“Personal & Professional” Memoirs of Sidney Z. Vincent

“Personal & Professional” Memoirs of Sidney Z. Vincent.

Mr. Vincent was Executive Director of The Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland for many years during the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s. He was also a national leader in Jewish education and communal affairs.

We are grateful to Mr. Vincent’s daughter, Jill Caslin and son, Norman Vincent for giuving us permission to offer this book

The pdf file is here (please be patient, the file is approximately 10mg in size)

Getting by Together: African American-Jewish Interactions in Cleveland 1900-1938 by John Baden

These articles are based on this 2011 Master’s Degree Thesis written by John Baden. The thesis is here (4.3mg pdf download)

RESIDUAL NEIGHBORS JEWISH-AFRICAN AMERICAN INTERACTIONS IN CLEVELAND FROM 1900 to 1970

Part 1

(part 2 is here)

Getting by Together: African American-Jewish Interactions in Cleveland 1900-1938

by John Baden

Although there are many excellent works of Cleveland history, they tend to portray its ethnic groups in isolation from one another; as do Cleveland’s numerous ethnic events and landmarks. Despite widespread racism and segregation, though, ethnic groups often interacted with and relied on each other. This essay examines some of the once widespread interactions between African Americans and Jews in Cleveland proper between 1900 and 1938. While some interactions between African Americans and Jews were deliberate (especially partnerships created to combat racism), most were unintentional products of daily life. Yet, as we will see, historical forces profoundly shaped even the most mundane interactions like going to the store.

Large-scale African American – Jewish interactions began in the early nineteenth century. Prior to this time, African Americans and Jews had miniscule populations in the city. Jews, on the other hand entered Cleveland in large numbers during the late eighteenth century and twentieth century.  By 1910, there were 60,000 Jews in Cleveland and only 8,448 African Americans.[1] On the eve of World War I (1910-14), most of the city’s African Americans and Jews congregated around Central Avenue, which is located just east of downtown. The neighborhood that bears this avenue’s name, Central, was a diverse and integrated urban community. Apart from being home to the largest number of Jews and African Americans, it was also home to Big Italy and other ethnic groups as well.[2] Thus, residents needed to interact with each other at neighborhood institutions like grocery stores for sustenance.

baden-fig-1

Figure 1 A mapquest.com map of Cleveland’s Central neighborhood.

Each migrant brought with them the talents and trades they acquired in their previous home. The capital and social status each person brought with them to the neighborhood often influenced their interactions with others. Some of these trades like small-scale store managing transferred well to life in urban Cleveland. Others, like agriculture or mining were much harder to convert into a viable trade in such a dense urban environment. Anti-Semitic laws made it rare for Jews to engage in agricultural work in Europe, while African Americans had been forced to perform it for several centuries. Although most Jews were not wealthy, a few brought significant wealth with them to the country, and invested in community programs like the Hebrew Free Loan Association. These all gave Jews a number of assets that allowed many of them to transition into life in Cleveland more successfully than many other groups. Before long, many Jews had found success in the retail and the garment industry. African Americans, on the other hand, had few of these advantages, and faced even more discrimination, which shackled social mobility for most.  Despite these differences, African Americans and Jews often lived in the same neighborhoods for much of the early twentieth century.

 

 Because of the aforementioned advantages many Jews had, African American – Jewish relations often unfolded as client-patron relationships. African Americans often relied on Jewish leaders for commercial goods, credit, jobs, political patronage, and “protection” in the underground economy. Many Jews in Cleveland, in turn, relied on African American customers and employees at their establishments for their livelihoods.  

World War I was a turning point for African American-Jewish interactions. The war caused great labor shortages, and factory owners began employing African Americans. After this, thousands of Southern African Americans left their homes for new ones in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood. Consequently for African American – Jewish relations, African Americans entered Central in large numbers at the very time (roughly 1914-1925) most Jews were leaving.[3] Most Jews had lived there for some time, and were now able to move on to better neighborhoods by the 1920s. Their residences were then occupied by African American migrants from the South who became the area’s new residents, and customers.[4] Many Jews who left Central, however, held on to assets and businesses that they operated in their old neighborhood. This included many grocery stores, shops, and property. For example, 62-73 percent of grocers on Central Avenue were still Jewish in 1920, and 45.5 to 58 percent in 1930, after most Jews had left the neighborhood.[5] Prejudice from white society in general made it very difficult for African Americans to open competitive institutions. As a result, African Americans continued to use Jewish-owned services in the neighborhood, ensuring such businesses would be profitable for decades after most Jews had moved out.

Selling conditions in segregated communities were not consumer friendly. Unfortunately, prices were often high for the quality of goods or property rendered. For instance housing prices were high, largely because non-Jewish whites had shut African Americans out of most of the city’s housing market, and refused loans to African Americans. Therefore, supply was short for commodities and services in high demand. Like nearly everyone who owned property or stores, most people in Central probably sold for the highest price they could.  It was a coincidence of history and socioeconomic factors, that Jews owned much of Central’s businesses and property, and were disproportionately selling to African Americans.  In effect, Jewish business and property owners often became middlemen between African Americans and white Christian society.[6]

Patron-client relationships between Jews and African Americans also developed in the spheres of politics and organized crime. Until African Americans had enough voters to elect their own councilmen, Republican political boss Maurice Maschke (who was Jewish) developed a patronage partnership with several notable African Americans.  Maschke allied with vice-king Albert “Starlight” Boyd, an African American, to deliver black votes to the Republican Party in exchange for modest patronage and other favors. Maschke also supported African American Thomas W. Fleming’s successful bids for city council and allowed Fleming to dispense a modest amount of patronage into the black community. In turn, Maschke played a role as an advocate for the Republican Party to take a stronger civil rights stand, and played a role in the appointment of Fleming’s wife, Lethia to the Republican National Executive Committee and Colored Women’s Bureau of the Republican National Committee.[7] 

The client-patron relationship between African Americans and Jews also extended to organized crime. Aspiring criminals in Central had to either push out existing crime networks or become their clients. One of the most contested under-ground niches during the 1930s was the “numbers “racket in Central’s African American economy. Somewhat mirroring the Maschke-Boyd relationship mentioned above, Jewish American crime boss Shondor Birns helped bring African American numbers runners and prostitution workers under his patronage. At this time, Birns represented the Cleveland mafia which was a product of a merger between the local Jewish criminal syndicate and local Italian mafia.  Around 1932, Birns helped secure an agreement where the Cleveland mafia would no longer harass African American numbers runners and secure police protection for them in exchange for a forty percent take in gambling operations and three dollars a week from each prostitute.[8][9] This arrangement appears to have lasted until the 1950s. 

These examples in the underworld demonstrate that many African Americans who interacted with one another often did so for self-interest. Most were likely making the most of a situation that prejudice had dealt them. Shondor Birns, for example, grew up as an impoverished orphan, and in many ways was a victim of the generations of anti-Semitism that wrecked devastating poverty on many Jews. In the United States, though, lighter skin tone and a measure of social acceptance allowed many Jewish-Americans to earn a living by rendering services to an ethnic group more marginalized than themselves. Similarly, African American gangsters did not necessarily “choose” to be Birns’s clients. The existing mafia, however, had too many weapons, political alliances, and connections with drug suppliers for African Americans to compete. Therefore, African Americans gangsters became clients of “off-white” patrons in order to scratch out a living in a racist society. As had been the case in commercial and political spheres, Jews often served as “middlemen” between white society and the marginalized African American community.[10] 

Although the patron-client relationship that developed in Cleveland and other cities throughout the North helped many African Americans with services, some grew resentful of their predicament. Racism continued to severely limit most African Americans’ opportunity, and most likely believed they would no longer need “middlemen” if racism ended. Evidence suggests that most of these critics acknowledged Jews had not created the situation, but resented that the profits made from such arrangements.[11]  

            Cleveland’s African American newspaper, The Call & Post, offered complaints about relying on non-African American businesses throughout the 1930s. One article for example complained that the lack of African American businesses in Cleveland meant that African Americans would receive little benefit from the upcoming nation Elks Lodge convention. The columnist stated, “the Jew…in his typical way will foresee the coming of the Elk money and start planning for them…while the colored man will sit by watching him.” Thus, African Americans needed to “open up a decent colored night club where we and the Elks can go so we can stop patronizing the Jew who in reality want us but only our money so that he can build himself a fine home on the heights and then not permit you to live next to him but only work in the kitchen.”[12]

            Despite these anti-Semitic comments, the article resulted in more ambiguity than hostility. The following week, the columnist apologized. He wrote that many people were “rightly” offended by his column and that he should have used the word “white” rather than “Jew” which “singled out the race that is closer and more able to understand the Negro.”[13] A columnist had expressed anti-Semitic remarks out of frustration, but presumably African Americans readers had demanded a retraction. Despite calls like this to patronize “their own” establishments, Jewish-owned establishments proved just as popular among African American customers, even when they directly competed.[14] Some African Americans who worked in Jewish-owned establishments also gained valuable skills. Future Congressman Louis Stokes, an African American, was among those grateful for his experience at one such store during the early 1940s. In an interview with Teaching Cleveland, he even recalled his employer escorting a potential customer out of the store who refused service from Stokes.[15]

            During the 1930s, activists formed campaigns throughout the Northern United States urging African Americans, “don’t shop where you can’t work.” These campaigns encouraged African Americans to not shop in establishments that did not hire African American employees. Since Jewish Americans owned many of the businesses in African Americans communities, they were often the targets of these protests and boycotts.

            Cleveland’s “don’t buy where you can’t work” campaign was organized by the Future Outlook League, and headed by activist John Holly and The Cleveland Call & Post (Cleveland’s black newspaper) editor William O. Walker. The Future Outlook League’s leadership appears to have recognized many of the businesses they targeted were Jewish owned, and did not want their organization engaging anti-Semitism. For instance, a 1938 article of the league’s newspaper, The Voice of the League stated, “Don’t spend your money where you can’t work. And don’t let your boycott against local merchants lead you into an anti-Semitic campaign. Do not curry favor with anyone by showing them how much you hate the Jews or anyone else.”[16] 

            The Future Outlook League also sought to encourage African Americans to patron stores that hired black employees. Many of these businesses appear to have been Jewish-owned.  For instance, an article from the The Voice of the League urged people to “pay Stall No. 32 [at the Woodland E. 5th St. Market] a visit when you do your shopping this Saturday,” because its owners, Mr. Baumeister and Mr. Schmiedl, “kept a black butcher on the job with full pay after he broke an arm.[17] Businesses such as Rosenberg’s Drug Store, Hoicowitz Dept. Store, Cohen’s Southern Food Store, and Kritzer Bros Bakery also advertised their business’ hiring practices in the Voice of the League as an inducement to patronize their business.[18] Thus, African Americans were able to engage in criticism of some local establishments that may have happened to be Jewish, but appear to have restricted such criticism to these businesses, and not Jewish store owners in general. 

baden-fig-2

Figure 7 Some advertisements found in the Voice of the League telling readers that they hire African Americans.  These advertisements appeared on the same pages, but were spliced together for the benefit of the reader[19]

The 1930s and 1940s, of course, was a tumultuous time period for African Americans and Jews. Anti-Semitism was growing to new levels in Hitler’s Germany, and Jewish immigration to the United States had virtually been shut off since 1921. Paradoxically, however, many Jewish Americans were finding some measure of success in the United States, despite the hardships of the Great Depression. This made it difficult for many African Americans to understand why many Americans were so condemning of Hitler’s anti-Semitism during the Nuremberg Law era, when African Americans faced similar restrictions in the United States.

 

Many Call & Post articles mentioned this irony. For instance, a 1935 article reported that Hitler had deflected criticism of his persecution of the Jews by telling Americans to “tend to your own lynchings of Negroes.”[20]  The article ended by reminding readers that the United States had still failed to pass an anti-lynching bill, and that “America has a lot of housecleaning to do before she can start finding fault with other nations.”[21] Thus, it appears that many African Americans felt a degree of racism at play when white Americans decried the situation in Germany, but made little effort to improve African Americans lives in their own country.

