Hebrew Cultural Garden

The Hebrew Garden was designed by T. Ashburton Tripp. It was the first garden to be built after the Shakespeare Garden and signaled the formal beginning of the Cultural Gardens. Dedicated in 1926, it is a monument to the Zionist movement, as well as the vision of Leo Weidenthal. Originally naming it "Poet's Corner", Weidenthal was instrumental in the founding of the Cultural Gardens chain. The Jewish Federation of Cleveland sponsors the Hebrew Cultural Garden through its Hebrew Cultural Garden committee.

The pink Georgia Eweh marble fountain is the centerpiece of the Hebrew Cultural Garden. The bowl sits on seven pillars referred to in the Hebrew holy texts. In the King James translation of Proverbs chapter 9, verse 1 that text states the following: "Wisdom hath built herself a house; She hath hewn her out of seven pillars". A popular explanation or commentary on the text suggests that the first sentence refers to that God created the world, with the second sentence referring to the seven days of creation.

Directly south of the fountain is the Musicians' Garden, which is in the shape of a lyre or small harp, framed by a sidewalk. The September 10th, 1937 article Wisdom's House Dwells in Hebrew Cultural Garden states that "the triangular pillar at the south end bore a plaque on its north face honoring Jacques Halevy, author of the opera 'The Jewess', Giacomo Meyerbeer, composer of the opera 'L'Africana', and Karl Goldmark, author of 'Queen of Sheba'."

The central architectural feature of the Garden is a hexagonal Star of David, which gives shape to the landscape. In an October 11, 1942 story in The Plain-Dealer, Mary Hirshfeld described the garden in the following way: "From the pool stone paths radiate and form the Shield of David. At four of the six points which form the double triangle of the Star of David are memorials to the Hebrew philosophers; Moses Maimonides, Baruch Spinoza, Moses Mendelssohn, and Archad Ha'am".

A round bronze plaque is attached to an elevated boulder in the northern section of the garden. The plaque bears Emma Lazarus' poem for the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." Underwritten by Federation of Jewish Women's Organizations and dedicated on June 14, 1949, the plaque is located adjacent to a boulder with Lazarus likeness on it.

The first Jews to make their home in Cleveland were from Unsleben, Bavaria. In 1840 there were 20 families alongside 20 single males living in the city. Jews settled in Cleveland during two "eras": The German Era (1837-1900) and The East European Era (1870-1942). By 1880 there were 3,500 Jews living in Cleveland. This number increased dramatically over the next generation.By 1925, about 85,000 Jews lived in the city. Initially, Jewish settlements were established near the Central Market east of the Cuyahoga River. As the community grew, they moved farther and farther east, first to Glenville and the Mt. Pleasant/Kinsman districts. Following World War II the Jewish community moved into Cleveland Heights and other eastern suburbs. At the turn of the twentieth century only a small number of Jews remained on the west side. In 1910 they formed a congregation which later became known as the West Side Jewish Center.

On the east side, the area between Coventry Rd. and South Green Rd in Cleveland Heights became the heart of the Jewish community. In the late 1950s and early 1960s the focal point was Taylor Rd., which witnessed the greatest concentration of Jewish institutions in Cleveland's history. Later decades have seen many Jews moving even further east, most recently to Beachwood and Pepper Pike.

Audio

"It Looked Like it had Been Hit by a Bomb" Paula Fishman describes her first visit to the Hebrew Cultural Garden in 1997 and the subsequent visits she made with others to help restore its original beauty. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
Carl Goldmark This is an excerpt from Carl Goldmark's Symphony No. 2, Op. 35, Movement 1, Allegro. Found at International Music Score Library Project
Giacomo Meyerbeer This is an excerpt from Giacomo Meyerbeer's Margherita d'Anjou: Sinfonia Militare. Found at International Music Score Library Project

Images

Hebrew Garden, 1943 Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
Dedication Ceremony, 1937 A crowd gathers at the Hebrew Cultural Garden for the dedication of the "Musician's Garden." This fixture was built in the shape of a lyre and featured plaques honoring several Jewish musicians. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
Rebecca Gratz, 1935 This bronze plaque inserted into a boulder on the north side of the Hebrew Garden honors Rebecca Grtaz (1781-1869). The Gan Ivri (Hebrew Garden) League donated the plaque in 1932. In 1801, Gratz founded a nonsectarian support society in Philadelphia for women and families suffering from the after effects of the Revolutionary War. She is also credited with founding the first Jewish Sunday school and a Jewish orphanage in Philadelphia. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
Dedication, Oct. 1927 This photograph shows several dignitaries at the dedication of the Philosophers' Circle of the Hebrew Garden on October 30, 1927. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections
Fountain of Wisdom, 2009 The pink Georgian marble fountain seen here is one of the main features of the Hebrew Cultural Garden. Recently restored, it sits atop seven pillars representing the seven branches of wisdom. The Hebrew inscription running across its sides is from Proverbs chapter 9, verse 1 and reads: "Wisdom hath built herself a house; she hath hewn her out of seven pillars." Image courtesy of The Center for Public History + Digital Humanities

Location

1160 East Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44108 | East Blvd near E. 98th St., north of Superior Ave. and between the Irish and Croatian Gardens.

Metadata

“Hebrew Cultural Garden,” Cleveland Historical, accessed August 18, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/131.