"Washington's first Jewish congregation began in 1852 when twenty-one German-speaking immigrants met in a home on Pennsylvania Avenue. After renting space for nearly a decade, the Congregation purchased and converted a church at 8th and I Streets NW, in 1863 as WHC's first permanent home. The new site was near the city's emerging retail core, where many members lived and worked. Inside the new building, women sat in the gallery and men on the main floor. Traditional practice, however, soon gave way to religious reforms including the use of German and English during services. When an organ was added in 1869, some members left to form an Orthodox congregation. Nevertheless, we continued to grow, and by 1897, a new, larger building was erected on the same site. President William McKinley laid the cornerstone and more than 3,000 people lined the streets to witness the event."
816 8th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20001