Meet the ‘Queen of H Street’

Posted October 10, 2007 at 4:27pm

The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington on Sunday will premiere “Anna Shulman: The Queen of H Street.” The performance is part of a new exhibition, also opening Sunday, that chronicles the people, places and events that shaped the history of the D.C. area’s Jewish community from 1795 to the present.

“The Anna Shulman living history performance was developed to travel to schools and local congregations. This is currently the only scheduled performance for the general public,” said Erin McCormally, education specialist at the JHS of Greater Washington. “We are fortunate to have several members of Anna’s family attending.”

Susan Holliday is set to perform the one-woman living history production that will tell the true story of Shulman, who immigrated to the District during the early 20th century. The performance will highlight Shulman’s impact on the H Street neighborhood in the 1930s and includes Shulman’s interpretation of traditional Jewish values such as tzedakah, or charity.

The H Street corridor was composed of a hub of Jewish merchants during the 1920s and 1930s. The show will demonstrate the political, social and economic changes of the times, as well as Shulman’s personal story.

“Unlike other Eastern cities, where Jews lived in concentrated immigrant neighborhoods, Washington’s Jews lived and worked throughout the city. H Street Northeast was one of many areas in the city that had a tight-knit concentration of Russian and Eastern European Jewish immigrants,” McCormally said.

When the Great Depression hit, Shulman and others founded the Hebrew Sheltering Society to provide kosher meals, a change of clothes, and lodging for new immigrants who were searching for jobs.

Shulman’s society membership grew from 10 women to hundreds who were all accommodated for by Shulman and the society in an effort to help those looking for a new beginning. Shulman also owned Shulman’s Dry Goods store on H Street.

The highly interactive show is developed as a reintroduction for contemporary students and families learning about the immigrant experience, and it will show how immigrants such as Shulman repaid their debt of welcome by helping subsequent immigrants in their turn.

“Anna Shulman: The Queen of H Street” will start at 3 p.m. Sunday and is free and open to the public. Because of limited space, attendees are required to RSVP at jhsgw.org. The exhibition is located in the sanctuary of the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, located at 600 I St. NW.