TABLE OF CONTENTS
A Finding Aid to the Beth Israel The West Temple (Cleveland, Ohio) Records. 1910-2008 (bulk 1954-2008).
Manuscript Collection No. 784
Beth Israel The West Temple was organized by twenty-five families, led by Abe Silverstein, in April 1954, to provide a religious center for Reform Jews living on the west side of Cleveland, Ohio. The congregation’s first service, Rosh Hashanah, was held September 27, 1954 at the First Universalist Church in North Olmsted. For the next three years, services were held either at the Universalist Church or at the North Olmsted Community Club House. Following a merger with the West Side Jewish Center in 1957, the Temple moved into its current building on Triskett Road.
The West Side Jewish Center was organized as B’nai Israel in 1910 by ten Orthodox families. The center was the second Jewish congregation founded on Cleveland’s west side. As the West Side Jewish Center congregation grew to over one hundred twenty families in the 1920s, a succession of structures were acquired. By 1919, the congregation had affiliated with the United Synagogue of America, the national umbrella organization for Conservative Judaism, and hired its first rabbi, Harry Cohen. The Depression led to a decline in its membership and loss of its building in 1937. A small house was purchased three years later. During the period 1939-1957, membership averaged fifty-five families and rabbis served for only six of the eighteen years. In 1955, with more hope than financing, construction was begun on a two-story building on Triskett Road. The building was completed and occupied in early 1957. However, with an overwhelming debt and imminent loss of the building, the Center merged with Beth Israel The West Temple on October 25, 1957. This merger took the one-time Orthodox congregation into the Reform movement.
For its first seven years, Beth Israel was served by a succession of six student rabbis from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. One of these, Daniel Litt, became Beth Israel’s first full-time rabbi, serving from 1961-1965. Since 1965, eight rabbis have occupied Beth Israel’s pulpit: Fred Grosse (1965-1970), Donald Heskins (1970-1973), Eric Hoffman (1973-1977), David Rose (1977-1988), Susan Stone (1988-1994), Ariel Walsh (1996-1998), Enid Lader (1998-2000), and Alan Lettofsky (2000- ). Sally Priesand, a graduate of Beth Israel’s religious school, became, in 1972, the first woman ordained to the rabbinate in the U.S. at HUC-JIR in Cincinnati.
Beth Israel draws its members from Cleveland’s west side and the western suburbs. It expanded its facilities in 1965 with the construction of a new eight room, two-story wing. In 1965 and 1985, the Cleveland Foundation awarded the congregation library grants to enlarge its collection. The library and its volunteer staff have provided services for the congregation as well as for schools, colleges, and churches in western Cuyahoga County. From 1964-1978, Beth Israel provided office space for the Cleveland Council on Soviet Anti-Semitism. As an outgrowth of the temple Social Action Committee, several members founded the Cleveland Council on Soviet Anti-Semitism. Lou Rosenblum, one of the founders, became a leader in the national movement to assist Soviet Jewry.
A noted feature of this congregation is its volunteerism. For the first forty-five years of its history, all posts and jobs, with the exception of the rabbi, were staffed by volunteers. This included the principal, administrator, teachers, and aides of the religious school; the librarians, office managers and secretaries; youth group advisors; and interfaith and community education coordinators and presenters. Another fifteen per cent of the congregation volunteered periodically throughout the year serving as choir director, choir members, and music accompanist; worship leaders and cantors; bulletin editors; and building and repair maintenance workers. Since 1999, there has been a paid part-time educational director and a part-time office manager. The other jobs continue to be served by volunteers from the membership.
-- Adapted from “Records of Beth Israel The West Temple,” and “Brief History of the Cleveland West Side Jewish Center-B’nai Israel,” by Evy Rosenblum, 2008.
The Beth Israel The West Temple (Cleveland, Ohio) records consist of board meeting minutes, correspondence, reports, handbooks, membership lists, and a temple history. This collection contains awards, courses, and curriculum for the religious school and details of the Temple’s many interfaith programs. This collection also contains the records of the West Side Jewish Center before it merged with Beth Israel The West Temple (Cleveland, Ohio) in 1957. This collection is particularly strong in its documentation of the interaction between the Temple and the community on Cleveland’s West Side through its social action committee and its many interfaith programs with local churches, schools, clubs, and community groups who were curious about Judaism.
This collection is arranged in two (2) series:
Terms of Access and Use
The Beth Israel The West Temple (Cleveland, Ohio) Records are open to all users. The original manuscript collection is available in the Barrows-Loebelson Reading Room of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.
Property and Literary Rights
Lou and Evy Rosenblum, by the act of donating the Beth Israel The West Temple (Cleveland, Ohio) Records to the American Jewish Archives, assigned all property rights to the American Jewish Archives.
Questions concerning rights should be addressed to the Executive Director of the American Jewish Archives. For more information see the American Jewish Archives copyright information webpage.
Prepare The Way Radio Program. Records. MS-4824. Jewish Archives of the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio.
Cleveland Council on Soviet Anti-Semitism. Records. MS-4011. Jewish Archives of the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio.
Beth Israel-West Temple (Cleveland, Ohio). Beth Israel Temple. CD-840.
Beth Israel-West Temple (Cleveland, Ohio). Beth Israel Temple. C-4589.
Beth Israel-West Temple (Cleveland, Ohio). Photographs. PC-4928.
The Beth Israel The West Temple (Cleveland, Ohio) Bulletins, 1954-1990, were removed to the Klau Library at Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Footnotes and bibliographic references should refer to the Beth Israel The West Temple (Cleveland, Ohio) Records and the American Jewish Archives. A suggestion for at least the first citation is as follows:
[Description], [Date], Box #, Folder #. MS-784. Beth Israel The West Temple (Cleveland, Ohio) Records. American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Beth Israel The West Temple (Cleveland, Ohio) Records were received from Lou and Evy Rosenblum in July, 2008.
Processed by Michelle Wirth, January, 2011.
No further accruals are expected to this collection.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the American Jewish Archives's online catalog.
Beth Israel-West Temple (Cleveland, Ohio)
Jewish women -- Ohio -- Cleveland
Synagogues -- Ohio -- Cleveland
West Side Jewish Center (Cleveland, Ohio)