Tuesday, March 15, 2011

At Sixth & I

At the corner where 6th St. NW meets I St. NW, just at the edge of Chinatown, stands the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue. DC has had a thriving Jewish community since at least the mid-19th Century when the first official Hebrew congregation was founded. In 1906, construction began on a new synagogue for the Adas Israel congregation. Less than half a century later, the congregation had outgrown the synagogue and sold the building to the Turner African Methodist Episcopal church in 1951. The AME church stripped the inside--though apparently not the outside--of most of the Jewish iconography and replaced it with their own. In 2002, the AME church moved out to Maryland, and the Jewish Historical Society purchased the building and rededicated it as a synagogue. What's left now is an unexpectedly beautiful syncretism of faiths and cultures. It is used for traditional services, but around Washington, it's better known as a community center of sorts. The auditorium, which seats only 300, is used as a venue for small shows by artists like KT Tunstall and Joshua Radin. In conjunction with the iconic DC bookstore Politics and Prose, the Sixth & I also hosts book signings by Toni Morrison and Jodi Picoult.


  1. The building has gone through many rebirths in the last century. I wonder how the deeply religious feel about the shows.

  2. Anyone with objections probably goes to a more conservative synagogue. From what I know of the people and events at Sixth and I, as well as the DC Jewish Community Center, both organizations sponsor concerts, film fests, interfaith alliances, multicultural dialogs,LGBT events, political activism, etc.