Filed Under Religion

Euclid Avenue Temple

In 1841, a rift opened within a German Orthodox congregation of a Bavarian Unsleben party that met in a rented room on Prospect Street. Known as the Israelite Congregation, it was formed just two years earlier as Cleveland’s first Jewish congregation. The group split over religious differences, with the departing members forming Anshe Chesed, meaning “the People of Loving-kindness.” The factions reunited in 1845 under the name Israelite Anshe Chesed Society of Cleveland and soon built a synagogue on Eagle Street. This building was relatively small at 35 by 50 by 28 feet. After some disagreements over religious rituals in 1850, some members left to follow Rabbi Isidor Kalisch and establish Tifereth Israel. The Anshe Chesed then hired Rabbi Bernard L. Fould from Bavaria who headed the congregation from 1850 to 1875.

From 1861 to 1865, Rabbi Fould and chazan Gustava M. Cohen instituted many reforms, introduced an organ, tore down the women’s gallery, and installed pews. They also turned the reader of scripture from the Ark’s direction toward the audience. There were significantly more changes, later helped by Rabbi Michaelis Machol during his leadership from 1876 to 1906, converting Anshe Chesed from traditional to reformed Judaism. After the changes that Rabbi Michaelis Machol made during his leading congregation, they adopted English sermons, more moderate prayer books and services that switched between the Hebrew and English language. Some of these changes would later be reversed by Rabbi Barnett Brickner in the 1920s. Meanwhile, in 1887 the congregation relocated to a bigger building on Scovill Avenue and Henry Street (now East 25th). The 125-foot temple had alternating layers of white and red sandstone with octagonal turrets and three arching entrances. Designed by Lehman and Schmitt, the building could comfortably seat 1,200 people.

Rabbi Louis Wolsey from Little Rock, Arkansas, succeeded Rabbi Machol in 1907. The Anshe Chesed Congregation then announced their move to a location previously owned by Cassie Chadwick, who was known for defrauding banks out of millions by saying that she was an heir of Andrew Carnegie. Located on Euclid Avenue and East 82nd Street, Chadwick’s mansion was in the process of demolition in January of 1910, three years after she died in prison. On the vacant land, the Anshe Chesed planned to erect a synagogue designed by Lehman and Schmitt, the same architects who designed their previous home, and set aside $200,000 for construction. Rabbi Wolsey was said to favor an oriental style of architecture with tall columns and porticos for the new building. They cut some of the costs by choosing red brick instead of Indiana limestone, allowing them to spend the saved $50,000 on different amenities that included a new organ and pews.

In 1912, the congregation dedicated its new Euclid Avenue Temple. To commemorate the opening, they lit the eternal fire before the marble Ark representing God’s eternal presence. Within the Ark, there is a scroll of the Jewish law made of satin and gold. A sermon preached by Rabbi Wolsey gave thanks to God, who they believed allowed the building to be erected by His will and for His worship . The temple could seat 1,500 attendants and had one of Cleveland's largest organs at the time with 4,000 pipes. The temple had eight stained glass windows made by Tiffany and Company that each depicted moments of Jewish history as told in the Torah. The woodwork and pews had a silver-gray finish while the carpets and seating upholstery were a deep red. The Ark was made of French marble with two candelabras standing on each side made of bronze. Behind the choir lofts, a glass mosaic was imprinted with a verse from the book of Psalms, completing the synagogue. With all these extra expenses, the cost rose to $250,000.

Beginning in 1925, the Euclid Avenue Temple entered a new three-decade era in which it would become inseparable from the imprint of a new Rabbi. Born in New York City to Russian Jewish immigrants, Rabbi Barnett Brickner was a staunch Zionist and brought a new vision to Anshe Chesed. Rabbi Brickner moved away from many of the classical Reform practices of Anshe Chesed's prior years and reinstated many older Jewish traditions in services. So thoroughly did he shape Anshe Chesed that the synagogue became commonly known as "Brickner's Temple."