 Another Call & Post column in 1938 took some Cleveland Jewish business owners to task for discriminating against African Americans, while Jews faced similar persecution in the Europe. In this article, a fictional street-talking African American stated that “Mose could feel sorrier and could cry louder and longer [for German Jews] if’n he hadn’t experienced der same treatment from der same Jewish race.”[22]

            Despite this column, most articles about Jewish persecution appear to have ceased to note alleged hypocrisy by late 1938. That November, German authorities had forced some 25 to 30,000 Jews into concentration camps, destroyed thousands of businesses, and burned over two-hundred synagogues during Kristallnacht. These events appear to have convinced many Call & Post writers that something unique was happening to Jews in Germany. After these events, nearly every article appears to have portrayed Jews as allies against racism, and perhaps sought an opportunity to link American sympathy for German Jews with African Americans’ freedom struggle in the United States.[23] For example, Call & Post articles entitled, “Anti-Semitism, A Weapon of the Lynch Lords,” “Racial Persecution is Contagious,” “Negroes are Not Opposing Haven for German Jews,” “The Plight of the Jews,” expressed both sympathy for persecuted Jews, and the hopes that the two communities could unite against racism.[24] As a Call and Post article entitled, “The Negro and the Jew, Partners in Distress” saw it, “This partnership [Jews and blacks] in distress inevitably brings about a fellow feeling between these two persecuted races. The writer continued, “The Negro is in a large measure the beneficiary of Hebrew persecution,” and that “the vial of wrath which was poured out upon the head of the Negro alone, is now spread out so as to cover the Jews as well.”[25] The article concluded by saying that their partnership will triumph over evil, and Christianity and democracy over irreligion and dictatorship. A somewhat awkward if not ambiguous hope, given that an article calling for increased cooperation between African Americans and Jews concluded by heralding the inevitable triumph of Christianity. 

            Similar conclusions were reached by African Americans and Jewish leaders throughout the country. Indeed, after World War II, Jews and African American leaders would form a civil rights alliance that would go on to dismantle most the nation’s de jure racism, and transform the nation. Yet, ironically, relations between most African Americans and Jews changed little through the 1930s and 40s. Gentile white prejudice against African Americans continued to cripple most African Americans’ ambitions to enter the middle class. As a result, Jews in cities like Cleveland would continue to serve as patrons or middle-men of sorts to African Americans for decades to come. As we will see in the next segment, though, this relationship would be heavily altered if not jettisoned altogether during the civil rights era. 

 

 


[1] Judah Rubinstein and Jane Avner, Merging traditions: Jewish life in Cleveland (Kent: Kent State University Press, 2004), 29. Kenneth L. Kusmer, A Ghetto Takes Shape: Black Cleveland, 1870-1930 (University of Illinois Press, 1978), 10.

[2] Gene P. Veronesi, Italian Americans and their communities of Cleveland (Cleveland State University, 1977).http://www.clevelandmemory.org/italians/Partiii.html

[3] Levy, Donald, A Report on the Location of Ethnic Groups in Greater Cleveland, (The Institute of Urban Studies, 1972), 24.

[4] For the purposes of this essay, Jews will be referred to as whites, as this was their legal classification. Although a case has been made by many scholars that Jews were not perceived as entirely white, or white at all, this issue is beyond the scope of this paper.

[5] John Baden, “Residual Neighbors: Jewish-African American Interaction in Cleveland  from 1900 to 1970” (master’s thesis, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, 2010), 23

[6] The term “middlemen” is taken from the Middleman minority theory.  For an overview of this, see Pyong Gap Min, Caught in the Middle: Korean Merchants in America’s Multiethnic Cities (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 21-22.

[7] Randolph C. Downes, “Negro Rights and White Backlash in the Campaign of 1920,” ” Ohio History, 88, vol. 75 (Winter 1966) , http://publications.ohiohistory.org/ohstemplate.cfm?action=detail&Page=007588.html&StartPage=85&EndPage=107&volume=75&newtitle=Volume%2075%20Page%2085.

[8] Daniel R Kerr, “’The Reign of Wickedness’: The Changing Structures of Prostitution, Gambling and Political Protection in Cleveland from the Progressive Era to the Great Depression,” 1998, (M.A. Thesis, Case Western Reserve University, 1998), 45.

[9] (Kerr 1998, 45-47) Services were paid for “protection” from authorities, but often meant protection from their gang attacking the numbers operators.

[10] For a discussion of “middle man theory,” see Pyong Gap Min, Caught in the Middle: Korean Communities in the New York and Los Angeles (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996). A more in depth discussion of Jewish-African American relations in the underground economy can be found in Baden, “Residual Neighbors: Jewish-African American Interaction in Cleveland from 1900 to 1970.”

[11] For a fuller discussion of this, see Baden, 29-45. Once notable essay expressing these views is James Baldwin, “Negroes are Anti-Semitic Because They’re Anti-White (1967).” in Paul Berman, Blacks and Jews: Alliances and Arguments (New York: Delacorte Press, 1994), 31-41.

[12] T.D.S., “ON THE AVENUE:DAMON TURNS SPEED DEMON,” Cleveland Call and Post,  April 8, 1937,  http://www.proquest.com/ (accessed November 18, 2009).

[13] T.D.S., “ON THE AVENUE: MY APOLOGIES,” Cleveland Call and Post, April 15, 1937, http://www.proquest.com/ (accessed November 18, 2009).

[14] “ON THE AVENUE:WITH TDS NITECLUB LULLABY,” Cleveland Call and Post,  April 30, 1936,  http://www.proquest.com/ (accessed November 18, 2009). A good discussion on African American customers and Jewish businesses in Chicago can be found in St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton, “The Growth of a ‘Negro Market,’” in Strangers & Neighbors: Relations Between Blacks & Jews in the United States, ed. Maurianne Adams and John H. Bracey (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999), 358-60.

[15]Part 2: Interview with Louis Stokes Former Congressman (1969-1999),” Teaching Cleveland Digital at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage video, 15:31, March 24, 2014https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7MYAocKZM8.

[16] J.M. Dowden, “Boycotts,” The Voice of the League, July 16, 1938.

[17] “untitled article,” The Voice of the League, July 16, 1938.

[18] The Voice of the League, March 2, 1936 and January 27, 1940.

[19] The Voice of the League, date unknown.

[20] “THE NAZIS POKE FUN AT AMERICA,” Cleveland Call and Post, August 22, 1935, http://www.proquest.com/ (accessed November 18, 2009).

[21] (Ibid.)

[22] “MOSE of the ROARING THIRD: MOSE WEEPS.” Cleveland Call and Post, December 8, 1938, http://www.proquest.com/ (accessed March 15, 2010).

[23] Kelly Miller, “The Negro And The Jew, Partners in Distress,” Cleveland Call and Post,  November 17, 1938,  http://www.proquest.com/ (accessed March 21, 2010). 

[24]Proquest searches of historical Call & Post articles, http://www.proquest.com/ (accessed March 21, 2010)

[25] Kelly Miller, “The Negro And The Jew, Partners in Distress,” Cleveland Call and Post,  November 17, 1938,  http://www.proquest.com/ (accessed March 21, 2010). 

 

Neighbors Then Strangers: African American-Jewish Postwar Interactions by John Baden

These articles are based on this 2011 Master’s Degree Thesis written by John Baden. The thesis is here (4.3mg pdf download)

RESIDUAL NEIGHBORS JEWISH-AFRICAN AMERICAN INTERACTIONS IN CLEVELAND FROM 1900 to 1970

Part 2

(part 1 is here)

Neighbors Then Strangers: African American-Jewish Postwar Interactions 1950-1970

by John Baden

 Various forces shaped where African Americans were able to reside in northern industrial cities like Cleveland during the first half of the twentieth century. Racist housing deeds, real estate practices, and violent intimidation forced most African Americans in Cleveland to live in only a handful of neighborhoods. These neighborhoods, however, were not particularly segregated prior to the 1950s. Residents attended the same schools, shopped in the same stores, and lived in a remarkably diverse community. Ironically, historically African American neighborhoods in Cleveland became homogenous, and more segregated during the civil rights era, a time associated with progress towards integration. Despite efforts to empower African Americans to reside in a neighborhood of their choice, inner city African Americans found themselves more segregated than ever. To understand why inner-city neighborhoods like Cleveland’s Central became increasingly segregated during the civil rights era, it is important to investigate why whites stopped living and working near African Americans, as many had done in the past.

This essay will address these issues by discussing the decline of community interactions between African Americans and Jews from 1945 to 1970 in the city of Cleveland, Ohio. These interactions give us some understanding of the process of neighborhood transformation because Jews and Africans often lived in the same areas throughout the early twentieth century. Moreover, Jews who retained business in the neighborhood continued to play important roles in the community for several decades.  As time passed, though, fewer Jews had a presence in these neighborhoods, and these spaces became more homogenously African American. As a result, African American Jewish interactions waned in Cleveland proper (although some significant interactions continue in the suburbs).

One should not dismiss the civil rights movement or wax nostalgic about earlier ethnic relations; opportunity has risen for most African Americans, and about half now live in suburbs.[1] Still, inner-city African Americans that made up what sociologist William Julius Wilson called “the truly disadvantaged” in industrial cities like Cleveland, however, often lived more isolated lives than ever between 1950 and 1970.[2]

One of the most important communities examined for this study is Central, a neighborhood located just east of downtown Cleveland. As discussed in the first segment, from roughly 1900 to 1920, the neighborhood was the heart of the city’s African American and Jewish community. But these communities only comprised part of the neighborhood’s diversity. It was also home to Big Italy and other ethnic groups as well.[3] African Americans and Jews interacted with one of another in many different spheres, and by no means lived isolated lives. Even after most Jews moved out, many Jews held onto businesses in the area. For example, in 1930, 46.5 to 58.1 percent of grocers on Central Avenue were Jewish even though nearly all Jews had moved out of the area.[4] Thus African Americans often worked and shopped in Jewish-owned businesses. 

After Congress passed immigration restrictions in the 1920s, hardly any new European immigrants moved into Central. Instead, their places were filled by African American migrants from the South. Cleveland’s African American population increased from 8,448 in 1910 to 34,451 in 1920, and then 71,899 in 1930.[5] As whites’ views hardened about the desirability of segregation after World War I, it became nearly impossible for African Americans to live outside of Central or a select few small communities, which were usually also located near Jewish populations.[6] As a result, the Central neighborhood became increasingly African American and segregated. 

This, however, did not need to be permanent. World War II provided an opportunity to re-integrate Cleveland neighborhoods. Americans frequently invoked the wartime rhetoric of democracy and a battle against racial supremacy during World War II, which could have spurred changes in attitudes and laws. Cities like Cleveland could have been an asylum for the refugees of World War II and the Holocaust. Instead, segregation remained as harsh as ever, and immigration restrictions largely prevented Jews and other Europeans immigrants from fleeing to the United States during the Nazi and Stalin eras. These refugees and displaced people could have helped maintain a racial balance in old immigrant neighborhoods. Instead, white ethnics and African Americans would live further apart in areas more isolated from each other.

