The JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER (JCC) was formed in 1948 by a merger of 4 agencies, the Jewish Young Adult Bureau, the Council Educational Alliance, CAMP WISE, and the Cultural Department of the Jewish Community Council (see JEWISH COMMUNITY FEDERATION). The new organization centralized and expanded existing programs, aiding the integration of Jewish immigrants into American life. It offered community activities for every stage of the life cycle. The oldest component of the JCC, the Council Educational Alliance (CEA), was founded in 1899 at E. 20th St. and Woodland Ave., where it offered citizenship, English, and craft classes to East European immigrants. It moved several times, finally locating at E. 135th St. and Kinsman (1928). It replaced AMERICANIZATION programs with cultural programs, recreational activities, and, during the Depression, vocational guidance for its American-born patrons.

As the Jewish community spread geographically, the CEA established branches at E. 105th, E. 123rd, and Lee and Superior roads. Camp Wise began in 1907 as a fresh-air camp for poor and underprivileged children. Built on property in EUCLID donated by SAMUEL D. WISE, it was considered one of the best-equipped campsites in the country, attracting children of all backgrounds. The third agency that preceded the JCC was the Jewish Young Adult Bureau (JYAB). Formed in 1939 to coordinate some 50 recreational and cultural programs citywide, the JYAB became the Jewish Young Adult Services Div. of the JCC. Finally, the Cultural Department of the Jewish Community Council was organized in 1945 to revitalize Jewish cultural activities for adults. After a survey, it concluded that there was no central body to organize or coordinate Jewish art and culture. To meet this need, the department sponsored a Jewish arts festival, committees for MUSIC and ART, and a Yiddish Cultural Committee.

Located in a central office at 2059 E. 105th St., the JCC added a Golden Age Services Div., a new daycamp program, and a drama department. Programs offered in the branches were now centrally planned, with the building of the JCC at Mayfield and Taylor roads in CLEVELAND HTS. in 1960. Extension programs brought JCC services to the SUBURBS. Camp Wise and its sister camp, Camp Henry Baker, relocated to Halle Park in Burton. In the 1960s-70s the JCC added senior lunch services, daycare, and programs to help the socialization of Soviet Jews (see JEWS AND JUDAISM, IMMIGRATION AND MIGRATION). In 1981 a master plan recommended major renovation of the Mayfield Rd. building and construction of a daycamp and family recreation area as well as a second site. The JCC completed the Mandel Jewish Community Center in 1986, a $13 million building on 53 acres of land at Richmond and South Woodland roads, BEACHWOOD. In 1995 the JCC administered both facilities from offices at the Mandel site and Carl Krantz served as director.

In 2022, the Mandel JCC of Cleveland's operations were located on South Woodland in Beachwood and at Camp Wise in Burton, Ohio. Activities at the South Woodland facility comprised fitness and recreation classes, aquatics; services for early childhood from ages eight weeks to pre-kindergarten; programs for school age children ranging from Maccabi Games, Playmakers Youth theatre, after school and vacation programs, to Preston's HOPE Playground and BBYO. JCC camps included Anisfield Day Camp with locations at both Safran Park on the South Woodland campus and at Halle Park in Burton; The Francine and Benson Pilloff Family Performing Arts Camp at Safran Park; and Camp Wise, which offered overnight camp for students, grades 2-12. Adult offerings, in addition to fitness, covered Israeli dance, painting, the Cleveland Jewish Book Festival, and the Cleveland Jewish Film Fest. 

Michael Hyman served as director from 2003 until his retirement as President and CEO in 2022. Rick Zakalik then served as interim CEO. Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose of St. Louis became President and CEO in January of 2023.


Updated by Sylvia Abrams

Last updated: 2/22/2023

Black, white and red text reading Western Reserve Historical Society

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Finding aid for the Jewish Community Center Records, Series I, WRHS.

Finding aid for the Jewish Community Center Records, Series II, WRHS.

Finding aid for the Jewish Community Center Records, Series III, WRHS.

Finding aid for the Jewish Community Center Photographs, Series I, WRHS.

Finding aid for the Jewish Community Center Photographs, Series II, WRHS.

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