| Washington Wrap |

Surviving the Shutdown

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Who was the first American president to visit a synagogue during his term, and why did he put $10 in the pushke? Why did the first synagogues in Washington, D.C., have wheels? Which historic synagogue was saved at the last minute from being turned into a nightclub? And who were the first Jews to live in the new capital, established on the banks of the Potomac, in 1790?

For the answers to these and other questions, ask Ami Greener, travel agent and Washington tour guide who specializes in Hebrew tours. With the government shutdown now entering its fourth week, the longest shutdown in history, I asked Ami how the tourist industry was faring.

“I had visitors last week and they were very disappointed,” he said. “They came to the city and found all the museums closed, so they looked for other places to go. Domestic tourists can simply cancel, but international tourists are stuck.”

There are 19 museums in the Washington-based Smithsonian Institution, all of which are closed. So where do the tourists go? According to Ami, they take over the private museums, such as the Newseum, notwithstanding its steep admission fee.

“I was there, and I think it was their busiest day ever,” Ami said. “Another problem is that it’s very cold out. It’s not like in the spring, when tourists can walk around outside and enjoy the cherry blossoms.”

Ami is also inventing alternative activities, like a mass snowball fight at the National Mall whenever there is enough white stuff.

Hotels have also been hit hard from the shutdown, Ami says, as many of the conventions that traditionally roll through town have been canceled. As the shutdown lingers, everyone up and down the supply chain is affected, including all those who provide goods and services to government employees.

“Travel is a luxury,” he says. “If someone isn’t paid, he can’t go on vacation. This is the season for planning annual getaways, and I’m hearing people saying, ‘If I don’t get paid, I won’t go on vacation this year. I can go camping instead.’ ”

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 744)


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