A Jewish community has resided in Northern Virginia for over 175 years. Communal activities began in earnest in the 1850s with the establishment of a Hebrew Benevolent Society and the first synagogue--Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria. As the community took root, it absorbed waves of immigrants from Germany and later Eastern Europe, leading to growth across the area and a wider range of Jewish practice. The new arrivals settled in towns across the area, establishing livelihoods in Arlington, Herndon, Fredericksburg, Warrenton, Culpeper, Leesburg, and Winchester. Many worked in the retail trade, selling clothes, shoes, merchandise, and scrap. The growth of the federal government and construction of the Pentagon in the 1940s brought new jobs and families to the area, and the Jewish community grew along with it. In recent decades, Northern Virginia has changed from a largely rural area to a bustling integrated extension of Washington, DC. Today, the area is home to over 120,000 Jews, surpassing the number in the older DC and Maryland communities.