Title Thumbnail

Merging Traditions

Jewish Life in Cleveland

Judah Rubinstein Jane Avner

288 pages
The Kent State University Press

Published in cooperation with the Western Reserve Historical Society

Out of a small group of Jewish settlers that came to Cleveland in 1839 sprang the large, vibrant, and diverse Jewish community, numbering in excess of 81,500, that has contributed significantly to Cleveland’s life. At the turn of the century, many immigrants found work in Cleveland’s thriving garment industry, then second only to New York’s. Others entered the building trades, and those with entrepreneural inclinations opened retail stores dedicated to serving their Jewish neighborhoods. The entry of Jews into the business mainstream facilitated inclusion into nearly every area of community endeavor—civic life, education, and culture.

During World War II the community began to move to the suburbs, with Cleveland Heights emerging as the largest Jewish neighborhood outside of Cleveland. The exodus to the suburbs continued unabated until the mid-1950s, practically emptying the central city of its Jewish population. Many moved still farther east in the 1960s. As families left the traditional Jewish enclaves for more affluent areas and purchased larger properties in the suburbs, the synagogues and Jewish institutions and facilities also migrated.

At the time of his death in February 2003 Judah Rubinstein was working on this second edition of Merging Traditions: Jewish Life in Cleveland, which he initially co-wrote with the late Sidney Z. Vincent in 1978. This revised and updated pictorial review of the nearly two-century history of the Jewish community tells the story of Jewish settlement and achievement in Northeast Ohio and continues in the spirit of the original, illuminating the struggles and the successes of one particular immigrant group and providing a valuable perspective on Cleveland’s Jewish community, past and present.

Author Bio

Judah Rubinstein (1921–2003) helped develop and maintain the Cleveland Jewish Archives at the Western Reserve Historical Society. He began documenting local Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary and was the first research director of the Jewish Community Federation. He graduated from Western Reserve University in Cleveland and during World War II was a code breaker for the Army Air Forces.

Jane Avner is associate curator of Jewish History at the Western Reserve Historical Society.