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This is an umbrella project for all projects related to Jews from Cleveland, Ohio.

The History of Jewish Life in Cleveland

The history of Jewish life in Cleveland began, not in Cleveland, but in the small town of Unsleben, Bavaria, on May 5, 1839. On that day, a group of 19 emigrants led by Moses Alsbacher departed for America, seeking escape from political unrest and economic and personal discrimination. They chose Cleveland as their final destination because a fellow townsman, Simson Thorman, had two years earlier made this thriving village on Lake Erie the base for his fur trading business. Arriving in late 1839, they found their first homes in the Terminal Tower-Central Market area.

A Torah scroll was among the belongings of this group of settlers, and soon after they arrived, they formed the Israelitic Society for worship. By 1850, the society had split permanently into two congregations, Anshe Chesed, today Fairmount Temple, and Tifereth Israel, now The Temple. Over the next 20 years, both congregations gradually adopted the Reform mode of worship under the leadership of Rabbi Isadore Kalisch, Cleveland's first rabbi.

Anshe Chesed dedicated its Eagle Street Synagogue in 1846, and 10 years later Tifereth Israel opened its synagogue on what is now East 6th and Huron. Because the public schools of the 1840s were poor, the congregations sponsored secular as well as religious education for this first generation of Cleveland Jewish children.

Many of the settlers earned their livelihoods as peddlers. Some came with skills like cigar rolling, while others established dry goods stores, butcher shops, and bakeries. Clothing manufacturing, wholesaling, and retailing were also popular occupations. Out of deep-rooted Jewish tradition, establishing charitable societies came naturally to the Jewish settlers of Cleveland. In 1868, the Order of B'nai B'rith converted a health sanitarium at East 51st and Woodland to an asylum to care for Jewish orphans of the Civil War. This first regional Jewish charitable institution in the United States eventually evolved into Bellefaire and Jewish Children's Bureau.

Shortly afterward came the Hebrew Relief Society, in 1875, the forerunner of Jewish Family Service Association, and then Montefiore Home for Aged and Infirm Israelites, in 1882, a signal that the pioneer generation was entering its golden years. In 1892, the Young Women's Hospital Society began to raise funds for a Jewish hospital, to be called Mt. Sinai, and opened its doors in a remodeled home on East 37th in 1903. By 1880, this first phase of the immigrant era had ended. Cleveland Jews, numbering 3,500 and primarily of German origin, were highly Americanized and very much part of the general community.

The second phase of the immigration was prompted by Eastern European Jews fleeing the harsh persecution and economic deprivation of the shtetls of Russia and Poland. Though the Jews of Cleveland may have felt uncomfortable with their strangely dressed, Yiddish-speaking brethren, they did not fail to help them make their way in a new city and a new land. Additional outgrowths of the desire to respond to social needs were the establishment of the Cleveland Section of National Council of Jewish Women and the Council Educational Alliance (CEA) -- both formed just before the turn of the century. Then, in 1903, the recognition that local social problems required a more organized approach to the solicitation and distribution of funds led to the creation of a Federation of Jewish Charities. Under its first president, Charles Eisenman, the Federation unified fund-raising for eight beneficiary agencies.

During this time, the dominating institution of the Woodland neighborhood was the CEA, which decades later merged with several other agencies to become the Jewish Community Center. For the new immigrants this was the principal Americanizing agency. It was here that they came for recreation, to socialize, to learn English, or to learn job skills.

The immigrants who came after the turn of the century found a bustling, crowded Jewish neighborhood. Single homes now housed three and four families, frequently with boarders. Almost every block had its mom-and-pop stores -- a grocery, a confectionery, a butcher shop, a tailor shop. Newly established Orthodox institutions abounded: small synagogues, the Jewish Orthodox Home for the Aged (forerunner of Menorah Park), and the print shop of the Yiddishe Velt, the Yiddish language newspaper published by Samuel Rocker.

Many immigrants found work in Cleveland's thriving garment industry, then second only to New York's. Other newcomers entered the building trades, becoming members of the Jewish Carpenters Local 1750. Those with an inclination to entrepreneurial pursuits were not without role models. It was during the Woodland period that Henry Spira went from saloon-keeping to banking, Harry Blonder started his hardware and paint business, and Adolph Weinberger opened his first drug store.

Though life was hard, the immigrants also had opportunities for recreation -- a picnic in Luna Park, a concert by the Cleveland Jewish Band, or a Yiddish play at Czar Harry Bernstein's People's Theater. So that children could escape the overcrowded city at least for a week, Samuel D. Wise donated land along the lake near Euclid, Ohio, for a fresh air camp in 1907.

By the early 1900s, the Jewish community was anything but cohesive. The established German Jewish pioneer families, followers of Reform Judaism, were well-to-do leaders in civic organizations. By contrast, the Eastern Europeans were Orthodox in their faith, Zionist and liberal in their politics, and Yiddish in their culture. Two rabbis, Moses Gries of Tifereth Israel, and Samuel Margolies of Anshe Emeth, were noted spokesmen, respectively, for the two groups. By the 1920s, Cleveland's Jewish population had climbed to an all-time high of approximately 90,000 and had basically vacated Woodland for Glenville and Mount Pleasant-Kinsman.

The Glenville area, adjacent to the academic and cultural institutions of University Circle, was anchored by the Euclid Avenue Temple, The Temple, and Mt. Sinai Hospital. Its social and communal heart was the Jewish Center at 105th Street and Grantwood, which not only was home to a Conservative congregation, but also housed branches of the CEA and Cleveland Hebrew Schools. At the center, community meetings were held and people crowded to hear leading Jewish orators of the day. The last Yiddish theater (the Manhattan), the Yiddishe Velt, and the Hebrew Cultural Garden were also located in the Glenville area.

Orthodox culture flourished in Glenville as well, evidenced by the presence of numerous congregations, the Jewish Orthodox Home for the Aged, and Orthodox schools like Yeshivath Adath and later the Hebrew Academy and Telshe Yeshiva. As for public school, the community was immensely proud of the predominantly Jewish student body of Glenville High School, known for unmatched academic achievement.

The Kinsman-Mt. Pleasant neighborhood was a more ethnically mixed area, newer, and more working-class. It had nothing to compare in size or architecture to the institutions of Glenville, but its focal points -- the Kinsman Jewish Center and other Orthodox synagogues, the Jewish Carpenter's Hall, the main branch of the Workmen's Circle, Socialist Farband Center, and the CEA's central facility -- gave it a uniquely Jewish flavor.

After World War I, distinctions within the community began to 'blur, and new leaders emerged with the vision of unifying Jewish community life under the guidance of the Federation. Four men of particular influence rose from the religious community. A brilliant orator and scholar, Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver had assumed the pulpit of The Temple in 1917. In addition to his Zionist work, which has won him an honored place in modern Jewish history, ]]


Rabbinical College of Telshe

Telshe Yeshiva (also spelled Telz) is the American transplant of a famous Lithuanian yeshiva of the same name. During World War II the yeshiva began relocating to the United States and is now known as the Rabbinical College of Telshe.

The yeshiva was opened in Cleveland in the house of Yitzchak & Sarah Feigenbaum on 10 November 1941. In Cleveland, as of 1954, the yeshiva became officially titled the Rabbinical College of Telshe. In the United States, the yeshiva was initially led by a faculty including the late Rabbis