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Yom Kippur 1887
A reporter visits Cleveland's synagogues



When this story of Cleveland's synagogues was written in 1887 the city's 15,000 Jews were of two very different backgrounds. About half were German-speaking Jews from Central Europe who began to settle here in 1839. They and their American-born children had done well, helped by the city's great expansion during the Civil War. They spoke English and German and lived in newer, mixed neighborhoods on the east side, often among others of German background.

After the Civil War small numbers of Jews from Hungary began to arrive. Many spoke German.

The other half of the Jewish population were the Yiddish-speaking East European Jews who began to arrive in a great wave starting in 1881. Crowded into old, poor neighborhoods, they found comfort in a strange land by living near relatives and among countrymen where they could hold on to the language and customs of the world they had left behind.

On Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) in 1887 an unnamed reporter visited five synagogues, from the most traditional (Orthodox) to the most liberal (Reform). Displayed below is the story that appeared on page five of the next day's Plain Dealer, then eight pages, headlined CURIOUS CUSTOMS.

Arnold Berger  May 15, 2020 



Source: Plain Dealer, September 27, 1887, page 5
Accessed 5/13/2020 through the CPL website.

The five congregations: then > now
  • Beth Israel Chevra Kadisha
    > disbanded in 1918
  • Anshe Emeth
    > Park Synagogue
  • B'nai Jeshurun
    > B'nai Jeshurun Congregation
  • Anshe Chesed
    > Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple
  • Tifereth Israel
    > The Temple - Tifereth Israel

Learn more about the congregations
, then and now Cleveland's largest. See Big Four Congregations by Jeffrey Morris.

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