ANSHE EMETH (PARK SYNAGOGUE), the first "Jewish Center" west of the Alleghenies and, by the 1940s, the largest Conservative congregation in the U.S., was founded by Jewish POLES in 1857. The congregation met for services in rented halls until 1880, when it purchased the Erie St. Methodist Church on E. 9th St. near Woodland Ave. For 40 years the congregation could not afford a full-time rabbi. In 1902 Anshe Emeth merged with a smaller congregation, probably Baruch Ohel Chesed. It erected a brick synagogue in 1904 at E. 37th and Scovill and hired Rabbi SAMUEL MARGOLIES (1904-16). Anshe Emeth became the largest Orthodox congregation in the city, with 300 members by 1916. That year it merged with Congregation Beth Tefilah, which had been organized in 1912 in GLENVILLE, and purchased a building at 105th and Hampton prior to the merger.
In 1919 Samuel Benjamin became rabbi of Anshe Emeth and led the drive to build the Cleveland Jewish Center. The congregation moved into the new building at 1117 E. 105 St. in 1921 but did not dedicate it until construction was completed in Oct. 1922. In June 1922 SOLOMON GOLDMAN became the rabbi and led Anshe Emeth, now called the Cleveland Jewish Center, into the Conservative movement. During his 6-year tenure, it became the center of Jewish life in Glenville. Its building contained basketball and handball courts, a swimming pool, and a large auditorium. The congregation sponsored lectures, social functions, and entertainment, provided space for clubs, housed a branch of the CLEVELAND HEBREW SCHOOLS, and offered Americanization classes. By 1940, its membership reached 920 families, making it the largest congregation affiliated with the United Synagogue of America, the Conservative congregational union. The congregation hired Cleveland-born Armond E. Cohen, who celebrated his 60th year as rabbi of the congregation in 1994.
In 1947 the congregation sold the Jewish Center building and began worshiping at the PARK SCHOOL between Euclid Hts. Blvd. and Mayfield Rd. in CLEVELAND HTS. Construction soon began at this site (3300 Mayfield Rd.) on a synagogue designed by Eric Mendelsohn. It was dedicated in Dec. 1950. In 1969 Park dedicated Kangesser Hall, a 2,000 seat auditorium for religious services, concerts, and lectures. In 1986 Park acquired the Brith Emeth Temple building complex in PEPPER PIKE, facilitating the expansion of religious and social services to Park members living in suburban communities east of Cleveland Hts. In 1995 membership stood at 1,700 families.
Rabbi Armond Cohen served Park until his death in 2007. At that time, he was the longest-serving rabbi in Cleveland and the second-longest serving rabbi of a congregation in the U.S. Rabbi Joshua Skoff joined Park Synagogue in 1990 and was named Senior Rabbi in 1992. In 2023, the clergy, in addition to Rabbi Skoff, included Rabbi Sharon Young Marcus and Cantor Misha Pisman,
In 2000, the Charlotte Goldberg Community Mikveh was built on the grounds of Park Synagogue Main to provide an inclusive atmosphere where individuals could explore the benefits of ritual immersion.
In 2005, Park built its own facility at 27500 Shaker Blvd. in Pepper Pike on land it had acquired in the 1960s. Its previous Pepper Pike location became the home of the Lillian and Betty Ratner Montessori School in 2006. By 2022, all activities had been moved to the new location, except the mikveh. Approved by voters in a May 2021 special election, plans for a 10,000-square-foot expansion of the sanctuary were in progress and expected to be completed by September 2023. The plans also included the creation of a new social hall event space and the establishment of a nature trail that would connect Pepper Pike Park to the South Woodland and Brainard Roads corner of the property.
The congregation has sought a solution to preserve the historically important Eric Mendelsohn building and campus on Mayfield Road. In 2021, the congregation announced a partnership with Sustainable Community Associates. Park Synagogue’s goal is ultimately to transfer ownership of the Mendelsohn building and the surrounding 28-acre campus at 3300 Mayfield Road in Cleveland Heights.
Updated by Sylvia Abrams
Last updated: 3/8/2023
The Park Synagogue: A Historical View, 1869-1994 (1994).
Plain Dealer, September 17, 2021, “Park Synagogue, Mendelsohn Masterpiece, awarded to SCA”