In 1956, Anshe Chesed, numbering 2,300 families, sold the building to a local African American congregation, Liberty Hill Baptist Church, which became the second Black church on Euclid Avenue, Anshe Chesed moved to their current location on Fairmount Boulevard in the eastern suburb of Beachwood. There they are known as the Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple. At this new location, the congregation pushed for more civil and political rights for all Americans, even helping Soviet Jews relocate to America to flee persecution. The congregation also welcomed lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Jews and their families, and they tasked Chevrei Tikva Chavurah in 2005 with undertaking outreach to the LGBT community. As a result of these actions, the Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple received the Equality Award from the Human Rights Campaign Cleveland.

Anshe Chesed has a long history tied to the roots of Cleveland, but like most Jewish organizations, the congregation left the City of Cleveland as its members moved farther eastward into the suburbs. It cannot be understated that this blessed group has had a lasting impact on Jewish culture in Cleveland, including leaving a wonderful architectural legacy that continues to serve members of Liberty Hill Baptist Church. In the past and to this day, the Anshe Chesed congregation is an advocate of social reform and outreach.

Images

Euclid Avenue Temple Source: Mark Souther Postcard Collection Date: ca. 1915-20
Eagle Street Synagogue Anshe Chesed met in a rented room from 1839 to 1845 before building this synagogue on Eagle Street (whose site is now in the infield of Progressive Field) in 1846. 1841-1886. The building changed ownerships four times before its demolition in 1937 to make a parking lot. Source: Cleveland State University Special Collections
Rabbi G. M. Cohen Rabbi Gustava M. Cohen was a chazan, or a person who leads the congregation in songful prayers. He was pictured here on the occasion of his 80th birthday. Rabbi Cohen led the Anshe Chesed Congregation from 1861 to 1873. Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer Date: March 24, 1900
Rabbi Louis Wolsey This photo of Rabbi Louis Wolsey appeared in the paper when he made the opening sermon at the Euclid Avenue Temple. Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer Date: March 23, 1912
Cassie L. Chadwick House Before Its Demolition This Euclid Avenue mansion was built by her father Dr. Chadwick. Cassie Chadwick became internationally notorious when she claimed to be the illegitimate daughter of Andrew Carnegie and, with the help of an Ohio banker she tricked, persuaded many other banks to lend her millions of dollars in high-interest loans in the hope that they would cash in when Carnegie died. Chadwick lived large for several years until her fraud was discovered in 1904 and she was imprisoned. In 1910 the house was demolished, and the Euclid Avenue Temple rose on its site. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections Date: January 14, 1910
The Temple Soon After Completion The Euclid Avenue Temple opened in 1912 to be closer to where most of its members were living in the Woodland and Glenville neighborhoods. The new synagogue stood midway between these two Jewish areas and enjoyed the visibility and cachet of a Euclid Avenue address. Source: Mark Souther Postcard Collection Date: ca. 1910s
Rabbi Barnett Robert Brickner Rabbi Brickner was a staunch Zionist and was the leader of Anshe Chesed Congregation from 1925 until 1957. He reinstated many older Jewish traditions in services. Source: Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection Date: 1930
Sukkah Inside the Euclid Avenue Temple The woman is Mrs. E. M. Kaufman of University Heights, who dedicated the building of the Sukkah, which is a booth decorated with foliage and fruit. It is decorated with autumn fruits and foliage in preparation for Sukkoth, the Feast of Tabernacles. Source: Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection Date: 1944
Liberty Hill Baptist Church In 1956, the Anshe Chesed congregation sold their temple to an African American congregation called the Liberty Hill Baptist Church. Liberty Hill formed during the Great Migration in 1918 and worshiped from 1927 to 1956 in a brick building at 5713 Kinsman Road. By 1956 Liberty Hill had 2,000 members. It was the second Black church to relocate to Euclid Avenue, the first being East Mount Zion Baptist Church, which moved to the former Euclid Avenue Christian Church at E. 100th and Euclid in 1955. The Liberty Hill congregation meets in the old Euclid Avenue Temple to this day. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections

Location

8206 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44103

Metadata

Steven Nguyen, “Euclid Avenue Temple,” Cleveland Historical, accessed October 5, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/924.