Finding aid for the Heights Benevolent and Social Union Records, Series III


Repository: Western Reserve Historical Society
Creator: Heights Benevolent and Social Union
Title: Heights Benevolent and Social Union Records, Series III
Dates: 1881-2003
Extent: 1.60 linear feet (3 containers and 1 oversize volume)
Abstract: The Heights Benevolent and Social Union is the oldest existing Jewish benevolent society in Cleveland, Ohio. It was organized on April 16, 1881, as the Hungarian Benevolent and Social Union and received its state charter two years later. The organization was established to aid its members in case of illness or death, to assist non-members in "unfortunate circumstances," and to cultivate friendly and social relations among its members. It was formed by twenty-four Hungarian Jews who gathered for their first meeting in the shoe store of Ben Shlesinger, the society's first president. In 1919, the Hungarian Benevolent and Social Union officially changed its name to the initials HBSU, indicating that membership was no longer based on Jewish national origin. In the late 1960s, the organization adopted the name Heights Benevolent and Social Union for publicity uses. By 1885, the organization had over 100 members and membership subsequently increased to 763 in 1916. During the early 1980s, membership was approximately 500. From its creation, the HBSU provided typical benevolent and aid society assistance, including partial payment of hospital bills, a weekly sick benefit, death benefits for members and their families, and visits to sick members. The organization has also expended a large portion of its annual budget for charitable donations both locally and in the national and international arenas. Recipients have included persecuted Romanian Jews, World War I refugees, and the Red Cross Society for needy Italians. Additionally, HBSU has donated money to or subscribed to membership in Cleveland Jewish organizations such as the Hebrew Free Loan Association, Federation of Jewish Charities, Infant Orphans Mothers Society, and the Jewish Orthodox Home for the Aged. By the early 1900s, HBSU, while still a mutual aid society, was reaching out more to the community at large and participating in more social causes. The minutes indicate a strong support for the United States in both world wars, and a growing political awareness. In 1896, a delegation from HBSU met with Governor McKinley, then a presidential candidate, at his home in Canton as part of McKinley's "Front Porch Campaign." The primary function of HBSU by the second half of the twentieth century was as a social outlet for its members. The organization sponsors picnics, dinners, balls, lectures, and other special programs. In 1953, a women's auxiliary was created. The HBSU has never had its own meeting hall, and over the years has held meetings in many locations, including the Gesangverein Hall, Knights of Pythias Temple Hall, B'nai B'rith Building, Gates of Hope Synagogue, Warrensville Center Synagogue, and Congregation B'nai Jeshurun's synagogue, among others. During the early 1980s, the HBSU officially incorporated as a fraternal organization. Two lodges were established, one in Florida comprised of Clevelanders who moved to the south, and one in Cleveland. The Cleveland lodge also serves as the Grand Lodge of the HBSU. The collection consists of booklets, bulletins, bylaws, flyers, ledger, lists, proclamations, programs and scrapbooks.
MS Number MS 5115
Location: closed stacks
Language: The records are in English