Finding aid for the Beth Am Congregation Records, Series II


Repository: Western Reserve Historical Society
Creator: Beth Am Congregation
Title: Beth Am Congregation Records, Series II
Dates: 1933-1991
Extent: 0.40 linear feet (1 container)
Abstract: Beth Am Congregation, a Conservative Jewish congregation in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, was founded in 1933 as the Community Temple by Rabbi Abraham Nowak and a group who belonged to B'nai Jeshurun Congregation (then known as Temple on the Heights). The founders wanted their new synagogue to be more welcoming to all Jews, regardless of their wealth or status. The congregation established administrative offices at 241 Euclid Avenue; services and school classes were held at Coventry School in Cleveland Heights. After meeting at several rented locations, the congregation purchased a large house on Washington Boulevard. By 1940, however, the need was seen for a permanent structure, and a building fund was established. In 1947 Beth Am purchased the Trinity Congregational Church at 3557 Washington Boulevard. The new rabbi, Jack J. Herman, was named the same year. The congregation continued to grow, and by 1956 had 600 families with 500 students in the religious school. A fire in 1957 destroyed much of the lower level of the building, including two Torahs and synagogue records; the congregation met on the campus of John Carroll University until repairs were effected. Rabbi Herman served the congregation until his death in 1969. Rabbi Michael Hecht was installed late in 1970. In 1971 the congregation dedicated a new religious school named for Rabbi Herman, constructed on land adjacent to the synagogue. From 1974 through the congregation's merger with B'nai Jeshurun in 1999, there were financial deficits that made it difficult for the congregation to sustain itself. The Jewish community was moving farther east, and membership decreased. A congregant offered land at the intersection of Cedar and Lander Roads in Mayfield Heights, provided that the membership could raise the monies necessary for a new building. In spite of a positive feasibility study, and plans unveiled by the architectural firm Finegold Alexander and Associates, the fundraising goals were not met and Beth Am sold its Washington Boulevard Building to the New Bible Fellowship Church and merged with B'nai Jeshurun Congregation in 1999. The collection consists of membership records, acknowledgement cards, certificates, and letterhead. This collection is of value to researchers studying the administration of a conservative Jewish congregation, particularly in Cleveland, Ohio. Of interest are letters of correspondence from Rabbi Michael Hecht and the congregation's board members to individual members of the congregation. The correspondence and synagogue records shed light upon the day-to-day operations of synagogues. The membership files, rabbi's letters to specific family members, and death and cemetery information will be of interest to genealogists.
MS Number MS 5151
Location: closed stacks
Language: The records are in English