BELLEFAIRE, a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed adolescents, is the oldest Jewish social-service agency in Cleveland. It was established in 1868 by the B'NAI B'RITH Grand Lodge #2 to care for Jewish Civil War orphans from 15 states. A large building on 4 1/ 2 acres, formerly Dr. Seeyle's water sanitorium at Sawtell (E. 51st) St. and Woodland Ave., was dedicated on 14 July 1868 as the Jewish Orphan Asylum. It opened 2 months later with over 80 residents and grew to include 400 orphans by 1900. Dr. Samuel Wolfenstein, formerly of St. Louis, served as superintendent from 1878-1913.
Due to increasing numbers, deterioration of the facilities, and population shifts, the asylum purchased land in UNIV. HTS. at 22001 Fairmount Blvd. in 1927. Following a court battle over discriminatory zoning, a new complex of buildings was constructed. The orphanage moved in 1929 and became known as Bellefaire. In 1940 the orphanage changed its focus to include residential therapeutic care for emotionally disturbed children; the asylum stopped accepting orphans altogether in 1943. In 1941 Orthodox Jewish Children's home merged with Welfare Assn. for Jewish Children and thus became the Jewish Children's Bureau, which then formed a functional merger with Bellefaire to become Bellefaire Jewish Children's Bureau. Bellefaire still offered regional residential care, while the bureau provided local casework, foster-home placement, group-home care, and daycare.
Bellefaire is a member agency of both UNITED WAY SERVICES and the JEWISH COMMUNITY FED. Bellefaire serves children, youth, and families from all segments of Cleveland's diversified community. In addition to the residential treatment program, Bellefaire's continuum of services includes an on-campus school for severely behaviorally handicapped students and an intensive in-home services program. The executive director in 1995 was Samuel Kelman.
Polster, Gary E. Inside Looking Out: The Jewish Orphan Asylum 1868-1924 (Kent: KSU Press, 1990)