CWRU Links

B'NAI JESHURUN

B'NAI JESHURUN, Cleveland's third-oldest Jewish congregation, was established in 1866 by 16 Jewish HUNGARIANS. Originally Orthodox in ritual, B'nai Jeshurun gradually liberalized and joined the Conservative movement by the early 20th century. B'nai Jeshurun's members initially worshipped in the home of its first president, saloon owner HERMAN SAMPLINER. From 1870-87 services were held at Halle's Hall on Superior or the German Theater on Michigan. When ANSHE CHESED vacated its Eagle St. synagogue in 1886, B'Nai Jeshurun purchased the building for $15,000 and began conducting services there the next year.

Sigmund Drechsler was hired as the congregation's first ordained rabbi in 1886. He replaced Morris Klein, hired as teacher and chazan in 1875, who remained as Torah reader until his death in 1912. Drechsler, Hungarian-born and trained in the Orthodox rabbinical seminary in Berlin, oversaw B'Nai Jeshurun's move toward a liberal form of Orthodoxy. In 1904 newly arrived Hungarian immigrants attempted to end mixed seating, instituted in 1873. When the proponents of family pews held firm, several members seceded and formed OHEB ZEDEK congregation. In 1905 B'nai Jeshurun erected a synagogue at 55th and Scovill. Harry Cone designed the neoclassical building, dedicated in Sept. 1906. That year Drechsler was replaced by Abraham E. Dobrin, the first rabbi trained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of the Conservative movement to serve a Cleveland congregation.

Dissension led a to a series of rabbis, including Samuel Schwartz (1909-11), Jacob Klein (1912-18) and SOLOMON GOLDMAN (1918-23). Under Klein, membership increased from 450 to 725 and English sermons replaced German. Goldman solidified the Conservative nature of the congregation. B'nai Jeshurun sold its Scovill Ave. facility to SHILOH BAPTIST CHURCH in 1922, and in 1926 dedicated a new synagogue in CLEVELAND HTS. on Mayfield Rd. The $1 million Moorish-Byzantine structure was designed by Charles Greco of Boston. B'nai Jeshurun, popularly known as the Temple on the Heights, was the first congregation to relocate in the suburbs. Rabbi Abraham Nowak (1923-33) oversaw the construction of the new synagogue. After leaving B'nai Jeshurun, Nowak and a small group of its members established the Community Temple.

Clevelander RUDOLPH ROSENTHAL served B'nai Jeshurun as rabbi and rabbi emeritus from 1933 until his death in 1979. The congregation retired the mortgage on the synagogue (1941); constructed a new wing; became the first congregation in America to affiliate with the Zionist Organization of America; and increased its membership to 1,800 by 1966. As Jews moved eastward, B'nai Jeshurun erected a new synagogue, dedicated in 1980, in PEPPER PIKE at Fairmount Rd. and I-271, and sold its building complex, later known as the Civic.


Rabbi Rudolph Rosenthal Papers, WRHS.

See also JEWS AND JUDAISM, RELIGION.