05 May 2009

Ohio: Educating teens, Toledo Jewish history

Jewish history is the story of Jewish communities and the changes they have experienced over time. Downtown neighborhoods gave way to suburban migration over the years.

Jewish teens recently learned about Toledo's Jewish history, according to this ToledoBlade.com story. Jewish Sunday School teacher Veronica Burgert says there's never been a better time than today to teach local Jewish teenagers about their religious and cultural heritage.

"Jewish Toledo isn't getting any bigger. It's very important to keep the history alive and to hear all the stories."

Two Jewish seniors recently led a group of 15 teenagers on a bus tour of to visit historic Jewish sites. Previously, they had heard Jewish seniors speak about growing up there in the 1930s-40s.
As part of the focus on community history, the United Jewish Council of Greater Toledo also commissioned the publication of a new book, "A History of the Toledo Jewish Community 1895-2006: A Rich Tapestry of Historical Information."

The book, written by local historian David Noel, was printed in newspaper format and will be soon published in book form.

Efforts to remember historic Jewish Toledo come during a period of shrinking population. A 1973 survey found that there were 7,250 Jews in the Toledo area; in 2000 that number had dropped to 5,461.

Today, said pollster Stan Odesky, 71, who led a bus tour, said the number of area Jewish residents is closer to 4,000.

The Jewish population's decline has been attributed to an aging population, low fertility rates, a drop in Jewish immigrants, and an increasing number of Jews who marry out - their children have little or no connection to Judaism.

The bus tour started from The Temple-Congregation Shomer Emunim, at the center of the current community. The Reform congregation shares a campus with the Jewish Community Center, the United Jewish Council of Greater Toledo and Conservative congregation B'nai Israel.

Built in 1914, B'nai Israel's original structure featured 700 seats on the main floor and a 300-seat balcony (for women originally). In 1924, an annex was built for the Hebrew school, with second floor weddings and third floor dances.

Today, it is home to the True Church of God of the Apostolic Faith, and many Jewish symbols are still evident: a Star of David in the 50-foot high interior dome, original stained glass windows with Hebrew writing and Jewish symbols (menorahs and Torahs).

In the old days, the Canton-Woodruff neighborhood was a thriving Jewish area with kosher delis, markets, groceries, butchers, bakeries, cleaners, ice cream parlors and other businesses. Much of the area was razed during urban renewal decades ago.

Other synagogues were Congregation B'nai Jacob, Congregation Anshai Sfard and Sharie Zedeck which is now Eastern Star Baptist - with a fence still featuring two large Stars of David.

Eventually, as happened in most cities, the Jewish community moved away from downtown; some synagogues moved and new congregations were formed. Shomer Emunim built a new structure, now Bibleway Temple - a Pentecostal Christian church.

As the community moved westward, B'nai Israel moved and Orthodox Etz Chayim built a synagogue. With a move to Sylvania, about 12 miles from downtown, Shomer Emunim built a new structure in 1973 and B'nai Israel's new home was built in 2007 on the JCC grounds.

Read the complete story at the link above.

1 comment:

  1. Pleased to see the Toledo Jewish History noted in the blog. My great grandfather Yisrael Yomtov Lipman Isroff (aka Leopold Julius) went to Toledo and my grandfathers 5 siblengs lived there. Isroff became Woodruff! Stan Odesky is a descendent thorugh his mother's side if I recollect. He sent me the 'neewspaper' history a few months ago. The similarities between the Litvak origins, how the Toledo community developed, and occupations, was very close to that of the larger South African communities. An example is that of many going into scrap metal and later becoming metal dealers, even 2 generations down.