By 1950, most of Cleveland’s 148,000 African Americans in 1950 still had little ability to live anywhere but Central. Most African Americans were relegated to the lowest paying jobs in a given industry, and often had the lowest seniority. White home owners often refused to sell to African Americans, and African Americans who managed to find a home in a new neighborhood were often violently harassed by whites.[7]

It was extremely rare, however, for Jewish Americans to violently resist African Americans moving in, and Jews even gained a reputation for selling or renting property to African Americans.[8] As the Association for Jewish Communal Relations’ president, Sidney Vincent, commented in 1962, a “substantial share of housing in the Negro area-with all the attendant irritation-is owned by Jews, partly because the neighborhoods are largely formerly Jewish,” and observed that when blacks did move to suburbs, “in almost every case, it has been a leap into a Jewish neighborhood.”[9]  One disgruntled white opponent of integration complained, “the Negro follows the Jews in housing; no Jews, no Negroes to follow.”[10]  This ensured that African Americans and Jews would have a measure of interactions with one another in these newly opened up neighborhoods for decades to come. Yet, prejudice would continue to affect the scope and form of these interactions. 

baden-fig-3

Figure 3 Previously Jewish neighborhoods are shaded in blue, and compared to African American neighborhoods in 1950.[11]

Unfortunately, after African Americans moved into their neighborhood in substantial numbers, many Jewish residents (like other European ethnic groups) moved out almost immediately. For example, Glenville, a neighborhood just north of University Circle, went from being predominately Jewish (over 70 percent in 1936) and over 90 percent white in 1940 to nearly 50 percent African American in 1950, and predominantly African American by 1960.[12] Unfortunately, after a neighborhood transitioned to a predominately African American one, few whites wanted to live in it. Thus, demand for that housing decreased after most whites no longer wanted to live there. As a result, African Americans often saw little or no equity gains once they bought a house in a previously white neighborhood because area-wide demand for housing in the neighborhood would plummet. Indeed, the falling value of a house in an integrating neighborhood convinced many whites to leave.[13] Without equity, banks were hesitant to extend credit to property owners, thus exacerbating the wealth gap between African Americans and whites. Reporting in fall of 1950, a Call & Post team headed by Marty Richardson wrote that in the area between Ashbury and Parkwood to St. Clair and East 99th   in Glenville, over twenty churches along with five synagogues “have either recently been sold to Negro congregations, are reportedly or actually for sale,” and a building on Kimberly Avenue “that would cost more than a half-million dollars to build…is reportedly on sale for $75,000.”[14]

It should be noted that not everyone who moved to a suburb did so because of racial anxieties. There were many advantages of moving to a suburb like better funded school districts and more space to live in. Moreover, the federal government’s support of highways and segregated suburban neighborhoods at the time, made suburbs a feasible, if not more economical option.[15] Furthermore, many people enjoyed higher incomes in the post-war economy and were able to buy a nicer home in a new neighborhood. White departure from the largely working-class Jewish sections of the Kinsman neighborhood was much slower, and harder to classify as “white flight.”[16] Indeed many more affluent African Americans have moved to the suburbs as well. 

Regardless of motivation, though, white departure contributed to a more segregated city. Before long, African Americans in Glenville, and eventually Kinsman, found themselves in neighborhoods as segregated and deprived of capital as their previous residences. As a result, African American–Jewish interactions in places like Glenville would largely be between residents and business owners, rather than as neighbors.

Since many of the neighborhoods’ African Americans lived in had once been Jewish communities, there were a disproportionate number of Jewish-operated businesses there. Determining the number of Jewish-owned businesses in African American neighborhoods during the 1950s and 60s is difficult. According to a 1968 government study of “ghetto” businesses in fifteen non-Southern cities, 39 percent of “ghetto merchants” (52 percent of white merchants) were Jewish, although the number in Cleveland was probably higher due to the intense overlapping of African American and previously Jewish neighborhoods. Since the study was taken after most of the nation’s urban unrest, the percentage of Jewish owned stores was probably higher in the years immediately preceding these events.[17]

The presence of so many white and often Jewish-owned businesses in now predominately African American neighborhoods caused consternation among some of its African American residents.[18] New York-based African American intellectual James Baldwin voiced these concerns by writing,

“It is bitter to watch the Jewish storekeeper locking up his store for the night…with your money in his pocket, to a clean neighborhood, miles from you, which you will not be allowed to enter.”[19]

Such occurrences were reminders of how racism picked who could succeed and who could live where. The point is particularly poignant, because where one lives in the United States has often increased one’s chances of succeeding. Yet, Baldwin’s latter point seems a bit reductionist given that many Jews, at least in Cleveland, did sell their homes to African Americans, and participated in suburban integration efforts in places like Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights.[20]

On top of being perceived as “outsiders,” non-African American store owners faced criticism for high prices. According to a supplemental study for the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, prices were in fact higher in African American neighborhoods in the North than other neighborhoods. This was because it was risky to operate a business that relied on impoverished residents who had to purchase goods through installment plans or on credit.[21] As a result, prices had to be high to account for the losses incurred by customers who were unable to finish their payment plans. Moreover, it was much more difficult for small independent stores to buy at discounted bulk volumes from suppliers. Nevertheless, these high prices were a source of frustration for customers who were often hard-pressed for cash.

African Americans did not universally condemn Jewish businesspeople that had a large African American clientele. As mentioned in first segment, some African Americans had positive experiences working in Jewish-ran stores. Moreover, figures like the disc jockey Alan Freed won a large devoted African American audience. Former Cleveland resident, W. Allen Taylor, who worked at both an Italian and Jewish-owned grocery store in the mainly middle-class Lee-Harvard area, recalled that

“There was some tension, especially during the mid to late sixties as black folks became more vocal about their demands for respect. For the most part, however, the Jewish retailers who maintained a presence in my mostly black neighborhood, understood how to relate to black folks with a minimum of tension, so it was fairly peaceful.”[22] 

Conversely many notable African Americans found significant Jewish support. The most notable of these was Mayor Carl B. Stokes, who became the first African American elected mayor of a major city in 1967. Since most Jews no longer lived in Cleveland, they were not a significant part of his voting coalition. However, a number of Jewish Americans supported his campaign.[23] Marvin Chernoff, for example, was a key volunteer organizer on the campaign who helped put together Stokes’ impressive grassroots network. In the preface of his 1968 book, Black Victory, Jewish-American Kenneth G. Weinberg (who was from the Cleveland area) expressed the hope that many white intellectuals and businessmen held for a Stokes mayoralty. 

“The significance of the election of a Carl Stokes lies elsewhere. He has, for the time being at least, demonstrated that black political activity can provide a viable alternative to violence in our cities… ‘The Fire Next Time’ has become a prophecy fulfilled, and the mind reels under shrill cries of separatism, nationalism, Malcom Xism, and a sad prediction by the President of the United States that our cities will almost surely experience several more summers of violence.”[24]

Thus, to Weinberg and others, encouraging African American municipal leadership was both good policy, and good for business. 

 The same could be said for many of the attempts to integrate Cleveland’s businesses. It was the right thing to do, but also expanded one’s customer base. Cleveland’s nightclub scene provided one of the most dramatic attempts at integration. A number of the key nightclubs in these integration efforts were owned by Jewish businessmen. One club, the Jewish-owned nightclub, Leo’s Casino, so thoroughly integrated that comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory, called it, “the most fully integrated nightclub in America.”[25] This club, however, was located in heavily African American or transitioning sections of town.[26] Nightclubs that welcomed African Americans in the traditionally exclusive University Circle area met far more resistance.[27] In March of 1952, a bomb exploded at the Towne Casino, an integrated nightclub located near University Circle. Although a perpetrator was never found, it was widely believed that opponents of integration were responsible.[28] The club closed after two additional bombings.[29]  Another nearby Jewish-owned nightclub, Playbar, was also forced to close after liquor board harassment and a bombing.[30] These events and other racially motivated bombings across the city helped bifurcate the city’s neighborhoods and commercial districts into either predominately African American or white. 

Jewish owned business in African American neighborhoods faced an increasingly difficult climate for doing business in the 1960s. Business owners faced competition from chain stores, and crime rose during the decade in nearly every category.[31] Moreover, urban unrest broke out in Hough in 1966 and 1968 in the Glenville neighborhood which damaged 63 businesses and left surviving white-owned business in a precarious state.[32] After the unrest in Glenville, the neighborhood’s main commercial artery of Glenville went from having twenty-two grocery stores in 1966, to fourteen in 1971, a 37 percent loss.[33]   

baden-table-2

Table 2 This graph shows the decline of inner-city grocery stores on selected roads. It should be noted, though, that the 2010 Yellow Book does not appear to include most convenience stores as grocers. Also, Lorain is a longer street than the other mentioned streets, and a portion of Hough Avenue changed its name. Still, one can see an overall pattern.[34]

Crime, white flight, unrest, and racism, however, are only some of the reasons for the disappearance of white-owned businesses. Many businesses closed because Jewish families were able to enter different professions and work in different locations. Many Jewish grocers who grew up in Glenville during the 1930s and 40s retired in the post war years. Their children were often raised in more affluent households than their parents, and preferred to enter into other vocations or to work in other neighborhoods.[35] Furthermore, one large chain store could encompass the services of many small independent grocery stores for lower prices. Even before the fore-mentioned social turmoil of the 1960s and 70s, the number of grocery stores on Central Avenue, the historical center of Cleveland’s African American community declined from forty-three in 1930, to twenty-four in 1960.[36] Thus, we can say that the era of Jewish-owned small businesses in African American neighborhoods was already coming to an end, but that urban unrest, chain-stores, and higher crime rates during this time period expedited this process.

            Examining the rise and fall of Jewish interactions with African Americans in inner-city neighborhoods gives perspective into how African American neighborhoods like Central and Glenville have become so predominantly African American and devoid of many white-owned businesses. Any number of events could have prevented the segregation, or re-segregation of Cleveland neighborhoods. Had the United States been a safe-haven for migrants during the World War II era, had there not been so many bombings to enforce the color line, had crime not been so high during the 60s and 70s, or had African Americans been able to live where they could afford and wished to live, Cleveland’s neighborhoods would have looked very different. Despite recent progress in integrating Cleveland’s West Side and East Side suburbs, many of Cleveland’s historically African American neighborhoods remain highly segregated, and devoid of much capital, businesses, and opportunity.

 


[1] “Black Flight,” The Economist, March 31, 2011, http://www.economist.com/node/18486343.

[2] William Julius Wilson, The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy, Second Edition (University of Chicago Press, 2012). See also Douglas S. Massey, American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass (Harvard University Press, 1993)

[3] The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, “Big Italy,” The Encyclopedia of Cleveland Historyhttp://ech.case.edu/cgi/article.pl?id=BI2.

[4] This estimation is based off entering the names of grocers listed on Central Avenue in the 1930 Cleveland City Directory into a necrology search on the Cleveland Public Library to determine where they were buried.  

Cleveland Directory Co., Cleveland City Directory [microfilm], (Woodbridge, CT: Research Publications). Cleveland Public Library, “Cleveland Necrology File,” Cleveland Public Library, http://www.cpl.org/necrology.

[5] Kenneth L. Kusmer, A Ghetto Takes Shape: Black Cleveland, 1870-1930 (University of Illinois Press, 1978), 10.

[6] For a discussion on hardened attitudes on segregation, see ibid..

[7] Sidney Z. Vicent, “MEMORANDUM ON HOUSING SITUATION, LEE-HARVARD AREA,” in Remembering: Cleveland’s Jewish Voices, ed. Sally Wertheim & Alan Bennett  (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2011 (citation taken from manuscript copy). Probably the best source of examining bombings against African Americans is a proquest search for “bomb” in the ProQuest Historical Newspaper: Cleveland Call and Post (1934-1991), accessed 2010, http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy2.cpl.org/hnpclevelandcallpost/index?accountid=1810 and Cleveland Call & Post, and “Bombs,” Cleveland Press Collection, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio. Discussions of this issue in other cities can be found in Arnold R. Hirsch, Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago 1940-1960 (University of Chicago Press, 2009). David M. P Freund, Colored Property: State Policy and White Racial Politics in Suburban America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010). Douglas S. Massey, American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass (Harvard University Press, 1993).

[8] Sidney Z. Vicent, “MEMORANDUM ON HOUSING SITUATION, LEE-HARVARD AREA.” Sidney Z. Vincent in Eugene J Lipman, A Tale of Ten Cities; the Triple Ghetto in American Religious Life. (Union of American Hebrew Congregations.) ,1962 John Baden, “Residual Neighbors: Jewish-African American Interaction in Cleveland  from 1900 to 1970” (master’s thesis, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, 2010). This issue in Boston is discussed in Gerald Gamm, Urban Exodus: Why the Jews Left Boston and the Catholics Stayed (Harvard University Press, 2001).

