opts for shift But will keep building downtown
Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio
Friday, September 12, 2008
Smith, Plain Dealer Reporter
Beachwood – The Jewish
Community Federation of Cleveland will pull
the bulk of its operations out of downtown
and staff a new office in the eastern
suburbs, ending a 105-year tradition of
locating its headquarters in Cleveland.
After months of fevered debate, members of
the federation's board of trustees voted
77-37, with one abstention, Thursday night
to buy an office building in Beachwood.
Federation leaders, who avoided using the
word "headquarters" afterward, described the
new location as an expansion of its
operations. They said the federation will
retain its office building at 1750 Euclid
Ave., use it for meetings and
yet-to-be-decided programs and keep four or
five people working there.
Meanwhile, 97 percent of the federation's
130-person staff will report to work in
Members of a pro-downtown coalition of Jews
expressed bitter disappointment.
"I think the move is wrong," said S. Lee
Kohrman, the founder of a downtown law firm,
as he left the trustees meeting. "I think
the Jewish community is a subset of the
general community. Ultimately, it will grow
only as the city grows."
Kohrman and other members of the Committee
to Keep the JCF in CLE urged the federation
to reinvest downtown. They said a vibrant
new headquarters near Playhouse Square could
help to revitalize Cleveland and attract
young adults to an aging Jewish community.
Leaders of the federation, the chief
fund-raising and planning agency for the
region's 82,000 Jews, said its offices
needed to be closer to Jewish households
concentrated in the eastern suburbs. In the
end, their pragmatic arguments swayed the
"It was a difficult decision,"
said Ronald Ratner, a trustee who led the
committee that recommended moving operations to
Beachwood. "It touched people's core values."
"I think it's a difficult but right move," said
trustee Fran Immerman, a Moreland Hills mother
The federation trustees met for two hours in
closed session at the Jewish Community Center in
Beachwood. Participants described a lively,
civil debate. A motion to table the issue was
Afterward, federation leaders could be seen
congratulating one another. They carried the
board by a more than 2-1 ratio.
"This was a win-win, both for the city of
Cleveland and for the Jewish community," said
board chairman Harley Gross, who argued for the
Beachwood facility. "It will allow us to deepen
our relationship with our donors and with our
He said that the federation will introduce new
programming at its downtown building and that he
will soon appoint a committee to determine what
that programming will be.
As they gathered later at a downtown restaurant,
members of the pro-downtown coalition talked of
a crushing loss for the city they love.
The federation, founded in Cleveland in 1903, is
the city's last major Jewish institution.
"With four or five people downtown, this is a
move to Beachwood," said Anita Gray of
Bratenahl. "And I feel badly the federation is
leaving the city for the first time in 100