|Jewish Members of the Cleveland City Council|
We began this page the day an invitation to the ceremony arrived in our Inbox. Our list of Jewish council members has grown from an initial nine, to 28 today. We now believe it is complete, but if you think it overlooks someone or you have more information or a better picture, please contact us.
Arnold Berger January 13, 2011
The three councilmen honored on May 24, 2010
Cleveland's City Council was
always ward-based, even when the city was small and
had a relatively homogeneous population of
native-born Americans who came here from New
England and New York. It has remained ward-based, with
some variations on that theme. It the late 1800s
council members were elected by district, a district
being composed of two or three wards.
Some years had several At-Large council members, the
rest elected by ward. And in the reform-minded years
of 1923 to 1933 there was some At-Large
representation from larger areas. Today's City Council
is entirely ward-based. with the number of wards
declining as the city's population fell.
For important social reasons most
neighborhoods soon became ethnic enclaves. The
nationality-based Catholic parishes reinforced that
pattern. So, too, did the need for observant Jewish
immigrants to be able to walk to their synagogues.
Migration out of Cleveland to the
'Heights' increased in the 1930s. After the war it accelerated
a pattern of 'white flight' and 'block-busting' seen
in many cities.
African-Americans, whose choices in housing were limited by
income and by discrimination, moved into the Jewish
neighborhoods. By 1960 Cleveland's last Jewish councilman
(Jerome B Goldman in Glenville) had lost his seat. It would be 37
years before Council had a Jewish member. (In 1997 a young Jewish woman,
would be named to Council to represent a
There are no Jews serving on
Cleveland's City Council today. But there are perhaps ten
or more Jewish members of city councils in the
eastern suburbs: from the inner-ring suburbs of
Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights, east to
Pike, Solon and even Chagrin Falls.
There are no Jews serving on Cleveland's City Council today. But there are perhaps ten or more Jewish members of city councils in the eastern suburbs: from the inner-ring suburbs of Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights, east to Beachwood, Pepper Pike, Solon and even Chagrin Falls.
About the table
The table is arranged
chronologically, from the
first to serve to the
A few of the biographies below include examples of a long-honored Council custom that a member who resigns can name his successor.
Who was Jewish?
For all these persons we have found evidence of a Jewish life (membership in a Jewish organization) or a Jewish end of life (funeral service at a Jewish mortuary, a rabbi officiating at a home funeral, burial in a Jewish cemetery, or a death notice/obituary in a Jewish newspaper). Many of these signs of Jewish identity have been included in the table below.
Thus our table does not include
The new Cleveland Jewish burial database has been checked and has been noted CJBDB.
Hoffman, a pioneer who
arrived in the Alsbacher
group of 1839, was removed
from this list in September
2020. His obituaries said he
had been elected to City
Council to represent the
12th ward. City Council
records do not agree. He had served as the
12th ward representative on
the Board of Education.
To learn more
Bavarian-born Thorman was Cleveland's first permanent Jewish settler. His encouragement brought 15 more settlers from Unsleben to Cleveland in 1839. He was a founder of many Jewish organizations including the Willet Street Cemetery, Cleveland's first synagogue, and B'nai B'rith.
Thorman's many descendants - he and his wife Regina (born Raichl) had ten children - have played key roles in Cleveland's economic and cultural life and in its Jewish community. Buried in Willet Street Cemetery, then re-interred in Mayfield Cemetery. More on this website. See ECH
photo courtesy Western Reserve Historical Society
(1844 - 1919)
Born in Hungary. Came here as a ten year old, son of
Morris and Rose Black, Cleveland's first Hungarian
(1852 - 1909) Came to Cleveland from England, four years old. in 1856.
Served 1883-86 (Ward 3)
City Fire Director 1893 - 1901 (ousted by Mayor Tom Johnson)
Lived in Colonial Apartments Euclid Ave and East 70th
Rabbi Aaron Hahn, who had left Tifereth Israel and was now practicing law, conducted the funeral service.
Death mentioned in 1913 American Jewish Yearbook
Buried in Lake View Cemetery. CJBDB
Ran in 1882, lost by 27 votes
Elected in 1884 Fourth ward
Was deputy City Auditor
Owned a toy store on Public Square with Herbert Hyman.
Buried in Mayfield Cemetery
Photo: Jewish Review and Observer obituary, from Paul Klein
photo 1900 - courtesy Western Reserve Historical Society
Born 1841 Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Hesse, Germany
Death: August 19, 1934
1864 - 1929
Graduated from Central High School, 1881
Admitted to the bar in 1888, number first in his class.
Served 5th district two terms 1891-1895
Ran for Council in 1897, with his name on the printed cards Czar Bernstein gave illiterate voters
Was Vice President of Council 1892
Served as president of the Young Mens Hebrew Association (PD link)
Trustee of the Excelsior Club (1912)
Buried in Mayfield Cemetery.
Dr. David Bennett
Born in Hungary, he came to Cleveland
in 1879 with his father. His
education was extraordinary for the times: Calvin
College, the Cleveland School of Pharmacy, MD from
Western Reserve University (1895) and three years of
post-graduate work in Europe. He returned and resumed practice as a specialist in internal
the staff of Mount Sinai Hospital for 14 years.
He served as President of the Hungarian Benevolent and
Social Union, founded in 1881. Member Tifereth Israel.