[9] Vincent, A Tale of Ten Cities; the Triple Ghetto in American Religious Life, 58.

[10] Ibid., 72.

[11] Donald Levy, 24., Howard Whipple Green, Jewish Families in Greater Cleveland (Cleveland: Cleveland Health Council, 1939) and Socialexplorer, “1950 County and Census Tract,” Socialexplorer, http://www.socialexplorer.com/pub/maps/map3.aspx?&g=0. “Google Maps,” Google Maps, accessed October 16, 2010, https://www.google.com/maps/.

[12]  Rubinstein and Avner, 111. Marty Richardson, “Sweeping Population Shift Hits Glenville Churches Hard: Falling Congregations Close Up Many Institutions; Values Drop,” Cleveland Call and Post, September 2, 1950, http://www.proquest.com/ (accessed November 18, 2009), Socialexplorer, “1960 County and Census Tract,” Socialexplorer.

[13] This issue in Detroit is discussed in David M. P Freund, Colored Property: State Policy and White Racial Politics in Suburban America.

[14] Marty Richardson, “Sweeping Population Shift Hits Glenville Churches Hard: Falling Congregations Close Up Many Institutions; Values Drop,” Cleveland Call and Post, September 2, 1950, http://www.proquest.com/ (accessed November 18, 2009).

[15] Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (Oxford University Press, 1985); Dolores Hayden, Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 1820-2000 (Random House LLC, 2009); Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton University Press, 2010).

[16] For a discussion of neighborhood transition in this area, see Michney, Todd Michael, “Changing Neighborhoods: Race and Upward Mobility in Southeast Cleveland, 1930-1980,” (PhD diss., University of Minnesota, 2004).

[17] The percentage of Jewish-owned businesses in these neighborhoods was probably higher because most African American businesses were not targeted during the riots; meaning that their percentage probably went up, while the percentage of non-African American businesses went down.

[18] Determined by entering names of grocers in Central from 1930 into a search of Ancestry.com, 1910-1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]  (Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009).

[19] Baldwin, 34. 

[20] Charles Bromley, Interview by author, Cleveland, OH, July 2009.

[21] National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, New York Times ed. (New York: Bantam Books, 1968), 275-276.

[22] W. Allen Taylor interview, interview by author, email, March 2010.

[23] Robert Gries, interview by author, phone, November 2014.

[24] Kenneth G Weinberg, Black Victory; Carl Stokes and the Winning of Cleveland (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1968), 8.

[25] The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, “Leo’s Casino,” The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History http://ech.cwru.edu/ech-cgi/article.pl?id=LSC.

[26] Leo’s Casino was located in the heavily African American Central district before moving to the Hough/Fairfax district which as transitioning into a predominantly African American area. Ibid., Socialexplorer, “1960 County and 1970 Census Tract,” Socialexplorer, http://www.socialexplorer.com/pub/maps/map3.aspx?&g=0.

[27] One such club was the Towne Casino, located near Euclid and East 105th street and owned by Jack Rogoff and Edward Helstein. Rogoff, like Leo Mintz, had grown up in a racially mixed block in Central, before moving to Glenville.

[28] Howard Drechsler, interview by author, notes, Beachwood, OH, August 2009.

[29] John Fuster, “Tips FOR THOSE INTERESTED N ENTERTAINMENT,” Cleveland Call and Post (1934-1962), August 8, 1953, sec. B, proquesr.com

[30] “RAIDED! Black and Tan Club Charges Persecution,” Cleveland Call and Post, May 16, 1953,  http://www.proquest.com/ (accessed November 18, 2009). “Tips FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN: =ENTERTAINMENT=,” Cleveland Call and Post (1934-1962), August 22, 1953, sec. B, http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy2.cpl.org/hnpclevelandcallpost/docview/184249208/abstract/AC99276D1D3A422DPQ/1?accountid=1810.

[31] U.S. Census Bureau, “Crimes and Crime Rates by Type of Offense: 1960 to 2002,” U.S. Census Bureau,  http://www.census.gov/statab/hist/HS-23.pdf.

[32] The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, “Glenville Shootout,” The Encyclopedia of Cleveland Historyhttp://ech.case.edu/cgi/article.pl?id=GS.

[33] Cleveland Directory Co., Cleveland City Directory [microfilm], (Woodbridge, CT: Research Publications).

[34] Ibid. For 2010, Yellowbook, Cleveland: Greater Cuyahoga County Area (Yellow Book Sales Distribution Company, Inc., 2010).  Note that Yellow Book does not appear to include most convenience stores as grocers. 

[35] Bill Rogoff, interview by author, notes, phone-call, March 2010.

[36]Cleveland Directory Co., Cleveland City Directory [microfilm], (Woodbridge, CT: Research Publications)., (Cleveland: Cleveland Public Library, Preservation Office, 1990).  

 

Meet John Anisfield, The Cleveland Philanthropist You Probably Haven’t Heard Of by Karen R. Long

Photo credit: Cindy Bruml

Sharp-eyed Clevelanders can still spot John Anisfield’s name on the side of his old garment factory, which employed more than 700 workers a century ago. The clothing manufacturer at E. 22nd and Superior Avenue has been shuttered long decades, but the imprint of Anisfield, his fortune, and his progressive notions carry briskly into the 21st century.

John Anisfield was 16 and nearly penniless when he arrived in Cleveland in 1876, but he had an uncle, Dr. James Horowitz, who was able to place his Viennese nephew into the employ of the D. Black Cloak Company. Young John proved a quick study, rose to become a manager, quit and struck out into garment making on his own, just six years after he set foot in Cleveland.

The Civil War had remade the way Americans clothed themselves, as it remade so much of the country. The U.S. Army had taken millions of measurements of boys and men, begetting a system for sizing men’s clothing. This system and increasing mechanization fueled the ready-to-wear market from the 1860s through the 1880s, which coincided with young John’s arrival.

For approximately a half century after the 1890s, seven percent of Cleveland’s workforce toiled in the city’s garment factories, according to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.

Many of the founders and owners were Jews of German or Austrian-Hungarian extraction. Four of the nine founders of the Jewish Federation – the Federation of Jewish Welfare Charities of 1903 – led the local garment-making firms, said Dr. Sean Martin, curator for Jewish History at the Western Reserve Historical Society.

During this fertile period, John Anisfield began inviting his only child, Edith, downtown to his office on Saturdays, where the two would consider the family’s philanthropy. She was just 12 in 1901 when this consultation began – a full 19 years before the country decided to give women the right to vote with the 19th Amendment.

The forward-looking father and precocious daughter (Edith could read French, German, and English) sent money to Mount Sinai Hospital, the first such Cleveland institution to accept patients regardless of creed or color.  When John Anisfield died in 1929, his daughter took five years to decide how to honor him: a literary prize that became the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards.

“The most important legacy of the garment industry is its philanthropic legacy,” historian Martin told a packed audience at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage. “The wealth they generated – not just for themselves but for their employees – is still with us.”

Jews in Cleveland from the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

 

The link is here

Jewish immigration to Cleveland, as elsewhere in America, can be divided into 2 distinct, overlapping periods. The German era (1837-1900) witnessed the settlement of Jewish GERMANS; the principal years of immigration ran to ca. 1875. In the East European era (1870-1924), Cleveland Jews increased from 3,500 in 1880 to approx. 85,000 in 1925, as Jewish RUSSIANSPOLES, Galicians, and ROMANIANS settled in the city. The social and cultural character of the two groups differed markedly, and through the mid-1930s they most often developed parallel and separate institutions and communities. The first Jews to make their home in Cleveland arrived in 1839 from Unsleben, Bavaria; among them was SIMSON THORMAN†, whose son Samuel was the first Jewish child born in the city. By 1840 there were 20 families and probably 20 single males residing in the city. The nascent community settled near the CENTRAL MARKET, generally east of the river, where it built its first institutions. In 1839 the Israelitic Society of Cleveland was established, which soon evolved into ANSHE CHESED (later called Fairmount Temple). The congregation erected a synagogue in 1846 on Eagle St. across from the market. Four years later, following a doctrinal dispute, a second congregation formed, TIFERETH ISRAEL. The occupational background of the immigrants was in the petty trades and artisan pools of Central Europe. The Jews who settled in Cleveland were primarily shopkeepers and peddlers, although a few were skilled craftsmen. Peddling was a common avenue for entrance into a more stable commercial pursuit. By the 1870s the community had grown and businesses expanded: young or newly arrived Jews no longer peddled goods, but received their business training as clerks or bookkeepers in the firms of relatives or landsmen. Jewish businessmen were involved in retail and wholesale dry goods, hides and furs, and grocery and clothing establishments, and, to a lesser degree, as commission merchants, shippers, and bankers. Still others, upon accumulating sufficient capital, became interested in manufacturing, especially clothing and textiles. By 1900 Cleveland’s largely Jewish-owned GARMENT INDUSTRY was among the most important in America.

As this community’s population increased and gained greater wealth, Jews moved eastward along Woodland and Central. By 1875 many Jews already lived east of Perry St. (E. 22nd), with several residing in the fashionable neighborhoods around Case Ave. (E. 40th). During the 1890s, Willson Ave (E. 55th) became the center of the German Jewish population and its array of new organizations and institutions. While small cultural societies such as the Young Men’s Hebrew Literary Society and the ZION MUSICAL SOCIETY (1861-73) were short-lived, fraternal organizations such as B’NAI B’RITH (1853) and clubs such as EXCELSIOR (1872) and the Hungarian Benevolent & Social Union endured. In 1864 B’nai B’rith District Lodges Nos. 2 and 6 chose Cleveland as the site for an orphan asylum to serve 16 states. Dedicated in 1868, the Jewish Orphan Asylum was located at E. 51st and Woodland, presaging the community’s move there. In 1882 the Order Kesher Shel Barzel established the Kesher Home for the Aged. Both agencies evolved into important service institutions, BELLEFAIRE and the MONTEFIORE HOME, respectively, and eventually came completely under Cleveland Jewish community auspices.

The most important institutions for 19th-century Cleveland Jewry remained congregations Anshe Chesed and Tifereth Israel for the Germans, and to a lesser extent, B’NAI JESHURUN for the Jewish HUNGARIANS. As the temples grew and members moved eastward, each erected new synagogues. In 1926 B’nai Jeshurun dedicated its Temple on the Heights, the first established Jewish congregation to move to CLEVELAND HEIGHTS Changes in appearance and ritual were also effected during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. To minimize the differences between themselves and their non-Jewish neighbors, German Jews introduced family pews, organs and choirs, removed hats and prayer shawls, and hired rabbis who could preach in English on secular subjects.

In the 1870s Reform Judaism began adopting a liberal theological view that was embraced almost immediately by Tifereth Israel, and somewhat later by Anshe Chesed. The former adopted a Reform prayerbook in 1866, and in 1873 joined the newly established Reform umbrella organization, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Under the direction of Rabbi MOSES J. GRIES†, Tifereth Israel departed radically from traditional Judaism, and even from the mainstream of the Reform movement. During his tenure the Temple, as it was popularly called, adopted the Union Prayer Book, eliminated Hebrew from the Sunday school curriculum and from religious services, substituted an English translation of the Torah to be placed in the synagogue’s Ark, and changed Sabbath services from Saturday to Sunday. Less radical, Anshe Chesed embraced what became known as Classical Reform during the rabbinate of LOUIS WOLSEY† (1907-25).

When East European Jews fled the pogroms, restrictive social legislation, and economic dislocation of Eastern Europe and emigrated to America, they often discovered an affluent, entrenched German Jewish community that in most cases had more in common with its Protestant neighbors than with its newly arrived co-religionists. In Cleveland, the differences between the two groups embarrassed the German Jewish leadership and enraged the new immigrants. A handful of East European Jews lived in Cleveland as early as the late 1850s, and by 1880 there were 4 or 5 Orthodox congregations. They were joined by thousands who immigrated to Cleveland, especially during the peak years, 1904-14. The new immigrants settled in the areas that had been abandoned by the German and Hungarian Jews, and in the 1880s and 1890s resided side-by-side with other non-Jewish immigrants, particularly ITALIANS around Berg St., and Hungarians and CZECHS along lower Broadway. Like their German predecessors, the early East European Jews soon moved out of the Central Market area.

