Gabe Levenson – Travel Writer
Thousands of New Yorkers will make the 250-mile journey to Washington, D.C. in the next few months to sightsee and to explore the manifold wonders of our nation’s capital.

For me, the most important destination there is The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I trust many, many more will also make the trip — really, a pilgrimage — to view the museum’s spectacular, new exhibit, “A Dangerous Lie: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.â€? The show explores the history and continuing impact of the most widely distributed anti-Semitic propaganda of modern times, the fabricated “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.â€?

From its early, 20th-century origins in czarist Russia to its murderous promotion in mid-century by the Nazis to its widespread acceptance today in the Middle East, the tract has been used to spread hatred of Jews all over the world and, now, to legitimize attacks on the State of Israel.

Technology has made the text available to anyone with Internet access, and it continues to be circulated by those who promote hatred, violence and even genocide. The Museum’s special, online focus on anti-Semitism can be found at www.ushmm.org/antisemitism.

“This exhibition has received substantial interest from visitors and the media,â€? says Daniel Greene, its curator. He warns that “rising global anti-Semitism and the ready availability of ‘The Protocols’ make educating people about its role as an incitement to hatred both timely and urgent.â€? Their continued circulation “reveals the durability of anti-Semitism and the power of the Internet in spreading propaganda, including remarks from the president of Iran, denying the Holocaust and calling for Israel’s destruction,â€? he says.

The exhibit begins with the birth of “The Protocols,â€? a work of fiction, originally published in Russia in 1905. The work consists of 24 chapters —“protocolsâ€?— that allegedly are minutes from secret meetings of Jewish leaders planning world conquest by manipulating the economy, controlling the media and fostering religious conflict. Widely suspected to be the product of the czar’s secret police, its intent was to portray Jews as conspirators against the state.

Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, anti-Bolshevik émigrés brought the text to the West, and editions began appearing throughout Europe, North and South America, Japan and the Middle East. In 1920, Henry Ford published “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem,â€? based largely on “The Protocols.â€? Years later, Ford publicly apologized for having produced the book, but the damage had been done: “The International Jewâ€? sold more than 500,000 copies and was translated into at least 16 languages.

Almost immediately after its publication in the West, a variety of British authorities publicly debunked “The Protocolsâ€? through both journalistic investigations and legal proceedings. Nevertheless, the book gained currency as a tool for fostering hatred of Jews and continued to spread around the globe.

Introduced to “The Protocolsâ€? in the early 1920s, Adolf Hitler declared that “Jewish Bolsheviksâ€? were conspiring to control the world. Following the Nazis’ seizure of power in 1933, the book was introduced into many schools to indoctrinate students. During World War II, the Germans circulated versions of it throughout occupied Europe.

Even those who doubted the authenticity used the work to reinforce anti-Semitic beliefs and policy. In 1924, Joseph Goebbels, later the Nazi minister of propaganda, wrote, “I believe that ‘The Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion’ is a forgery…[However,] I believe in the intrinsic, but not in the factual, truth of ‘The Protocols.’â€?

The exhibit continues with the horrifying assertion that the book remains in wide circulation, exploited by those who advocate hatred, and sometimes violence, against Jews and the State of Israel. White supremacists and Holocaust deniers in the United States and Europe promote it, and it has become a mainstream text in the Arab and Islamic world, where many schoolbooks teach it as fact.

In 2002, Egypt’s state-sponsored television network aired a miniseries based in part on “The Protocols.â€? The charter of the Palestinian organization Hamas also draws on “The Protocolsâ€? to justify its terrorism against Israeli civilians.

The Holocaust Museum is an overwhelming experience. On a much more modest scale are a number of institutions of particular interest to Jewish visitors.

The National Museum of American Jewish Military History, located near Dupont Circle in the national headquarters of the Jewish War Veterans, features “Women in the Military: A Jewish Perspective,â€? profiling a number of Jewish female veterans from the Civil War to the Gulf War. Phone for details: (202) 265-6280 or go to www.nmajmh.org.

Theater J, a professional company, is based at the Jewish Community Center in the city itself, as distinct from a similar JCC in suburban Rockville, Md. The current production, running through Oct. 13, is “Shlemiel the First,â€? a staged concert reading with music and lyrics by Robert Brustein. “Schlemielâ€? is based on a play by I.B. Singer and deals with Chelm, “the village of fools.â€? Call (202) 777-3210 for reservations and information on future productions or go to www.theaterj.org/arts/theaterj.

Kosher Cuisine. Eating certified kosher food in Greater Washington, with a Jewish population of some 250,000 and some 90 synagogues, is not as simple as it should be. There are two or three kosher restaurants each in suburban Silver Spring and Rockville. Kosher restaurants in downtown Washington are conspicuous mainly because there are so few of them.

Good, home-style, moderately-priced cooking is available, most conveniently, at the JCC Café, 16th Street and Q Street NW, (202) 387-3246 — where you can dine reasonably well before going upstairs for a Theater J performance. Or try Eli’s Restaurant, 1253 20th St. NW; (202) 785-4314. n