A meeting took place at Steve and Dorothy Brenner’s residence to discuss forming a formal organization for the Jewish Deaf. Approximately 25 people agreed to form a permanent Jewish Deaf organization to provide access to Jewish religion, education, and socialization.
An informal meeting took place at Gallaudet College (now University) to discuss the new organization’s name. Polly Estrin suggested that it be called “Washington Society of Jewish Deaf,” or WSJD, and the membership approved the new name.
April 7, 1974
Rabbi Richard Sternberger, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic region of Union of the American Hebrew Congregation, led the first WSJD Passover Seder. Seventy-five members attended.
WSJD members elected the first officers. They were: Ben Estrin, president; Mickey Fields, vice president; Roz Rosen, secretary; Steve Brenner, treasurer; Dorothy Brenner, member at large, and Herbert Dannis. Following the election, there was unanimous agreement that WSJD become an affiliate of the National Congress of Jewish Deaf., established in 1956 to foster Judaism in the Jewish Deaf Community nationwide.
March 23, 1975
Needing a logo to represent the organization, WSJD held a logo contest, Mickey Fields’ design was selected as WSJD’s logo
Following the performance of the play The Diary of Anne Frank at the Gallaudet College auditorium on February 25, WSJD hosted a huge reception for the cast and 100 viewers, including a busload of people from Philadelphia and from Baltimore. Despite minimal publicity, the old cafeteria in the Student Union Building was filled to capacity until past midnight. Adele Shuart chaired the reception committee with the assistance of Helena Schmitt and Jeanie Shickel. WSJD revealed the new logo. Jeanie Shickel, Helena Schmitt and Adele Shuart created needlework using the logo design.
December 9, 1978
WSJD and Gallaudet College Hillel Club co-sponsored a Hanukkah party. Curt Robbins led the festivities.
As the Convention host, WSJD voted unaminously to have Alexander Fleischman, local resident of Montgomery County, as the general chairman of the 1982 National Congress of Jewish Deaf Convention.
January 18, 1981
WSJD volunteers, using TTYs provided by Steven and Dot Brenner, participated in the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Washington Drive Super Sunday telephonathan.
February 9, 1981
A few WSJD members assisted the St. Elizabeth Hospital’s Volunteer Service for the Deaf in hosting a party for its deaf patients. Erick and Bernice Fleischer, Helena Schmitt, Lilly Berke and Jean Shickel coordinated games, refreshments and entertainment.
1982 National Congress of Jewish DeafConvention
WSJD sponsored the national convention of the NCJD at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. Approximately 300 people attended.
May 1, 1983
Gallaudet Hillel Jewish Students Association and the Washington Society of Jewish Deaf co-sponsored a Nazi Crimes Against the Deaf Exhibition at Gallaudet College Ely Center Multipurpose Room.
1984 NCJC Convention
Erick Fleisher, WSJD Board Member, received the Plapinger Award at Brown’s Hotel in Loch Sheldrake, New York. The Plapinger Award, established in 1976 in memory of Anna and Henry Plapinger, is given to a Jewish Deaf member of a NCJD/JDC affiliate for five years of excellent service to the Jewish Deaf Community.
September 7, 1986
Rabbi Fred Friedman gave a talk on Rabbi Akiva and the 9th of Av.
March 18-20, 1988
WSJD sent Ben Estrin as its representative to a meeting in St. Louis to discuss the reorganization of NCJD and the need for delegates to give affiliates better representation.
May 21, 1989
WSJD participated in a community forum sponsored by the Board of Jewish Education on “Interpreting Religious and Cultural Settings” at the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Washington (UJAF) building in Rockville, Md. This led to the establishment of the Judaic interpreter network in the Metropolitan Washington area.
WSJD was incorporated in the State of Maryland.
May 18-20, 1990
WSJD andNCJD co-sponsoreda Shabbaton at Camp Milldale in Reistertown, Md. The topic of this gathering was “Enlighten Your Jewish Mind”. Steve Brenner was the chairperson of this event and was assisted by Jeff Dunefsky, Terry Bittker, Hillel Goldberg, Marcia Zisman, and Helena Schmitt. Rabbi Fred Friedman officiated the Shabbat services. Hillel Goldberg, Alexander Fleischman were the workshop speakers. WSJD was honored to have three Israeli students attend this event.
1990 NCJD Convention
Sheldon Blumenthal and Debbie Sonnenstrahl were inducted into the NCJD Hall of Fame at Meadowlands, N.J. Roz Rosen was the keynote speaker at this convention.
