SPIRA, HENRY (21 June 1862-10 Apr. 1941) was a banker whose principal customers were the immigrants settling in Cleveland during the first 3 decades of the century. Spira, son of Bernath and Esther (Deutsch) Spira, was born and educated in Richwald, Hungary, immigrating to the U.S. in 1879. He and worked as a laborer for a steamship company before migrating to central Ohio where he worked as a peddler and shopkeeper. In 1885, he returned to Hungary for 5 years, where he established a liquor business. He returned to America in 1890, settled in Cleveland, and opened a saloon in the Woodland neighborhood (see BUCKEYE-WOODLAND).

In 1891, Spira became involved in a foreign-exchange and steamship ticket sales business, catering to the immigrant community in Woodland. By 1916, he had expanded into general banking, creating the Bank of Henry Spira, whose named later changed to Spira Savings & Loan Assoc. He maintained the foreign-exchange business through a new company, Spira Internatl. Express Co., which was also an investment firm. In 1932, Spira retired from banking and Spira Savings & Loan was taken over by Guardian Trust Co. Spira was president of the Temple on the Heights (see B'NAI JESHURUN) for 12 years. Beyond that, his involvement in Jewish community organizations seldom included a leadership role. However, at his death, a large portion of his estate was willed to Jewish institutions, including the HEBREW FREE LOAN ASSOC., the Temple on the Heights, the Jewish Orthodox Home for the Aged (see MENORAH PARK), MONTEFIORE HOME, MT. SINAI Hospital, the Jewish Orphan Home, and the Jewish Welfare Federation (see JEWISH FEDERATION OF CLEVELAND).

Spira married Mathilda Ehrlich on 13 June 1886. They had six children: Ethel, Sigmund, Philip, Rolla, Sylvia, and Violet.


Black, white and red text reading Western Reserve Historical Society

Finding Aid for the HENRY SPIRA PAPERS, WRHS.

Article Categories