Out of deep-rooted Jewish tradition, establishing charitable societies came naturally to the Jewish settlers of Cleveland. In 1868, the Order of B'nai B'rith converted a health sanitarium at East 51st and Woodland to an asylum to care for Jewish orphans of the Civil War. This first regional Jewish charitable institution in the United States eventually evolved into Bellefaire and Jewish Children's Bureau.
Shortly afterward came the Hebrew Relief Society, in 1875, the forerunner of Jewish Family Service Association, and then Montefiore Home for Aged and Infirm Israelites, in 1882, a signal that the pioneer generation was entering its golden years. In 1892, the Young Women's Hospital Society began to raise funds for a Jewish hospital, to be called Mt. Sinai, and opened its doors in a remodeled home on East 37th in 1903.
By 1880, this first phase of the immigrant era had ended. Cleveland Jews, numbering 3,500 and primarily of German origin, were highly Americanized and very much part of the general community
By the 1980s, the agencies of the Jewish community had evolved from charity services for the underprivileged to sophisticated institutions serving all segments of the Jewish population, along with many non-Jews. No longer concerned with promoting Americanization and assimilation, the organized Jewish community found itself addressing the opposite concern: maintaining Jewish culture and identity.
Now numbering over 81,500, the Cleveland Jewish community still faces numerous challenges -- an aging and diminishing local population, sharply rising assimilation, and a commitment to meet unrelenting human service needs in Cleveland, Israel, and around the world.more » « less