January 31, 1991
The College of Jewish Studies of the Board of Jewish Education of Greater Washington offered classes on Introduction to Judaism at Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, MD. This course, open to the public, included members of WSJD. It was co-sponsored by the Board of Jewish Education, Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation, Congregation B’nai Israel, Congregation B’nai Tzedek, Congregation Har Shalom and Temple Beth Ami.
October 20, 1991
WSJD members went to Baltimore for a tour at the Baltimore’s Historic Lloyd Street Synagogue, the third oldest synagogue in the U.S..
April 26, 1992
Helena Schmitt gave a presentation on the Holocaust and David Block displayed his artwork at Gallaudet Chapel Hall during a WSJD-sponsored Sunday brunch.
Ben Estrin, Dot Brenner, and Steve Brenner represented WSJD at the opening dedication ceremony of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Joe Rosenstein and Sheryl Cooper interpreted the ceremony.
March 20, 1995
WSJD Board member George Schroederconverted to Judaism at the Silver Spring, Md., Jewish Community Center. WSJD members witnessed the ceremony.
Five WSJD members (Sylvia and Meyer Rosenblatt, Adele Shuart, and Steve and Dot Brenner) participated in a two-week tour of Israel, sponsored by NCJD. Alan Abarbanell was the interpreter for this trip.
September 16, 1995
Lilly Shirey chaired a WSJD booth a Deaf Culture Festival in 1995. Several WSJD members assisted her.
October 19, 1995
WSJD and the Board of Jewish Education co-sponsored a second workshop for interpreters at the Board of Jewish Education building.
1996 NCJD Convention
Isadore Zisman was inducted into NCJD Hall of Fame and Steve Brenner received the Plapinger Award at the national convention held in Chicago, Il.
WSJD established a Havurah, a special interest group of Jewish Deaf Families under the leadership of Sam Sonnenstrahl. The first Havarah meeting took place during the Chanukah party at Gaithersburg, MD.
Ellen Schein, an interpreter and community lay leader, created a new ASL High Holy Days service model, which became a part of WSJD’s tradition. The new ASL High Holy Days service model pilot first took place at Temple Emmanuel in Kensington, MD. Dot Brenner arranged for Celebrity Deli to cater the Break the Fast meal.
November 1 and 8, 2009
Susan F. Cohen, librarian to the deaf and hard of hearing community of the Montgomery County Public Libraries, and Janice Rosen, librarian to the deaf community of the District of Columbia Public Libraries, both invited WSJD to co-sponsor Eugene Bergman to discuss his publication, Survival Artist: a Memoir of the Holocaust, at their respective library system. These programs were respectively held at Rockville Memorial Library in Rockville, MD and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C.
Steve Brenner, George Schroeder, Erick Fleischer, Janice Rosen, and Lucy Lewis resigned from the WSJD Board after many years of service. A new Board was elected. The officers are: Jeff Cohen, President; Suzy Rosen Singleton, Vice President; Jeffrey “Buxy” Buxbaum, Treasurer; Susan F. Cohen, Secretary. Steve Brenner was given the title of President Emeritus.
Karen Alkoby, Hillel Goldberg, and Michael Peterson filled three members at large positions on the WSJD Board.
After several years of lay led services, WSJD hired Deaf Rabbi Ellen Roth to conduct Rosh Hashanah services, held at Adat Shalom in Bethesda, Md. Ephrat Dvir and Hillel Goldberg, two deaf lay leaders, led Yom Kippur services. It was also the first time WSJD offered two additional Rosh Hashanah services during the High Holy Days.
October 16, 2011
Suzy Rosen Singleton and Nancy Topolosky coordinated a Sukkot event at Kemp Mill Synagogue in Silver Spring, Md. Joshua Soudakoff , a rabbinical student was invited to explain the significance of Sukkot and lead everyone in reciting the blessings over the lulav and etrog. Nancy and Allan Topolosky and Joyce and Nino Dworsky coordinated the kosher meal for everyone to savor.
October 30, 2011
Tracey Rattner and Nancy Topolosky coordinated WSJD’s first “Window into Shabbat” program at the Rattner’s home. Meredith Jacobs, managing editor of Washington Jewish Week, author of “The Modern Jewish Mom’s Guide to Shabbat” demonstrated how to make a challah and gave a talk about her book.
November 20, 2011
One hundred and eighteen people attended an Appreciation Dinner in honor of Steve and Dot Brenner for 40 years of dedicated service to WSJD and the Jewish Deaf Community. Jeffrey Dunefsky coordinated this event with assistance from Mike Peterson and a number of WSJD members. Signature Caterers provided glatt kosher catering service.