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The still-standing structures - Cleveland's old synagogues

A list with photographs and brief summaries of all the still-standing structures in Cleveland that were once home to a Jewish congregation.

The earliest congregations

We will try to give special attention to some of Cleveland oldest and largest congregations. They include:

In the early 1840s a few religious organizations were given land for constructing buildings. Amazingly, the Israelitic Society (Anshe Chesed) was one of them. The story of the gift is inspiring. In a new Great Gift page we tell it.

The first two congregations, Anshe Chesed (now Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple) and Tifereth Israel (now The Temple - Tifereth Israel) began Orthodox but within a generation had moved solidly to Reform. After a stormy start, they would both enjoy an amazingly long year period (97 years, 1851-1948) of quiet growth becoming, with more than 2,000 families each, two of our nation's largest congregations. Currently they both report memberships of 1,300 households. For a list of congregations today, visit CJN's "The Source".

The rabbis of the two Reform congregations had such long service - Barnett Bricker at Anshe Chesed for 33 years (1925-1958) and Abba Hillel Silver at Tifereth Israel for 46 years (1917-1963) - that many called these congregations Brickner's Temple and Silver's Temple. One Cleveland Jew upon meeting another he believed to be Reform might ask "Do you go to Silver's or Brickner's?"

Few Clevelanders may have known that Silver and Brickner - distinguished and very American rabbis, - were both immigrants who had grown up in New York's Yiddish-speaking Lower East Side. They had gone to the same yeshiva and as teenagers both had been in the Herzl Zion Club whose advisor was Rabbi Moses Silver, the father of Abe (later Abba Hillel) Silver. It should also be noted that despite a shared boyhood, they did not have a good working relationship.

For continuing congregations we provide a link to the History page of their website. We also recommend the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History as as a good source and the new site by Jeffrey Morris: Haymarket to the Heights, with incredible detail.

We joined in the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Cleveland's third-oldest congregation B'nai Jeshurun, by adding an extraordinary graphical timeline and more, introduced by this B'nai Jeshurun page.

A virtual tour of old Jewish Cleveland, or Nate Arnold's Tour, mentions many congregations. 

Professor Alan Levenson's essay on Congregation Brith Emeth and Rabbi Philip Horowitz is a careful study of an innovative but short-lived (1959-1986) Reform congregation and the rabbi who founded and led it.


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