The May 31 Metro article on the Capital Jewish Museum’s scheduled June 9 opening, “New museum tells complex narrative of D.C. area’s Jews,” presented what is indeed a “complex story” of the Jewish presence in the D.C. area for well more than a century.
If you’ll indulge the addition of a smallish — but quite pointed — footnote to that saga, consider the experience of this writer and his family. My parents, brother and I — German Jewish refugees — arrived here from the Netherlands in 1940, just a couple of weeks before that country’s capitulation to the German invasion. But because our German-issued passport did not distinguish between holders fleeing oppression and those possibly bent on spookiness, once America entered the war, we were officially designated as “enemy aliens” — a label that required frequent and tiresome clarification.
Some of those recurrent episodes border on the quaint, but only with the passage of time. My father, in addition to German, was fluent in English and French and well-versed in biblical Hebrew. That enabled him, in these early years here, to generate a modest amount of income from mentoring would-be bar mitzvah youngsters, including one living in Loudoun County’s Leesburg.
It turned out the Leesburg destination breached the perimeter to which enemy aliens were restricted. So, the numerous times my father boarded the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad, he needed first to register and receive travel authorization from the police.
Within a couple of years, citizenship obliterated this stigma, allowing unfootnoted entry into the local Jewish community.
Joel Darmstadter, Chevy Chase
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