The JEWISH EDUCATION CENTER OF CLEVELAND was established in 1924 as the Bureau of Jewish Education with the mission of coordinating and enlarging the efforts of the religious schools in the Cleveland Jewish community. Rabbi ABBA HILLEL SILVER was its first president, and funding before 1930 came from the four largest congregations and from two community-wide fundraisers. Its first educational director was ABRAHAM H. FRIEDLAND, director of the CLEVELAND HEBREW SCHOOLS, which led to charges that he channeled bureau funds to his own institution to the detriment of other community schools.
In the 1930s the bureau conducted a high school, a teacher-training program, a youth club, and children's programming for the Jewish holidays. It became a beneficiary of the Federation of Jewish Charities in 1931. Following Friedland's death in 1939, the bureau engendered less controversy. With increased federation funding, it began to experience greater cohesion and community support under the direction of such leaders as Azriel Eisenberg, NATHAN BRILLIANT, and Alan D. Bennett. From fifteen member agencies in the 1950s, it grew to twenty-six affiliates in the 1990s, including the Cleveland Hebrew Schools and the HEBREW ACADEMY. It maintains a media center and conducts teacher workshops.
In a general reorganization in the fall of 1993, the Joint Federation/Plenum Commission on Jewish Continuity was merged into the BJE, whose name was changed to the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland. Included in its expanded mandate were not only the coordination of existing efforts but the stimulation of interest in Jewish studies among the entire community. In 1995 Sylvia Abrams served as director of the center.
In 2022, The Jewish Education Center of Cleveland (JEC) was a nationally recognized central agency at the cutting edge of educational practice providing professional growth and organizational support. As the educational arm of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, it administered the multi-million-dollar Fund for the Jewish Future, the endowment that supports education in the community’s day schools, congregational schools, camps, Israel programming, adult education, and more. Its Planning and Evaluation Department provided strategic planning and evaluation consultation to educational institutions. JEC awarded grants to institutions to strengthen their capacity; grants to teachers to strengthen their professional development; and student grants to attend camp, access opportunities for enrichment programming; and travel to Israel. JEC furnished services to educators through the Ratner Media and Technology Center, its Teacher Center, and its Curriculum Department.
The Center’s legacy of support for Hebrew continued through its Hebrew for All initiative. At the same time it strengthened its historic engagement with Israel with travel programs such as Israel - Cleveland Next, a two-year non-denominational education and travel program for teens; I-Connect for young adults in Cleveland to experience Israel through programs that last 10 days, two months, or one year; financial assistance for Israel study, and bringing Israeli emissaries to Cleveland. The Special Education consulting department offered educational support for children and young adults with special needs. Newer areas of engagement included programs for interfaith families and support for early childhood education The Special Education consulting department offered educational support for children and young adults with special needs. Newer areas of engagement included programs for interfaith families and support for early childhood education. Marlyn Bloch Jaffe was appointed Executive Director in 2020 and Kevin Margolis served as Board President.
Updated by Sylvia Abrams
Last updated 12/16/2022
Bureau of Jewish Education Records, WRHS.
See also CLEVELAND COLLEGE OF JEWISH STUDIES.