German Jews made several attempts to address immigrant charitable needs in the 1880s and 1890s, but with limited success. The most important such agency was the Hebrew Relief Society (est. 1875), which provided case-by-case aid. German Jewish aid combined self-interest, humane concern for fellow Jews, and paternalism. Seeing the foreignness of the East Europeans as a threat to their social standing, German Jews attempted to Americanize the new immigrants. To this end, the local NATIONAL COUNCIL OF JEWISH WOMEN (NCJW), CLEVELAND SECTION created the Council Educational Alliance in 1899. The council offered a variety of classes designed to help the immigrants’ transition to an American way of life and served as the meeting place for the plethora of East European clubs and societies. Among the most important immigrant organizations were the social/benevolent societies, usually formed as landsmanshaften, groups of Jews from a common locale who banded together for social reasons and to aid and comfort members and assist newly arrived landsman in obtaining work. In addition to these functions, several landsmanshaften formed the nuclei for immigrant ethnic congregations, such as Anshe Grodno and TETIEVER AHAVATH ACHIM ANSHE SFARD.

Between 1895-1920 at least 25 Orthodox congregations were established in Cleveland. However, none approached the importance of the older ANSHE EMETH (PARK SYNAGOGUE). Before 1904, the Orthodox community had no rabbinical leader, although Rabbi BENJAMIN GITTELSOHN† was internally important for his scholarship and spiritual guidance. Rabbi SAMUEL MARGOLIES†, who came to the city in 1904, became the most influential Orthodox Jewish leader during the first quarter of the 20th century. His preeminence was based on his traditional Judaism, his appeal to Zionists, and his belief that Jews needed to Americanize as quickly as possible. The latter view led to the creation nationally of an American form of traditional Judaism–Conservative Judaism–that was embraced by Anshe Emeth in the 1920s and by B’nai Jeshurun somewhat earlier. Those two congregations by the mid-1920s ranked 3rd and 4th in membership behind the two Reform temples. None of the Orthodox congregations, which were primarily ethnic or landsmen shuls, could approximate the size of these 4 until after World War II.

East European Jewish immigrants, like the Germans, tended to enter mercantile occupations when possible. However, the opportunities available in the wide-open economy of the 19th century did not exist for the early 20th century immigrants. Over 15% of the East European Jews were engaged as peddlers or hucksters during the century’s first decades, while 25-33% operated small stores or worked as clerks in Jewish-owned establishments. The single most striking occupational difference between East European and German Jews was that 40-50% of the former worked in the skilled and semiskilled trades, especially as cigarmakers and in the building and needle trades. Fully 20% of the employed Jews in Woodland were found in the clothing industry, generally with large Jewish manufacturing firms such as JOSEPH & FEISS CO.PRINTZ-BIEDERMAN CO., and D. Black & Co. Despite the lack of opportunity to accumulate wealth on the same scale as the German Jews, the East Europeans did attain enough money to move to newer and more commodious areas. At the turn of the century, Lower Woodland was dilapidated, unsanitary, and unsafe. Most Jews had moved to the area around E. 35th St., and a decade later the center of the community had again pushed toward E. 55th St.

The Woodland district supported a vibrant Jewish culture from the late 1890s through 1915. Yiddish and Hebrew literary societies and debating societies abounded, the Yiddish theater flourished at the Perry and then the People’s theaters, and in 1908 Samuel Rocker founded the Yiddishe Tegliche Presse, followed by his Die YIDDISHE VELT (1911-58). However, the community lacked the size and insulation of others, such as New York’s Lower East Side; Woodland’s Yiddish life could not survive amid the pull and lure of Americanization or the migration outward. One Americanizing influence was public EDUCATION, which Jews supported almost without concession. Yet Jewish education was recognized as the only way to ensure that children did not stray from Judaism. During the first half of the 20th century, the afternoon Hebrew school was the preferred local form of Jewish education. In 1883 the East European immigrants founded a Talmud Torah (later the CLEVELAND HEBREW SCHOOLS) that offered traditional Jewish education in the cheder style (emphasizing religious study and originally using Yiddish only except for Hebrew and Aramaic texts). After 1904 Rabbi Margolies, Joshua Flock, and Aaron Garber emphasized Hebrew and Jewish nationalism. In the 1920s and 1930s, Talmud Torah director ABRAHAM H. FRIEDLAND† infused it with an even more pronounced Hebraist and Zionist philosophy. In 1924 the BUREAU OF JEWISH EDUCATION was created, with Friedland as director, to coordinate resources and provide direction.

The vast charitable and philanthropic need coupled with the competition for monies led the German Jewish leadership in 1903 to establish the Federation of Jewish Charities. This umbrella organization raised and disbursed funds to its beneficiary agencies, freeing them to concentrate on service. Initial recipients were the MONTEFIORE HOME, the Jewish Orphan Home, the Council of Jewish Women, Infant Orphan Mothers Society, Hebrew Relief Society, Mt. Sinai Hospital (later MT. SINAI MEDICAL CENTER), Council Educational Alliance, and Denver Consumptives Hospital. None of these were immigrant charities, reflecting federation policy of funding only “mature” organizations. This angered the East European Jewish leadership and led to the creation of 2 organizations that hoped to represent the entire community. TheUNION OF JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS (1906-09) experienced some success in ridding the public school system of some anti-Semitic practices. However, the lack of adequate financial support and opposition from the federation and the Reform congregations ensured its demise. In 1913 the shorter-lived Cleveland KEHILLAH was created by the former union leadership, but it suffered the same fate. Other immigrant institutions that paralleled those of the German Jews were longer-lived. The Orthodox Old Home, established in 1906 in reaction to the Montefiore Home’s refusal to maintain a kosher kitchen, has evolved into one of the largest and most advanced Jewish homes for the aged in the U.S., MENORAH PARK CENTER FOR THE AGING. And the Orthodox Orphan Home, created in 1920, ran a small but successful independent program until 1959, when it merged with the JEWISH CHILDREN’S BUREAU and later moved to Bellefaire.

The most divisive Jewish issue was Zionism. Small Zionist societies existed in Cleveland as early as 1897, but it was after the turn of the century, with increased immigration, that Zionism became the central force in the East European Jewish community. Zionist organizations proliferated in the early 1900s, from the Orthodox Mizrachi to the socialist Poale Zion and Farband. Rabbi Margolies, a well-known Zionist when he arrived in Cleveland, Rabbi Nachman Ebin, and ABRAHAM KOLINSKY† were among the principal leaders of Cleveland Zionism during the first 2 decades of the 20th century. Reform rabbis Gries and Wolsey opposed Zionism as separatist and as contradicting Reform ideology. However, in the 1920s Reform congregations came under the leadership of Rabbis ABBA HILLEL SILVER† (the Temple) and BARNETT ROBERT BRICKNER† (Anshe Chesed). Both rabbis were raised in the East European and Zionist milieu of the Lower East Side of New York, and both attained national and international stature in the Zionist movement.

Cleveland Jews began to desert Woodland and move eastward to GLENVILLE (28.5% by 1922) and to the Mt. Pleasant/Kinsman district (14% by 1922). By 1926 the Jewish population of Woodland decreased from 35,000 to 17,000, and 3 years later, to 1,400. The migrations had a slight class character. The Jews who moved to Glenville appear to have been the emerging European Jewish middle class, while the Jews of Mt. Pleasant/Kinsman have been characterized as proletarian, heavily concentrated in the trades. Many Jewish unions and Jewish socialist groups, most notably the WORKMEN’S CIRCLE, relocated in Kinsman.

Glenville was far more densely populated than Woodland. Its main thoroughfares were lined with small shops, kosher butchers, and delicatessens. Mt. Sinai Hospital was the first major social-service institution to relocate to Glenville (1916), followed by the Jewish Orthodox Old Home (1921). During the same year, Anshe Emeth moved to Glenville and dedicated the Jewish Center, the first such center west of the Alleghenies. By the early 1920s this Conservative congregation was the area’s most important social and recreational institution, the focal point of intellectual ferment and Zionist activity. Just as Woodland served as the birthplace of several German Jewish fortunes, Glenville provided a similar setting for some East European Jews, such as LEONARD RATNER† (FOREST CITY ENTERPRISES, INC.) and Julie Kravitz (the Pick-N-Pay food chain).

Kinsman was almost twice the geographic size of Glenville but held only about half as many Jews. Its John Adams High School was never more than 25% Jewish, compared to Glenville High School, which ran as high as 90%. The Jews who moved out of Woodland to Kinsman in the early 1920s settled between E. 118th and E. 123rd streets. By the early 1930s, the center of the population was between E. 135th and 147th, on the streets adjacent to Kinsman Ave. The Jews of Kinsman were relative newcomers to the city, as reflected in the development of the area’s congregations. Many Kinsman synagogues had existed for only a few years before moving from Woodland, and even more were established in Kinsman initially. Neveh Zedek on Union (est. 1920) was the largest area congregation, and the KINSMAN JEWISH CENTER (1930, synagogue dedicated in 1933) was smaller but of equal importance. Two other important institutions were the Council Educational Alliance and the Workmen’s Circle. The alliance, originally at E. 118th St., moved to E. 135th St. and Kinsman in 1928, across from the Carpenters Auditorium, which offered social activities. Workmen’s Hall, erected by Workmen’s Circle in 1927 at E. 147th and Kinsman, became the center of socialist and fraternal activity in the neighborhood as well as for the preservation of Yiddish culture, with lectures, entertainment, and a day school.

A small number of Jews lived on Cleveland’s west side before the turn of the century. By 1910 there were enough to form a congregation, B’nai Israel, known as the West Side Jewish Center in the 1940s. Most of the west-side Jews owned small shops during this period. In 1954 a group of Jews formed Beth Israel, a Reform congregation which merged with the West Side Jewish Center 3 years later to form BETH ISRAEL-WEST TEMPLE. Several members of Beth Israel formed the CLEVELAND COUNCIL ON SOVIET ANTI-SEMITISM (1963) to conduct activities on behalf of Soviet Jewry.

The Federation of Jewish Charities changed its name to the Jewish Welfare Federation in 1926. It implemented recommendations of a 1923 community study and admitted several immigrant institutions to constituent status in a move to patch up differences with East European Jews. A reorganization in 1930 created the Jewish Welfare Fund, and the Jewish Community Council was established in 1935. The former provided a more directed and systematic approach to community fundraising, and the latter addressed demands for democratization of community leadership. The council mediated internal community disputes, monitored anti-Semitism, and acted as the Jewish representative body to the general public. In 1951 the council merged with the Jewish Welfare Federation to form the JEWISH COMMUNITY FEDERATION, the community’s fundraising and policy arm.

Following World War II, the Jewish community began to push into the Heights and eastern suburbs. A small number of Jews settled in the Heights during the first decade of the 20th century. In 1905 wealthy German Jews established the OAKWOOD CLUB near Mayfield and Taylor roads. A few Orthodox Jews founded the Heights Orthodox Congregation (later the HEIGHTS JEWISH CENTER) in 1923, and B’nai Jeshurun dedicated the Temple on the Heights on Mayfield in 1925. Due to hostility from non-Jews, new residents often fought court battles to set aside restrictive covenants and to secure building rights for Jewish institutions, particularly in SHAKER HEIGHTS,BEACHWOOD, and PEPPER PIKE. The fear that exposure to American culture and the lack of intensive Jewish education would estrange 2nd- and 3rd-generation Jews from traditional Judaism was well-founded. Although congregations often boasted large memberships in the 1930s and 1940s, synagogues were all but empty on the Sabbath; few Jews took an active interest. Orthodox congregations, despite the dynamic and scholarly leadership of rabbis such as ISRAEL PORATH† and DAVID GENUTH†, were losing their hold on the children of members. However, following World War II Orthodoxy in Cleveland, as in America generally, experienced a resurgence that continued into the 1980s. In part, increased membership and activity resulted from societal alienation and a search for personal identity. In Cleveland, the Young Israel, Chabad Lubavitch, and the religiously tinged Betar Youth appealed to young Jews on dual religious and Zionist planes. Other factors–the proliferation of Orthodox day schools such as the HEBREW ACADEMY, the consolidation of congregations, and wealthy Orthodox philanthropists who freely supported religious causes–contributed to the increasing strength of the movement.

