ANSHE CHESED (Fairmount Temple), established as a German Orthodox congregation in 1841 and chartered on 28 Feb. 1842, is the oldest existing Jewish congregation in Cleveland. Its Hebrew name means "people of loving kindness." The temple was formed after 30 members of the Israelitic Society of Cleveland, the city''s first congregation, seceded in a dispute over religious ritual. Differences were overcome in 1845, and the groups merged under the name Israelitish Anshe Chesed Society of Cleveland. In 1846 Anshe Chesed erected the city''s first synagogue, on the south side of Eagle St. near Woodland Ave. Four years later, ISIDOR KALISCH was engaged as the congregation''s first rabbi, but he and 20 members left a few months later to form TIFERETH ISRAEL. The congregation then hired Rabbi Bernard L. Fould, a native of Mulhausen, Bavaria.
Anshe Chesed began introducing reforms during the 1860s. In 1861, chazan GUSTAVE M. COHEN became the congregation''s spiritual leader; he instituted a choir, an organ, and mixed-gender seating. During the incumbency of Rabbi MICHAELIS MACHOL (1876-1906), a moderate Reform prayerbook was adopted, sermons were delivered in English, and the membership voted to worship with uncovered heads. In 1880 composer JAMES H. ROGERS was hired as organist. The growing congregation dedicated new quarters at E. 25th and Scovill on 2 Sept. 1887 and sold its old building to B''NAI JESHURUN. Between 1887-1907, the congregation witnessed little growth.
Rabbi LOUIS WOLSEY (1907-25) led Anshe Chesed toward Classical Reform. He expanded activities, supporting the creation of the Temple Sisterhood (1909), Alumni Assn. (1911), and Men''s Club (1924). The membership rose from 186 (1907) to 1,200 (1925). In 1912 Anshe Chesed dedicated the $250,000 Euclid Ave. Temple at 82nd and EUCLID AVE. Designed by LEHMAN & SCHMITT, the building featured stained glass windows by Louis Tiffany. In 1923 the Temple House, which included a 1,400-seat auditorium, classrooms, and a library, was added. Rabbi BARNETT BRICKNER (1925-58) restored many of the traditional forms of religious service that had been victims of reform. He created the position of director of education in 1927 to administer the 1,100-pupil Sunday school. Nathan Brilliant held the position until 1946, when he became director of the BUREAU OF JEWISH EDUCATION.
As Anshe Chesed''s members moved farther eastward after World War II, the congregation decided to relocate in the SUBURBS. A site was purchased in BEACHWOOD on Fairmount Blvd., and following a lengthy court battle, Anshe Chesed received permission to build a synagogue. On 31 May 1957, the new facility, known as Fairmount Temple, was dedicated. It was designed by Percival Goodman. The congregation sold the Euclid Ave. Temple building to Liberty Hill Baptist Church. Following Brickner''s death in 1958, the congregation hired Rabbi Arthur J. Lelyveld, national director of the B''nai B''rith Hillel Foundation from 1947-56. Lelyveld, active in the civil-rights movement and the American Jewish Congress, stayed with the congregation until 1986. In 1992, under Rabbi David Gelfand, Anshe Chesed held a special 150th anniversary celebration at its old Euclid Ave. location. Continuing the tradition of kindness and charity, Mitzvah Day was established in 1994. It is a day when the 1,200 family members of Anshe Chesed volunteer their time and talents to assist those in need and come together to work toward the beautification of the world.
In 2001, Rabbi Gelfand was succeeded by Rabbi Lee T. Bycel and later Rabbi Howard Ruben. In 2010, Robert A. Nosanchuk joined Anshe Chesed as its Senior Rabbi. Cantor Sarah Sager, the first woman to serve as cantor of a Cleveland synagogue (appointed in 1980), was made Cantor Laureate in 2022 after more than four decades of service.
In 2023, Rabbi Nosanchuk led a clergy team that included Rabbi Joshua Caruso, Cantor Vladimir Lapin and Associate Rabbi Elle Muhlbaum. Rabbi Nosanchuk serves as Vice-Chair of the Reform Movement’s Commission on Lifelong Jewish learning, and has worked with clergy colleagues and staff to develop new lifelong learning seminars, worship programs, Shabbat retreats, Israel trips, and Hineni, an independent study program for students in grades 7–12. The congregation has continued its tradition of social action and is a founding institution of Greater Cleveland Congregations, a grassroots organization of more than 30 area churches, mosques, temples and allied institutions working together for social justice.
Updated by Sylvia Abrams
Last updated: 2/22/2023
Peskin, Allan. This Tempting Freedom (1973).