possibility of connection across neighborhoods, cultures, and histories.
These works are based on research into the history of the following former Synagogue buildings in Washington DC:
Greater New Hope Baptist Church is at 8th and I streets, in a building constructed by Washington Hebrew Congregation in 1897. Greater New Hope Baptist Church purchased the building in the 1950’s. Washington Hebrew Congregation is now located at 3935 Macomb St.
Sixth and I is a Jewish cultural center, non-denominational synagogue, and performance space. The building was constructed by Adas Israel in 1906. In 1951, Adas Israel moved to its current location on Connecticut Ave, and Turner Memorial AME Church purchased the building. Turner Memorial AME moved to its current location in Hyattsville Maryland in 2003, 6th & I was established shortly thereafter.
The Chinese Community Church is located at 5th and I, in a building constructed by Assembly Presbyterian Church in 1852. The building was converted to a synagogue by Congregation Ohev Shalom from 1906 – 1957. Ohev Shalom merged with Talmud Torah Synagogue in 1958, when Talmud Torah’s building was demolished during the urban renewal of southwest DC. Ohev Shalom the National Synagogue is now located at 16th and Jonquil. Corinthian Baptist Church owned the building from 1957 to 2006, when they moved to their current location in Lanham Maryland. The Chinese Community Church purchased the building in 2006.