The postwar migration introduced an era of consolidation, especially among Orthodox congregations. The cost of relocating was more than small congregations could afford. The Jewish Community Federation effected mergers within the Orthodox community to increase memberships and treasuries, resulting in the creation of the TAYLOR ROAD SYNAGOGUE and WARRENSVILLE CENTER SYNAGOGUE, and the Heights Jewish Center. The area between Coventry Rd. and South Green Rd. in Cleveland Hts. became the heart of the Jewish community in the 1950s. Taylor Rd., the focal point by the late 1950s and early 1960s, witnessed the greatest concentration of Jewish institutions in the community’s history: the JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTERPARK SYNAGOGUE, Montefiore Home, Council Gardens, Taylor Rd. Synagogue, Bureau of Jewish Education, Hebrew Academy, JEWISH FAMILY SERVICE ASSN., and a host of smaller synagogues and institutions. Yet Jews continued to move eastward, populating Beachwood, Pepper Pike, and even HUNTING VALLEY. Estimating conservatively that another wholesale move of institutions would cost the community $100 million, in 1969 the federation extracted promises from all major Jewish institutions to remain in the Heights. Only the Temple on the Heights, which had already purchased land near Brainard Rd., failed to agree. The federation established the HEIGHTS AREA PROJECT to encourage Jews to remain in the Heights and worked with community organizations, the police, and local government to ensure that the Heights remain socially, residentially, and politically stable. The federation also built new offices at E. 18th St. and Euclid Ave. in 1965 to symbolize its commitment to the welfare of the inner city.

The Reform movement also experienced a surge following World War II. In 1948 TEMPLE EMANU EL was created with the assistance of Anshe Chesed, the Temple, and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations to reach out to the unaffiliated. Under the direction of Rabbi Alan S. Green, the concept was immediately successful, and Emanu El in the 1980s was a large and growing congregation. Soon after its founding, a group of Jews who were dissatisfied with Reform’s return to Hebrew education and support of Zionism formed Suburban Temple, along ideological lines common to late 19th and early 20th century Reform. Reform, nationally in the 1970s and 1980s, established an aggressive outreach program to unaffiliated intermarried Jews. Many of its tenets, particularly recent decisions on issues such as patrilineal descent as a determinant of whether one is Jewish, have brought Reform into direct and bitter conflict with the Orthodox. The deep divisions remain evident in the Cleveland Jewish community, yet the Jewish Community Fed., per capita the most successful in the U.S., enjoyed unprecedented financial support from the Orthodox. Despite religious divisions, in the 1980s the Cleveland Jewish community was probably better organized and more united than at any previous time.

Scott Cline

Seattle Municipal Archives


Gartner, Lloyd P. History of the Jews of Cleveland (1978).

Pike, Kermit J., ed. A Guide to Jewish History Sources in the History Library of the Western Reserve Historical Society (1983).

Vincent, Sidney Z., and Judah Rubinstein. Merging Traditions: Jewish Life in Cleveland (1978).

 

The History of Jewish Cleveland

Courtesy of the Jewish Virtual Library and the Encyclopaedia Judaica

The link is here

CLEVELAND, city situated in Northeast Ohio on Lake Erie. Its metropolitan area has the largest Jewish population in the state (81,500 in 1996). Jewish settlement began in the 1830s, when Daniel Maduro Peixotto (1800–43) joined the faculty of Willoughby Medical College in 1836 and Simson Thorman (1812–1881), a trader in hides, came from Unsleben, Bavaria, settling permanently in Cleveland in 1837. The opening of the Ohio and Erie canals and the development of stage routes provided countless economic opportunities for new immigrants, and Thorman must have written to his family in Unsleben; in 1839 a group of 19 departed on the sailing shipHoward and 15 made the trip to Cleveland, arriving in July of that year, joining two other men who had emigrated from Unsleben.

Community Life to 1865

The Unsleben group arrived in America prepared to continue Jewish observance. They carried with them an ethical testament, known as the Alsbacher Ethical Testament, written by their teacher in Unsleben, who implored them not to forsake their heritage. Simson Hopferman (later Hoffman) served as a ḥazzan and shoḥet.They had a Sefer Torah, and with enough men to form a minyan, established the Israelitic Society in 1839. In 1840 the group purchased land on Willett Street for a cemetery, and more Jewish settlers arrived. There were two married and five single women with the Howard group, and marriages and births quickly followed.

In 1841 internal divisions led to the formation of a second congregation, Anshe Chesed (today known as Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple). The two groups reunited temporarily, but split again in 1850, when a group of some 20 dissidents left to establish Tifereth Israel (today known as The Temple – Tifereth Israel). Rabbi Isadore Kalisch (1816–1886), later coauthor with Isaac Mayer *Wise of the first American Reform prayer book, Minhag America, led the new congregation. Both congregations moved towards reform before the Civil War.

In addition to the congregations, there were six communal organizations that were established before the end of the Civil War, including a local chapter of B’nai B’rith (1853), the Hebrew Benevolent Society (1855), the Young Men’s Literary Society (1860), the Jewish Ladies Benevolent Society (1860), the Zion Singing Society (1861), and the Hungarian Aid Society (1863). These reflected the growth of the Jewish community to approximately 1,000 individuals, 78% from German states (primarily Bavaria), and 19% from the Austrian Empire (primarily Bohemia). Benjamin Franklin Peixotto (1834–1890) was a founder of some of these organizations; while living in Cleveland, he owned a clothing factory and wrote for the local newspaper, The Plain Dealer, before leaving the area.

Most of Cleveland’s Jews through the Civil War were laborers, peddlers, or small merchants, but even then they were gravitating toward the garment industry, which was to become the nation’s second largest concentration of such businesses. Several Jewish firms made uniforms for Civil War soldiers, including Sigmund Mann and Davis and Peixotto & Co. Some 38 men from Cleveland served in the Civil War, including Joseph A. Joel, later known for his comic description of a wartime Passoverseder published in the Jewish Messenger in 1862.

From 1865 to the 1890s

The Cleveland Jewish population grew from approximately 1,000 at the close of the Civil War to 3,500 in 1880. During this period the pioneering families and newer settlers established congregations and cultural institutions, built businesses, and were active in public affairs and politics. B’nai Jeshurun and Anshe Emeth (both still in existence in 2004 with the latter known today as Park Synagogue) were founded, respectively, by Hungarian and Polish immigrants in 1866 and 1869, while the earlier congregations, Anshe Chesed and Tifereth Israel, continued to grow. The Jewish Orphan Asylum (today known as Bellefaire) was established by B’nai B’rith in 1868 to care for the region’s Civil War orphans. The Hebrew Immigration Aid Society (1875) and Montefiore Home to serve the aged (1881) were formed to complete services to a growing community. The Jewish elite enjoyed the Excelsior Club (1872). The Anglo-Jewish press began with the Hebrew Observer in 1889; four years later the Jewish Review appeared, and the two merged as The Jewish Review and Observer in 1899. The Jewish Independent was founded in 1906.

Members of the community were successful in business and public affairs. Kaufman Hays (1835–1916) began as a peddler, and in 1894 took over the Cleveland Worsted Mills. Other major clothing manufacturers were Joseph and Feiss, Richman Brothers, Printz-Biederman, and Kaynee. The major department stores, Halles, The May Company, and Sterling Lindner, were owned or managed by Jews.

Jewish participation in general community life took many directions. By 1892 a number of Jewish merchants were members of the Cleveland Board of Trade, whose president that year was Frederick Mulhauser, a mill owner. Rabbi Moses J. Gries (1868–1918) was a trustee member of the Society of Organized Charities, founded in 1881. Baruch Mahler and Peter Zucker were presidents of the Board of Education (1884–85 and 1887–88), and Kaufman Hays was vice president of the City Council in 1888. Louis Black, of Hungarian origin, served as United States consul in Budapest under presidents Cleveland and Harrison. Joseph C. Bloch became the first Jewish judge in Cleveland.

The 1890s through World War I: The Impact of East European Immigration

The Jewish population of Cleveland increased greatly from the 1880s on, as East Europeans fled pogroms and economic hardships. In 1890 the Jewish population was over 5,000 and by 1900 it was 20,000; at the end of the immigration period the estimated Jewish population of Cleveland was between 90,000 and 100,000. Clustered in the Woodland Avenue/55th Street neighborhood, the East Europeans worked as peddlers, in small businesses, and as employees in the clothing industry dominated by the established firms of the preceding immigrant generation. The new settlers were more attached to Orthodox traditions, and decidedly poorer, putting a strain on the existing social institutions. The Cleveland Section of the National Council of Jewish Women (founded in 1894) created an ambitious social settlement house through the Council Educational Alliance in 1899. To prevent duplication of efforts in activities and fundraising, in 1903 the established leadership created the Federation of Jewish Charities. In spite of these efforts, there were tensions between the newcomers and the earlier settlers. The East Europeans created their own institutions, including the Yiddishe Velt, a newspaper established by Samuel Rocker in 1911, a Jewish Relief Society (1895), an Orthodox Home for the Aged (1906, today known as Menorah Park Center for Senior Living), and the Orthodox Orphan Home. An attempt to create an Orthodox hospital failed when the existing Mt. Sinai Hospital (founded in 1903) agreed to provide kosher food. Numerous landsmanshaften also helped new immigrants adjust to Cleveland life, and at least 25 small Orthodox congregations could be found in the neighborhood, often associated with their members’ place of origin in Europe. Yiddish theater flourished in the community; one of the theater owners, Harry “Czar” Bernstein (1856–1920), was also a colorful Republican ward boss.

Many of the East European immigrants brought with them a trade-union outlook. The years before World War I were the high point of Jewish labor activity, particularly in the garment industries, where a series of strikes, not all successful, took place. A notable example of Jewish trade unionism was the Jewish Carpenters’ Union Local No. 1750, chartered in 1903. In 1910 William Goldberg began his lifelong leadership of the union and became a prominent figure in Ohio labor circles. Years later the garment workers’ union and the carpenters’ local lost their Jewish character as Jewish occupations shifted to the professions, service industries, and business enterprises. Unique expressions of Jewish economic activity were the Cleveland Jewish Peddlers’ Association, formed in 1896, and the Hebrew Working Men’s Sick Benefit Association.

Jewish Life through World War II

With the East European influx into Cleveland also came enthusiasm for Zionism. While Reform rabbis Moses Gries and Louis Wolsey opposed the movement, Zionist groups of all political persuasions proliferated, especially after two new rabbis were installed at the Reform congregations, Abba Hillel *Silver (1893–1963) andBarnett R. *Brickner (1892–1958). Many national conferences were held in Cleveland, notably the 1921 meeting that led to a schism between the factions headed byLouis *Brandeis and Chaim *Weizmann. *Hadassah, the women’s Zionist organization, was established in Cleveland in 1913, and a Cleveland nurse, Rachel (Rae) Landy (1884–1952), along with New Yorker Rose Kaplan began visiting nurse services in Palestine that year. Zionism also affected Jewish education. Abraham H. *Friedland (1892–1939), brought from New York to direct the Talmud Torah supplementary school system, infused Hebrew language and Zionist philosophy into its educational curriculum. He also headed the Bureau of Jewish Education (founded in 1924) until his death in 1939.

