An Historic Past
For 90 years, The Temple – Tifereth Israel has been the home of one of the nation’s largest and most dynamic Reform Jewish congregations. Even when most of its daily activities and religious services shifted to the congregation’s branch in Beachwood in the 1970s, the grand building on Ansel Road continued to be its heart.
Tifereth Israel (Glory of God) was founded in 1850 with 47 families, and grew rapidly. By 1917 the congregation, with more than 700 families, was one of the largest in the world, and had outgrown its facility at East 55th and Central Avenue. Congregational leaders engaged architect Charles Greco of Boston to design their new home, and in 1922 ground was broken for the new temple at Ansel Road and 105th Street. When it was completed in 1924, Henry Turner Bailey, the director of the Cleveland School of Art (now the Cleveland Institute of Art), described the Byzantine-style building as “one of the masterpieces of the city.”
The building’s heptagonal shape was arrived at because it closely approximates a circle, which lends itself best to the seating of a congregation, and expresses the idea of the unity of God, one of the fundamentals of the Jewish faith. It also fits the oddly shaped lot perfectly, presenting a side parallel to each street. The Temple’s large gold dome is a landmark in the Upper Chester and University Circle neighborhoods, and it caps a lofty interior of awe-inspiring beauty. In 1974 the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In addition to its distinctive architecture, the Temple is renowned for the extraordinarily distinguished rabbis who have occupied its pulpit, particularly Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver and his son, Rabbi Daniel Silver, whose combined tenure lasted 72 years, and who to a great extent defined the identity of Tifereth Israel.
With his powerful intellect and his imposing bearing (described as that of an Old Testament prophet), Abba Hillel Silver was a riveting presence on the pulpit. He was known for his Sunday-morning lectures, which reflected a combination of scholarship and spirituality, and which were widely attended not only by the congregation, but also by non-Jewish members of the community. As an internationally recognized leader of the Zionist movement, Abba Hillel Silver spoke to audiences in the U.S. and abroad advocating the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. His famous address to the United Nations in 1947 contributed to the creation of the state of Israel.
In 1963, upon Abba Hillel Silver’s death, Rabbi Daniel Silver assumed the leadership of the congregation. A scholar and great intellect like his father, “Rabbi Dan,” as he was affectionately known, was a devoted and inspiring spiritual leader. Concerned about the emerging challenges in the neighborhood, he was determined that the Temple remain vital to the inner city, and chaired several civic groups committed to the welfare of the community.
At his untimely death in 1989, Rabbi Daniel Silver left behind a grieving congregation, but one that over the course of two generations had been immeasurably enriched by his leadership and that of his father; and a legacy that continues to be felt from Cleveland to Tel Aviv.
A Magnificent Present
With the incredible renovation of the Temple building now complete, the building begins a new chapter as the Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center. The only project of its kind in the country, it is the result of a historic partnership between Case Western Reserve University and The Temple – Tifereth Israel, and the extraordinary generosity and vision of Milton and Tamar Maltz and the many other individuals and organizations who have supported this unprecedented project.
With the completion of Phase One, the Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center at The Temple – Tifereth Israel has become a place for music, lectures, and other forms of cultural enrichment. Silver Hall, seating up to 1,200 people, showcases students from Case Western Reserve’s music department, whose 19 ensembles include a symphony orchestra, an Early Music vocal ensemble, Baroque chamber ensembles and orchestra, ensembles for jazz, wind, and popular music, and the Case Concert Choir. The Maltz Performing Arts Center is also home to Think Forum, the university’s distinguished lecture series, and will host signature cultural programs that engage the larger Cleveland community. In addition, Silver Hall will continue to be used by The Temple's congregation for major religious observances and life-cycle events.
A Shining Future
As Temple Rabbi Richard A. Block told a crowd assembled at the 2014 groundbreaking: “This is truly a win, win, win, win, win, win, win, win project, for Case Western Reserve University, The Temple – Tifereth Israel, the surrounding neighborhood, University Circle, the City of Cleveland, the Jewish and arts communities, and all those whose lives it will enhance immeasurably.”
This project is unique in the nation, and its combination of preservation and innovation will have a transformative effect on our programs and all of the people who enter its remarkable space.
Looking forward to Phase Two of the Maltz Performing Arts Center project, we envision greater space for all of Case Western Reserve University’s performing arts programs: theater, dance and music. New performance spaces will include the proscenium-style theater and the new black box Fowler-Green Studio Theater for innovative productions and student workshops.
Preliminary plans also include rehearsal studios, practice rooms, and costume and scene shops—all with state-of-the-art technology to foster the kind of in-depth learning, creativity, and innovation that will enrich our students’ learning and experience, and contribute to our overall academic environment.
The campaign for the performing arts at Case Western Reserve continues. Please join the many individuals and organizations whose generosity has brought us this far. Your support for Phase Two of the Maltz Performing Arts Center will enable us to fully realize the future of creative endeavor at CWRU.
For more information about how to become engaged and support the arts at Case Western Reserve, please contact Elizabeth Klein, director of national development in the College of Arts and Sciences, at 216.368.5764 or firstname.lastname@example.org .