Glenville's Racial Transition

The Jewish Community Federation collaborated with the Cleveland Board of Education to organize the Glenville Summer Tutoring Program in the summer of 1970. This program was designed to assist Glenville High School students, as the Call and Post describes, to "bone up on needed courses for the coming year." The Glenville Summer Tutoring Program is just one of many programs the Jewish Community Federation implemented to assist the Glenville community. What is the connection between the Jewish organization and the African American community of Glenville? Glenville was once a neighborhood that housed a largely Jewish population only thirty years before. Its rapid change begged the question of how the suburban Jewish community might relate to Cleveland, which one keen observer had dubbed a "City without Jews."

What was a quiet country escape east of Cleveland was annexed by the city in 1905. Migration trends in Cleveland shortly following the annexation saw Jews moving out of Woodland and settling in the Glenville area. Glenville eventually came to house the largest Jewish population within the city. However, during the Second Great Migration, African Americans moved away from the Jim Crow South and into northern urban areas such as Cleveland. Unlike non-Jewish neighborhoods, Jewish families often were more willing to sell their houses to African American families that were usually subject to racial discrimination within the real estate market, producing a "revolving door" of demographic change in Glenville. After selling their homes, the Jewish community moved out into the suburban Heights area due to the population influx and advances in their own economic situations, leaving the Glenville community with almost an entirely African American population.

African Americans comprised only 2 percent of Glenville's population of 61,614 in 1940. By 1950, the African American population increased to 40 percent of the 63,980 people living in the neighborhood. This drastic change could be easily observed by Glenville residents. Within the neighborhood, Jewish businesses were leaving, the school demographics rapidly switched from being predominantly Jewish to predominantly African American, large one-family houses were being rented out as multi-family dwellings, and synagogues were being converted into churches. The synagogue that once housed the congregation of Anshe Emeth Beth Tefilo was purchased by Cory Methodist Church after the congregation moved to what became known as Park Synagogue on Mayfield Road in Cleveland Heights.

What makes the Glenville neighborhood unique is the connection between the African American and Jewish community. Not only was there a relative lack of friction during the transitional years of the revolving door in the mid-twentieth century, the Jewish community continued to contribute to the Glenville community, not only with the Glenville Tutoring Project, but through many other initiatives sponsored or co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Federation.



What I Knew Was, I Was a Kid
William Easterling describes his childhood growing up in the diverse Glenville neighborhood. ~ Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
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Jewish Glenville
Phil Hart discusses growing up in Glenville with a large Jewish population. ~ Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
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One White Family Left
Ora Sims remembers when only a single white family, purportedly too poor to leave, still sent its kids to Glenville High School. ~ Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
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