After World War I, the Jewish community migrated east of the Woodland neighborhood: Glenville, a city neighborhood northeast, became a center of middle-class life with Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform congregations, and boasted a much admired public school system which had illustrious graduates such as U.S. Senator Howard Metzenbaum (b. 1917) (D-Ohio) and Joe *Shuster (1914–92) and Jerome *Siegel (1914–1996), creators of the comic hero Superman. Mt. Pleasant-Kinsman, to the southeast, larger geographically but less densely Jewish, had only an Orthodox synagogue and was noted for its working-class and Yiddish-language atmosphere, with trade union headquarters and organizations such as the Workmen’s Circle. The more affluent began settling in the eastern suburbs of Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights, and in 1926 B’nai Jeshurun, which had joined the Conservative movement, built an impressive structure in Cleveland Heights, where it was known for the next 55 years as Temple on the Heights.

The events of the 1930s – economic depression and increased local and international antisemitism – moved the Jewish community in various ways. First, the Federation of Jewish Charities underwent an effective reorganization, creating a Welfare Fund to coordinate fundraising and a Community Council to mediate local disputes and represent the Jewish community to the general public. Second, the nonsectarian League for Human Rights, led behind the scenes by Abba Hillel Silver, strongly reacted to events in Europe by boycotting German-made products, monitoring the German-American Bund and other such organizations’ local activities, and providing an organized response to German student exchange in Cleveland. Several Jewish Clevelanders, including David Miller (1908–1977) and Morris Stamm (1904–2000), served in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade during the Spanish Civil War.

By the eve of World War II, Cleveland Jewry had fewer internal disagreements as the more recent immigrants had acculturated and the leadership of major organizations was no longer exclusively in the hands of the earlier families’ descendants. Although there was never a Jewish mayor of Cleveland, Jews were active in local politics and in the judiciary. Alfred A. *Benesch (1879–1973) served for 37 years on the Cleveland Board of Education, Maurice Maschke (1868–1936) was a Republican leader between 1900 and 1940, and judges Samuel H. *Silbert (1883–1976) and Mary Belle Grossman (1879–1977) had long periods of service on the bench.

World War II and the Establishment of the State of Israel

Of the 8,500 Cleveland men and women who served in the armed forces during World War II, over 200 lost their lives. In 1943 Rabbi Barnett Brickner was selected by the National Jewish Welfare Board to serve as executive chairman of the Committee on Army and Navy Religious Activities and traveled throughout the war theaters. The Telshe Yeshiva was relocated in Cleveland, its rabbis escaping Europe prior to its destruction. Several thousand Holocaust survivors settled in the metropolitan area after the war was over.

In 1945 David *Ben-Gurion met with 17 Americans at the Sonneborn Institute to discuss strategies in anticipation of establishing the State of Israel. Among them was former Cleveland law director Ezra Z. *Shapiro (1903–1971), who would later immigrate to Israel to head *Keren Hayesod. Continuing his activist role in rallying the community to the Zionist cause, Abba Hillel Silver dramatically addressed the United Nations in 1947 calling for a Jewish state. Over the years, after the establishment of the state, the Israeli landscape would become dotted with schools, synagogues, community centers, parks, and businesses bearing the names of Cleveland-area philanthropists and Zionists, including Max Apple, the Mandel, Ratner, and Stone families, and the Cleveland sections of ZOA, Hadassah, Na’amat USA, Amit Women, and the Histadrut.

Post–World War II through the 1970s

The trickle of families into the Eastern suburbs accelerated after World War II, and the bulk of the population relocated to Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights, South Euclid, University Heights, and Beachwood despite some restrictive covenants that were overturned. Institutions quickly followed, leading to the merger of no fewer than 15 smaller Orthodox congregations into Taylor Road Synagogue, Warrensville Center Synagogue, Green Road Synagogue, and Heights Jewish Center. The massive Cleveland Jewish Center, originally Anshe Emeth, relocated from Glenville into an architecturally notable building in Cleveland Heights designed by Eric Mendelsohn, and became known as Park Synagogue. This congregation had joined the Conservative movement earlier in the century after a fierce legal battle. The Reform movement experienced growth in the suburbs as well. Two new congregations, Emanu El and Suburban Temple, were founded. Arthur J. *Lelyveld (1913–1996) led Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple from 1958 to 1986. Active in the civil rights movement, Lelyveld was severely beaten in Mississippi in 1964, and also officiated at the funeral of slain civil rights worker Andrew Goodman. At the Temple-Tifereth Israel, Daniel Jeremy Silver (1928–1989) became senior rabbi upon the death of his father, Abba Hillel Silver; he oversaw that congregation’s building of a satellite structure in the suburbs, published several scholarly works, and was instrumental in establishing the National Foundation for Jewish Culture.

Although a 1962 book called Cleveland “a city without Jews,” this was not strictly accurate, as Beth Israel-The West Temple served the Jews living on Cleveland’s West Side. This small congregation made several important contributions to Cleveland’s Jewish history. Scientists were important in its founding, among them Abe Silverstein (1920–2002), who worked at the nearby NASA Lewis Research Station and contributed to the Mercury and Apollo programs of the U.S. space effort. One of the congregation’s students, Sally *Priesand, went on to become the nation’s first female rabbi, and in 1963 three of its members founded the Cleveland Council on Soviet Antisemitism, the first known advocacy group in the Soviet Jewry movement which would eventually lead to some 6,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union settling in Northeast Ohio.

This was an extremely productive time for the Jewish Community Federation, which in 1951 merged its two divisions, the Jewish Welfare Federation and the Jewish Community Council. Under the leadership of Sidney Z. Vincent (1912–1982) and Henry L. Zucker (1910–1998), the Federation was the first in the nation to directly fund day school education (to the Orthodox Hebrew Academy), pioneered leadership training courses, and developed a comprehensive approach to building endowment funds. Cleveland was subsequently known as the most successful city in the United States in per capita fundraising as well as a training ground for future federation directors. In later years, Boston, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Seattle, and New York, among others, would be headed by individuals who started their careers in Cleveland.

The workforce moved from the labor unions into the professions, service industries, light manufacturing, and banking. Fewer spoke Yiddish, and the longtime Yiddish newspaper ceased publication in 1952. In 1964 the two English-language newspapers became the Cleveland Jewish News, which continues as an independent publication.

1975 to 2006

In the last quarter of the 20th century and into the 21st, the Cleveland Jewish community has been concerned with geography and identity. The numbers appear to have remained constant; although a 1987 population survey showed a decline to 65,000, the 1996 survey estimated the population to be 81,500, casting some doubts on the previous survey’s methodology. The inner ring eastern suburbs house nearly half of this population, yet movement to more affluent areas farther east continues, including institutions. A concerted effort by the Jewish Community Federation to slow population movement from Cleveland Heights has succeeded to some extent in keeping several centers of Jewish life viable. In Cleveland Heights, the Taylor Road area is home to kosher stores, the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland (a reconfigured Bureau of Jewish Education, founded earlier in the century), several Orthodox synagogues, including a Taylor Road Synagogue with a much smaller membership, and two large Orthodox day schools. Hebrew Academy, Cleveland’s first day school, continues to thrive in its Taylor Road location, while the ultra-Orthodox-built Mosdos Ohr Hatorah’s girl’s division is close by. Park Synagogue (Conservative) has its main sanctuary several blocks away, and a new egalitarian traditional congregation purchased Sinai Synagogue, whose members now meet farther east in University Heights. Chevrei Tikva, a congregation reaching out to gays and lesbians (founded in 1983), also meets in Cleveland Heights. In University Heights, Fuchs Mizrachi School (founded in 1983) has grown rapidly to over 300 students, from preschool through high school in a Zionist, Orthodox setting.

Another center of Orthodox life flourishes in the Green Road area, the border between Beachwood and University Heights. Green Road Synagogue moved here in 1972, later joined by Chabad of Beachwood and Young Israel in reconverted houses. In the late 1990s, Chabad, Young Israel, and the Hebrew Academy proposed building plans for an Orthodox campus in this location, which were accepted, rejected, and then accepted with modifications during a period of contentious discussions noted nationally as an example of dissension within the Jewish community. The Jewish Federation created a task force, B’Yachad/Together, to try to heal some of these rifts. The Beatrice Stone Yavne School for Girls has since been built, as has the new Young Israel building, with Chabad under construction at this writing. The Green Road area also has kosher food stores, restaurants, and gift shops.

The Laura and Alvin Siegal College of Jewish Studies, formerly housed on Taylor Road, moved to a new building in Beachwood, which it shares with the Agnon School, a community day school. This campus also houses the Mandel Jewish Community Center in its only remaining building now that the Cleveland Heights JCChas been sold; the eastern satellite of Temple-Tifereth Israel; and the new (2005) Milton and Tamar Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, a collaborative effort of the Temple-Tifereth Israel, the Jewish Community Federation, and the Maltz family, with many artifacts and documents from the Cleveland Jewish Archives collections of the Western Reserve Historical Society. Slightly to the east in Pepper Pike are B’nai Jeshurun and the Gross Schechter School, both associated with the Conservative movement.

Despite continued strength in the inner suburbs, buildings housing Jewish institutions continue to be constructed in suburbs farther east, with a new branch of the Cleveland Hebrew Schools under construction in Solon, Montefiore Home’s assisted living facility in Bainbridge, along with several small congregations.

Mt. Sinai Hospital, after a near century of providing outstanding health care, research breakthroughs, and opportunities for Jewish physicians, was sold to a for-profit health care system that eventually dissolved the hospital. Jewish physicians and scientists have increasingly made their mark at the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, and Case Western Reserve University, where earlier Albert *Michelson (1852–1931) won a Nobel Prize in 1907, and Harry Goldblatt (1891–1977) made notable contributions in the field of renal hypertension. Philanthropic dollars have constructed major buildings at each of these facilities, including the Lerner Research Building and the Sam and Maria Miller Emergency Room at the Cleveland Clinic, the Mandel School of Advanced Social Services, the Peter B. Lewis Building of the Weatherhead Business School and the Wolstein Research Building at Case Western Reserve University, and the Horvitz Tower at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital. In the business world, the Stone and Weiss families continue to lead the American Greetings Corporation, the Ratner family heads Forest City Enterprises, a major construction firm, and Peter Lewis’ Progressive Insurance Company employs over 14,000 workers.

In politics, Beryl Rothschild, Harvey Friedman, and Merle Gordon served as mayors of University Heights and Beachwood; in addition to Howard Metzenbaum in the U.S. Senate, Eric Fingerhut has represented the district in Ohio state government. Milton A. Wolf served as ambassador to Austria during the Carter administration.

Contributions to the Arts and Popular Culture

Cleveland Jews have enriched the cultural life of the community in many areas. In literature, Martha Wolfenstein, Jo *Sinclair, Herbert *Gold, Jerome Lawrence, and more recently, Alix Kates Shulman, Susan Orlean, and Harvey Pekar worked in Northeast Ohio. David Dietz was a noted science writer, while David B. Guralnik (1920–2001) was the chief editor of Webster’s New World Dictionary for more than 40 years. Abraham H. Friedland, Libbie Braverman (1900–1990), and Bea Stadtler (1921–2000) wrote in the field of Jewish education. In the visual arts, Max Kalish (1891–1945), William *Zorach (1887–1966), and Louis Loeb were sculptors, Abel and Alex Warshawsky were painters, and Louis Rorimer (1872–1939) was influential in interior design. In music, Nikolai Sokoloff (1886–1965) was the first conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra; composer Ernest *Bloch (1880–1959) was the first director of the Cleveland School of Music and Arthur *Loesser(1894–1969) and Beryl *Rubinstein (1898–1952) led the piano departments at the school. Cleveland has also been called the birthplace of rock and roll music, beginning with the 1952 Moondog Coronation Ball, led by disk jockey Alan *Freed (1922–1965). Dorothy Fuldheim (1893–1989) was the first woman in America with her own television news program. Some Cleveland Jewish individuals and families have long been interested in professional sports. Max Rosenblum founded a professional basketball team in the 1920s. Members of the Gries family, Art *Modell, and Alfred Lerner all owned or shared in the ownership of the Cleveland Browns football team.