Buried in Mayfield Cemetery. CJBDB
photo - Thanks to his granddaughter Ruth S Dancyger who contacted another granddaughter Nancy Friedman.
Max P Goodman 1899
Harry Bernstein 1903
David J Zinner 1906
1895 (est.) - 1937 Lawyer. Democrat.
Sixteenth Ward, January 1906 to January 1910
In 1905 Mayor Tom Johnson campaigned for Zinner's opponent, Councilman Henry C Erdman. Zinner, a Bohemian (of Czech origin) said Bohemians not being represented. Zinner won primary 620 to 576, and in a great Democratic sweep was elected.
The Plain Dealer mentioned him
often: 109 times over four years.
Died 1943. Buried in Mayfield Cemetery. CJBDB
Photo 1913: courtesy City Council Archives
photo ca 1920 from "Bench and Bar of Northern Ohio" (1921)
Alex Bernstein 1910
photo: 1913, courtesy City Council Archives
Our Abba Hillel Silver
pages see him as
the man who brought Rabbi Abba Hillel
Silver from Wheeling West Virginia to Cleveland.
(1891-1952) was elected in November, 1917 and served 18 terms. Also known as "Little Napoleon of Ward 12." Republican.
Born in Detroit he moved to Cleveland
at 11. Law partner and brother-in-law of ward
leader Harry Bernstein. Re-elected 17 times, he
became Republican floor leader. His early years on
Council were associated
with scandals. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to oust
him. His behavior seemed to change in the
mid-1930s. His interests extended to city-wide problems
such as street lighting, health centers,
mass transportation, airport development, and
minority-rights. He served many years as chair of the
powerful finance committee. By the 1940s, many,
including the Citizens League, lauded him as a
respectable political leader. He was a member of Council
at the time of his death.
See ECH. Member: Anshe Chesed. Burial in Mayfield
Abner Goldman 1926
photo: Cleveland Jewish News
Charles Sacks 1928 new 9/30/15
Born 1897 in Russia. Came to Cleveland at age 12.
Graduated from Baldwin Wallace and law school. An attorney and a
loyal Republican. Assistant City Attorney. Elected councilman of the 30th ward
(Mount Pleasant) in 1927. Lost bid for re-election in
1929. Elected in 1931 and named by
Council to serve again when the seat became vacant.
The archives of the Jewish Telegraphic
Agency report on 9/11/29 that Cleveland
was the first large city to condemn the "Palestine
outrages". Sacks sponsored the resolution.
photo: from an ad in the Call & Post, then known as Cleveland's Negro newspaper. It asked voters to re-elect him to Council and began "A REAL FRIEND OF THE RACE, TRUE AND TRIED". Sacks lost.
George Washington Furth
Born 1876 in St Louis to Bohemian-born parents. Graduated from high school there, worked in brokerage business in NY and came here age 30. Twenty years in manufacturing and other businesses. Went to law school at night and became a lawyer at age 50. Member of The Temple - Tifereth Israel, a leader of its Mens Club and president of a B'nai B'rith lodge. Member of the Oakwood Club.
Elected one of seven representatives in the Fourth District. Of his election the Plain Dealer said "Mr Furth was drafted by the good government coalition to check (Herman) Kohen. Against Kohen's bad record Furth submitted a record of civic activities that had never before brought him into politics. He undertook a task that seemed at the start impossible. The entire city is to be congratulated in the outcome."
Died August 22, 1944
(1891 - 1962)
Admitted to bar 1914
In 1916 participated in a benefit for Jewish war sufferers, along with Jewish judges and leading Jewish attorneys. Plain Dealer story.
Served four terms on Council 1932-1940, representing the 4th district.
In November 1939 lost re-election in the 25th ward to Harry T Marshall.
Moved to Miami Beach in 1940 after his last term. Died there in 1962.
In a Cleveland Memory photo in 1934 as councilman, with Ernest Bohn.
No burial information.
Photo 1931: courtesy City Council Archives
Pillersdorf, who lived near Shaker Square, was a founder and president of Balfour Lodge B'nai B'rith and a member of Fairmount Temple. Buried in Mayfield Cemetery.
photo: Cleveland Jewish News
Photo: Plain Dealer obituary
1900-1986 Born in Russia
Graduate Marshall Law School of Baldwin Wallace College
Served nine terms on City Council, starting in 1937 ward 24
Judge, Court of Common Pleas, 1966-75 (appointed by Governor James Rhodes)
Previously member of Industrial Commission of Ohio, Parole Board
Ran for Ohio Attorney General in 1956
Member Park Synagogue
Buried in Bet Olam Cemetery. CJBDB
Obituary in Cleveland Jewish News
Photo 1950: courtesy City Council Archives
Harry Jaffe 1939
(1912 - 2002)
Represented Ward 27 from January 1949 to January 1952
Older brother of Howard Metzenbaum
Owned and operated an income tax
service on Broadway Avenue for 30 years.
Owned a very successful radio distributorship.
Photo 1950: courtesy City Council Archives
Cleveland's 1951-52 Annual Report
told of a growing, prosperous city with a
population of 985,000 (391,000 as of 2013) in a
county of 1,385,000 (now 1,263,000). Its
back cover showed all 33 council members and
is the source for our photos of Herman
Finkle, Joseph Horwitz, Harry Jaffe, Harry
Marshall and Irwyn Metzenbaum.