return to CJH Home page

Rabbi Michaelis Machol  
by Nathan Arnold

Rabbi Michaelis Machol was one of the most interesting personalities I have ever studied. He was an outstanding rabbi of the Anshe Chesed Congregation of Cleveland, Ohio, leading the congregation from 1876 until 1906. During his tenure the congregation instituted occasional English sermons, installed an organ and moved to men worshipping with uncovered heads. However he demonstrated personal Conservative leanings in sermons and published articles, e.g., deploring the destruction of "every ceremony." He was often referred to as “Reverend Doctor” Machol rather than Rabbi.

Rabbi Machol was born in the Kolmar Province of Posen, Germany (near Poland), in 1845, one of four children of Zadek and Esther Machol. After graduating from the Theological Seminary of Breslau, Germany with smicha (ordination), and obtaining a doctorate from the university in the same city (both in 1869), he traveled to America. Some of his teachers were Sigismund Stern, Dr. Abraham Geiger, Dr. Ticktin and others who had worked on “The Association for the Reform of Judaism”.

He settled first in Leavenworth, Kansas in 1869. In September 1871 he became rabbi at Kehillath Anshe Maariv in Chicago, Illinois  There he married Minnie Rosenthal, the daughter of Rabbi Bernhard Rosenthal of Alton, Illinois. They would have five children: Jacob, Henry, Bernhard, Gertrude, and Ernest. The rabbi belonged to the Masons.

Rabbi Machol came to Cleveland in 1876 to lead Anshe Chesed, Cleveland's first synagogue. He came here at the advice of his friend, Dr. Samuel Wolfenstein, the Director of The Jewish Orphan Asylum located on Woodland Avenue in Cleveland. At the time of his arrival at Anshe Chesed, the congregation had 120 member families with a religious school of 130 children. The congregation was making the transition from Orthodoxy to Progressive Modern Reform. It was located in the city's first synagogue building on Eagle Street, near the Central Market downtown. He oversaw the congregation's growth in the 1880s.

In 1886, Rabbi Michaelis Machol attended the famous Pittsburgh Convention of The Central Conference of American Rabbis of the Reform Movement. It was then and there that he debated the subject of revelation with Rabbis Isaac Mayer Wise and Kaufman Koehler. He name is mentioned many times in the chronicles of that meeting.

In 1887, Rabbi Machol led his congregation in a campaign to construct a new, larger synagogue. They bought land at the corner of Scovill Avenue and Henry (E. 25th) Street. Corner-stone laying ceremonies were held on Shemini Azerith . Guests included Cleveland Mayor Gardner, Rabbi Hahn of Tifereth Israel Congregation and Peter Zucker, wealthy Cleveland industrialist, as well as approximately 4,000 Clevelanders. One year later the new building was dedicated. The dedication included an address by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise and the lighting of the large synagogue chandelier donated by the prominent Halle family. The new synagogue‘s main sanctuary had seating for 1,500 people in 182 “family pews”. Rabbi Machol negotiated the sale of the former Anshe Chesed Eagle street building to B’nai Jeshurun Congregation.

In 1890, he helped arrange an agreement by which Anshe Chesed and Tifereth Israel Congregation would jointly own the Mayfield Cemetery located near the corner of Mayfield and Coventry Roads in Cleveland Heights, and also the old Willet Street Cemetery.

By 1900, all services at Anshe Chesed Congregation were conducted in Hebrew and English. German was no longer spoken during services. At this time, Rabbi Machol became very active in helping fellow Jews who were trapped in Eastern Europe and Russia. He helped to send aid to Europe as well as organizing help for newly arrived immigrants from the troubled areas.

Active in advocating for the Jewish community, Rabbi Machol joined other rabbis and lay leaders in protesting the 1901 decision of the board of the Cleveland Public Schools to begin each school day with the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the 23rd Psalm.

In 1901 Anshe Ched celebrated Machol's 25th year as its spiritual leader with a very large party held at The Colonial Hotel on Prospect Street in downtown Cleveland. The menu included Blue Point Oysters, Turtle Soup, Kennebec Salmon, Filet of Beef, Mallard Duck, Neapolitan ice cream and Roquefort cheese. Of course, traditional Kashrut was no longer considered appropriate for the congregation. They also served German wines and wonderful cigars. A three day celebration then ensued with guests from around the country.

In 1905, Rabbi Machol helped to host a meeting of the Central Conference of American Rabbis in Cleveland. It was then that he started to agitate for a newer building for his congregation. He felt that the synagogue should be located nearer to the growing Jewish neighborhood east of East 40th Street and in Glenville. In 1912 a new building would be built at E. 82nd Street and Euclid Avenue. Anshe Chesed would then become known as the Euclid Avenue Temple.

In 1906, as his health began to decline, Reverend Doctor Machol became Rabbi Emeritus of Anshe Chesed, with the arrival of Rabbi Louis Wolsey from Little Rock, Arkansas. Rabbi Wolsey, born in Michigan, was Anshe Chesed's first American-born, American-trained rabbi.

During his tenure at Anshe Chesed, Rabbi Machol participated in the confirmations of mote than 500 children and performed more than 1,000 wedding ceremonies. He stayed at Anshe Chesed through many difficult times, passing up an offer to become a professor of Theology at Yale University. He loved his congregation which he often referred to as his “flock”. He was loved and admired by everyone.

Rabbi Michaelis Machol passed away in Denver, Colorado in 1912 after a visit with his son Henry in Idaho Springs, Colorado. He is buried in Mayfield Cemetery.


Links to learn more:
Encyclopedia of Cleveland History entry on Michaelis Machol

Rabbi Louis Wolsey's memorial address for Rabbi Machol at the 1914 conference of the CCAR

 

About Nathan Arnold

Nationally known as an appraiser of industrial equipment, Clevelander "Nate" Arnold is also well known as the man who has guided thousands on bus and trolley tours of old Jewish Cleveland. He is also the author of this website's section: A Virtual Tour of Old Jewish Cleveland.

Nate and his wife Suzanne are long-term members of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, where many regard him as their historian. Here he writes about one of its rabbis he knows only through much research: Michaelis Machol, who served Anshe Chesed for 36 years (1876-1907 as rabbi and 1907-12 as rabbi emeritus).

On a tour, In front of the
"Superman House" in Glenville.

In costume, ready for an interpretation
of Rabbi Michaelis Machol.