Garment Industry in Cleveland from the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

 

The Garment Industry in Northeast Ohio from the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

The link is here

GARMENT INDUSTRY. As early as 1860 the manufacture of ready-to-wear clothing became one of Cleveland’s leading industries. The garment industry probably reached its peak during the 1920s, when Cleveland ranked close to New York as one of the country’s leading centers for garment production. During the Depression and continuing after World War II, the garment industry in Cleveland declined. Scores of plants moved out of the area, were sold, or closed their doors. Local factors certainly played their part, but the rise of the ready-to-wear industry in Cleveland, as well as its decline, paralleled the growth and decline of the industry nationwide. Thus the story of the garment industry in Cleveland is a local or regional variant of a much broader phenomenon.


The Ironing Department of L.N. Gross Co., ca. 1930. WRHS.

In the early 19th century clothing was still handmade, produced for the family by women in the household or custom-made for the more well-to-do by tailors and seamstresses. The first production of ready-to-wear garments was stimulated by the needs of sailors, slaves, and miners. Although still hand-produced, this early ready-to-wear industry laid the foundations for the vast expansion and mechanization of the industry. The ready-to-wear industry grew enormously from the 1860s to the 1880s for a variety of reasons. Increasing mechanization was one factor. In addition, systems for sizing men’s and boys’ clothing were highly developed, based on millions of measurements obtained by the U.S. Army during the Civil War. Eventually, accurate sizing for women’s clothing was also developed. The Depression of 1873 contributed to the growth and growing acceptance of men’s ready-to-wear, because men found in off-the-rack garments a satisfactory and less costly alternative to custom-made clothing. The production of ready-made men’s trousers or “pants,” separate from suits, stimulated during the depression of the 1870s, allowed men to supplement their outfit without having to purchase a complete suit. In general, however, the great expansion of the ready-to-wear industry coincided with and was partly the result of the tremendous urbanization and the great wave of immigrants that came to the U.S. in the last decades of the 19th century and early decades of the 20th. Industrial cities such as Cleveland also experienced rapid growth, and it was during this period that Cleveland’s ready-to-wear clothing industry blossomed.

The early entrepreneurs of the clothing industry in Cleveland were often JEWS & JUDAISM of German or Austro-Hungarian extraction. Their previous experience in retailing prepared them for the transition to manufacturing and wholesaling ready-to-wear clothing. One example was Kaufman Koch, a clothing retailer whose firm eventually evolved into the JOSEPH & FEISS CO., a leading manufacturer of men’s clothing. The company still exists in the early 1990s, although it is no longer locally owned. The entry-level manufacturer needed relatively little capital to launch a garment factory. H. Black & Co., which would become a major Cleveland manufacturer of women’s suits and cloaks, started out as a notions house. The Black family, Jews of Hungarian origin, decided to produce ready-to-wear clothing based on European patterns in their own home. Later, fabric was contracted out to home sewers and then returned to the factory for final assembly. This system of contracting was widely practiced at this stage of the garment industry’s development, but by the close of the 19th century home work had been generally superseded by factory production. Garment manufacturing started in the FLATS, but in the early 20th century, it was concentrated in what is now called the WAREHOUSE DISTRICT, an area bounded by W. 6th and W. 9th streets and Lakeside and Superior avenues. L. N. Gross Co., founded in 1900, was one such firm in the growing garment district, specializing in the production of women’s shirtwaists. Many women wore suits, and the separate shirtwaist provided a relatively inexpensive way to modify and vary their wardrobe. L. N. Gross also pioneered in the specialization and division of labor in the manufacturing process. Instead of having one person produce an entire garment, each garment worker specialized in one procedure, and then the entire garment was assembled.

As the garment industry spread to other areas of the city, the CLEVELAND WORSTED MILL CO. dominated the skyline on Broadway near E. 55th St. First organized in the 1870s and controlled after 1893 by KAUFMAN HAYS†, the Worsted Mills produced fabric for Cleveland manufacturers, as well as for garment manufacturers in other parts of the country. The company owned and operated a total of 11 mills in Ohio and on the East Coast. During the first 3 decades of the 20th century, the garment industry spread from downtown to the east side along Superior Ave. between E. 22nd and E. 26th streets. The RICHMAN BROTHERS CO. built a large plant on E. 55th. near St. Clair. Founded in Portsmouth, OH, the company moved to Cleveland in the late 1890s, specializing in the production of men’s suits and coats–an activity in which Cleveland was a close runner-up to New York. In order to reduce the risk of large cancellations by wholesalers, Richman distributed its product directly to the customer in its own retail outlets. The plants of other garment manufacturers dotted the east side well into the 1960s, including BOBBIE BROOKS, INC. on Perkins Ave. and the Dalton Co. at E 66th and Euclid. The PRINTZ-BIEDERMAN CO.was founded in 1893 by Moritz Printz, for many years the chief designer for H. Black & Co. Printz-Biederman specialized in the production of women’s suits and coats, a branch of the garment industry in which Cleveland ranked second to New York. In 1934 the company left the St. Clair area to build a modern factory on E. 61st between Euclid and Chester avenues. The large knitwear firm of Bamberger-Reinthal built a plant on Kinsman at E. 61st St.; Joseph & Feiss was located on the west side on W. 53rd St.; Federal Knitting had a plant on W. 28th and Detroit,; and the Phoenix Dye Works was still located on W. 150th St. in 1993.

For approximately 50 years after the 1890s, about 7% of Cleveland’s workforce toiled in the garment factories. The ethnic origins of those who worked in the industry were as varied as the immigrants who flowed to the U.S. in the early decades of the 20th century. Although Jewish workers played a prominent role, other immigrant groups such as CZECHSPOLESGERMANS, and ITALIANS were also employed in large numbers, and many of the garment factories were located in the ethnic neighborhoods from which they drew their workforce. Small workshops also proliferated in the ethnic neighborhoods, and many garment workers labored in sweatshop conditions. Unlike in New York, however, where the majority of shops employed 5 or fewer workers, 80% of Cleveland’s approximately 10,000 apparel workers were employed in large and well-equipped factories by 1910. Although working conditions were somewhat better in Cleveland than in New York, Cleveland garment workers generally received low wages and worked long hours with few, if any, benefits. Like garment workers elsewhere, they sought to improve their wages and working conditions by organizing. In 1900 a number of small craft and trade unions joined together in New York City to form the INTERNATIONAL LADIES GARMENT WORKERS UNION, and in 1911 Cleveland garment workers staged a massive strike. On 6 June the employees of H. Black & Co. walked out, and up to 6,000 of Cleveland’s garment workers followed them. The ILGWU sent officials from New York to encourage the strikers, but in spite of considerable support for the workers in the community at large, the owners resisted. Attempts to negotiate a settlement failed, and by October those who could returned to work. The strike had been lost (see GARMENT WORKERS’ STRIKE OF 1911).

During World War I, the garment industry produced a variety of apparel for the armed forces, and in 1918 wartime inflation and prosperity prompted the ILGWU to organize another strike in Cleveland, involving approximately 5,000 workers. To avoid the disruption of local production of military uniforms, secretary of war and former Cleveland mayor NEWTON D. BAKER† intervened, prevailing on both sides to accept a board of referees, which gave the workers a substantial increase in wages. This event marked a watershed in relations between management and labor in Cleveland’s garment industry. The threat of unionization and the influence of “Taylorism” or “Scientific Management” persuaded the large Cleveland garment factories to provide increased amenities for their workers, which reached a peak in the 1920s. PAUL FEISS†, of Joseph & Feiss, was a convinced exponent of scientific management, and time and motion studies were implemented in order to make production more efficient and cost-effective. Working conditions also were improved in order to reduce employee turnover and to provide the best possible environment for maximum productivity. The local garment factories began to provide clean and well-run cafeterias, clinics, libraries, and nurseries for children. Employees of both sexes were urged to participate in sports, theatricals, and other activities, and the factory was also a place where immigrants learned English and a variety of homemaking skills. One consequence of paternalism was a brake on the growth of unionism.

The Depression and the New Deal had a major impact on the garment industry. Those manufacturers who survived the Depression were faced with a powerful new labor movement bent on organizing the unorganized garment industry. Bolstered by the provisions of the NRA and the National Labor Relations Act, both the ILGWU and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, which represented workers in the men’s garment factories, successfully waged organizing campaigns (see AMALGAMATED CLOTHING AND TEXTILE WORKERS UNION). Some owners acquiesced; others resisted or simply closed their doors. The process of decline in Cleveland’s garment industry began during the 1930s. During World War II, the industry was once again geared for war production. Factories produced uniforms, knit scarves, and parachutes. LION KNITTING MILLS was famous for its production of the knitted Navy watch cap. Following the war, a number of garment manufacturers were unable to adjust to new market conditions and to new price levels. But while some companies fell by the way, new and vigorous garment factories grew, especially in the 1950s. Among them was Bobbie Brooks, founded by MAURICE SALTZMAN†, and the Dalton Co., organized by Arthur Dery. In fact, the Cleveland garment industry was still so large and influential in the 1950s that Cleveland manufacturers were able to convince the Phoenix Dye Works of Chicago to relocate in Cleveland, where many of its customers were located. Throughout the years other businesses ancillary to garment manufacturing also flourished in Cleveland.

Since World War II, the once-vigorous Cleveland garment industry has dwindled considerably, especially since the 1960s and 1970s when the decline accelerated. In some instances, management has transferred manufacturing operations elsewhere while retaining offices in Cleveland. In some cases an entire operation moved from the Cleveland area, usually to the South. Many companies sold off all or part of their businesses or simply closed. The reasons for this shift are complex and varied, some deriving from local conditions and some from conditions that are national or even global in nature, affecting the industry as a whole throughout the U.S.

The garment industry is traditionally a low-paying industry, and rising labor costs aggravated the industry’s problems. Although most of the large Cleveland manufacturers were unionized, unionization itself did not necessarily mean that one company had an unfair advantage over another. The city’s garment unions, however, generally sought and received wage settlements above the national minimum. Labor costs were considerably less in the South, and Cleveland manufacturers as well as garment and textile workers throughout the U.S. faced growing competition from lower-paid workers in other parts of the world. For example, knitwear and other textile products produced in South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Singapore could be sold in the U.S. at substantially less than the same products manufactured in this country. Another factor that may have discouraged some Cleveland manufacturers was the changing workforce. Until the 1950s and 1960s, many women workers had a limited number of employment opportunities, particularly the European immigrant women who dominated the workforce of the garment industry. During the postwar period, there was a new generation of women working who had many more employment opportunities at wages much higher than could be earned in the garment industry. However, while labor costs in Cleveland were relatively high in comparison with some regions, there were some industry authorities who contended that additional factors contributed to the industry’s decline. For example, some family-owned concerns were sold or simply dissolved when family shareholders could no longer agree on management decisions. In other cases, the heirs preferred some profession or occupation outside the garment industry.

The apparel industry was also subject to changes in technology and to the rapidly changing conditions of the marketplace. Cleveland firms often did not or could not respond with sufficient alacrity or astuteness to such changing conditions. Cleveland was perhaps too divorced from the center of the market in New York. It lacked a regional market of importance, and thus many manufacturers lost touch with what consumers wanted, and when the competitive price structure changed after World War II, some companies could not adapt to a shifting and rapidly changing marketplace. In the 1980s New York came to dominate the industry as both a marketplace and a manufacturing center, and substantial Cleveland manufacturers must constantly study and test the marketplace trends in New York City. In addition, there are other important regional markets, such as Dallas and Los Angeles, which served to move the focus of the industry away from Cleveland. Perhaps that is part of a larger underlying transformation of the American economy resulting in the loss of preeminence of the older industrial centers of the Great Lakes region and Middle West. On the other hand, Cleveland garment manufacturers who take advantage of new technologies, who learn to cut costs, and who learn to respond effectively to the marketplace may still survive and even flourish.

Stanley Garfinkel

Kent State Univ.