The KOL ISRAEL FOUNDATION is an organization of Cleveland survivors of the Holocaust. Kol Israel, which means "All of Israel," was founded in 1959 to represent area Holocaust survivors while helping secure special education, guidance, vocational training, economic and social adjustment for people from foreign lands settling in Greater Cleveland. It also supplies charitable support for the State of Israel. To those who had suffered in concentration camps, Kol Israel meetings became a refuge where they could meet with others with a similar past. Kol Israel helped newcomers arriving after its organization by providing financial assistance and locating housing and jobs for those without relatives, friends, or agencies to assist them.
An early group project was the erection of a monument to the memory of the 6 million victims of the Holocaust in Zion Memorial Park in 1961. Ashes of victims from 3 concentration camps were buried under the monument. In addition, both funds and ambulances were donated to Israel in the 1960s and 1970s. The foundation has participated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Memorial Service since 1978 and in the successor Community Holocaust Remembrance Day observance. There is also a Kol Israel Sisterhood and Second Generation Kol Israel founded by young people in 1978, dedicated to continuance of the memory of Holocaust victims. The Second Generation group sponsors educational workshops while the foundation sponsors annual Holocaust commemoration events at different synagogues throughout the city.
In June 1995 Kol Israel celebrated the 50th anniversary of the liberation and defeat of Nazi Germany with services at GREEN ROAD SYNAGOGUE. In addition, the organization continued to support social and educational events for members at area schools and colleges. In 1995 Dr. Zev Harel served as president for the foundation's 500 members. Jake Hennenberg served as foundation historian.
In 2023, Kol Israel reaffirmed its mission to honor the lives of Holocaust survivors and engage their descendants, families, and supporters to preserve the legacy and lessons of the Holocaust. The group experienced significant organizational change, absorbing its offshoots, Kol Israel Sisterhood and Kol Israel Second Generation, into one unified entity, Kol Israel Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to Resilience, Remembrance, and Holocaust Education. Active participants included survivors, their descendants (who now include great-grandchildren), and supporters from across the Jewish and general communities. Kol Israel Foundation was governed by a Board of Directors and employed a staff of three. In 2023, Bob Zelwin served as Board president and Hallie Duchon as executive director.
Kol Israel offered Face to Face®, a Holocaust education program for grades 7-12 aimed to counter the influence of historical distortion and hatred, presented through the lens of a survivor or the adult child or grandchild of a survivor. More than 58,000 students had participated in 135 schools in 11 Northeast Ohio counties.
The Kol Israel Memorial & Commemoration Committee worked to preserve, protect and enhance the Holocaust Monument at Zion Memorial Park in Bedford Heights, Ohio. The Monument was the site of an annual memorial service, held each year on the Sunday between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, co- sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. The Memorial Committee also organized, along with the Federation, the annual community-wide Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) commemoration held each spring.
The Kol Israel Foundation Memorial in Zion Memorial Park Cemetery in Bedford Heights was designated a national monument as part of an omnibus government funding package signed by President Joe Biden in late December 2022. The memorial is believed to be the first Holocaust memorial in the United States to receive this national designation.
Updated by Sylvia Abrams
Last updated: 3/28/2023
Hennenberg, Jacob. "A History of the Kol Israel Foundation" (n.d.)