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On the afternoon of May 24, 2010 a ceremony was held at Cleveland's City Hall to commemorate Jewish American Heritage Month.

The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, organizers of the event, presented to the city framed photographs of three early Jewish councilmen. Mayor Frank Jackson accepted them and promised they would be hung in the chambers of Cleveland's City Council. Milton Maltz, the museum's founder, spoke.

 

 

At City Hall (l to r): Mayor Frank Jackson,
Councilman Joe Cimperman, Milton Maltz

We began this page the day an invitation to the ceremony arrived in our Inbox. Our list of Jewish council members has grown from an initial nine, to 28 today. We now believe it is complete, but if you think it overlooks someone or you have more information or a better picture, please contact us.

Arnold Berger January 13, 2011

Some historical background

Cleveland's City Council was always ward-based, even when the city was small and had a relatively homogeneous population of native-born Americans who came here from New England and New York. It has remained ward-based, with some variations on that theme. It the late 1800s council members were elected by district, a district being composed of two or three wards. Some years had several At-Large council members, the rest elected by ward. And in the reform-minded years of 1923 to 1933 there was some At-Large representation from larger areas. Today's City Council is entirely ward-based. with the number of wards declining as the city's population fell.
 

  1950 2010 Change
 Population 914,800 431,600 -53 percent
 City Council members 33 19 -43 percent

For important social reasons most neighborhoods soon became ethnic enclaves. The nationality-based Catholic parishes reinforced that pattern. So, too, did the need for observant Jewish immigrants to be able to walk to their synagogues.

The ward-based method of electing Council members promoted diversity in representation and assured immigrants, be they Irish, Italian, Slovenian, Hungarian or Jewish, of someone who could speak their language and help them deal with the city.

Since 1839, when it settled downtown near the Central Market area, the Jewish population has moved steadily eastward. The last surge within the city began before World War I and ended before World War II. It took about 80 percent of the city's Jews to Glenville and almost all the rest to Kinsman-Mount Pleasant, both neighborhoods at the eastern limits of the city. (Yes, there were some in the Heights in the 1920s and 1930s - Heights Jewish Center was in Cleveland Heights in 1922 and B'nai Jeshurun broke ground for Heights Temple in 1924.)

Migration out of Cleveland to the 'Heights' increased in the 1930s. After the war it accelerated in a pattern of 'white flight' and 'block-busting' seen in many cities. African-Americans, whose choices in housing were limited by income and by discrimination, moved into the Jewish neighborhoods. By 1960 Cleveland's last Jewish councilman (Jerome B Goldman in Glenville) had lost his seat. It would be 37 years before Council had a Jewish member. (In 1997 a young Jewish woman, Merle Gordon, would be named to Council to represent a west-side ward.)

There are no Jews serving on Cleveland's City Council today. But there are perhaps ten or more Jewish members of city councils in the eastern suburbs: from the inner-ring suburbs of Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights, east to Beachwood, Pepper Pike, Solon and even Chagrin Falls.

About the table

The table is arranged chronologically, from the first to serve to the latest.

As a finding aid, here they are, by last name:
 

A few of the biographies below include examples of a long-honored Council custom that a member who resigns can name his successor.

Who was Jewish?

For all these persons we have found evidence of a Jewish life (membership in a Jewish organization) or a Jewish end of life (funeral service at a Jewish mortuary, a rabbi officiating at a home funeral, burial in a Jewish cemetery, or a death notice/obituary in a Jewish newspaper). Many of these signs of Jewish identity have been included in the table below.

Thus our table does not include

  • Milton A Gross (1840 - 1892), a flour and feed dealer, who served the 11th ward, a neighborhood with many Jews, three terms (1879-1885). Though "Gross" (big) is a common surname among Hungarian Jews, we  find no signs of Jewish identification. His Saturday funeral means he was not buried in a Jewish cemetery.

  • Morris Black (1869-1898) who served 1896-98. The brilliant son of a Jewish father (related to the Black family, the city's first Hungarian Jews) and a Protestant mother, he did not identify as a Jew.

  • William Schnerer, who served the fifth district and won in 1890 with the help of Czar Bernstein, because death data tells us he was not Jewish.

The new Cleveland Jewish burial database has been checked and has been noted CJBDB.

To learn more

 

Simpson Thorman  1865

(1811-1881), Cleveland's first Jewish resident, was its first Jewish member of City Council. He served one term, 1865 - 1867, representing Ward 4.

Bavarian-born Thorman was Cleveland's first permanent Jewish settler. His encouragement brought 15 more settlers from Unsleben to Cleveland in 1839. He was a founder of many Jewish organizations including the Willet Street Cemetery, Cleveland's first synagogue, and B'nai B'rith.

Thorman's many descendants - he and his wife Regina (born Raichl) had ten children  - have played key roles in Cleveland's economic and cultural life and in its Jewish community. Buried in Willet Street Cemetery, then re-interred in Mayfield Cemetery.    More on this website. See ECH

photo courtesy Western Reserve Historical Society

Louis Black  1881

(1844 - 1919) Born in Hungary. Came here as a ten year old, son of Morris and Rose Black, Cleveland's first Hungarian immigrants.
Served on City Council 1881-82  (Ward 1) Republican
President of the Hungarian Benevolent Association.

Worked for the S. Black Cloak Company. Enlisted in the Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War. "Colonel" was a Knights of Pythias honor.
Part-owner and president of the Bailey Company, a department store. Lived at 12731 Euclid Avenue; summer home on Lake Shore Boulevard.

Director of The Cleveland Jewish Hospital Association.
Service in Wade Chapel. Buried in Lake View Cemetery.
CJBDB 
See ECH.

Herbert H Hyman  1883

(1852 - 1909) Came to Cleveland from England, four years old. in 1856.
Served 1883-86  (Ward 3)
City Fire Director 1893 - 1901 (ousted by Mayor Tom Johnson)
Democrat
Lived in Colonial Apartments Euclid Ave and East 70th
Rabbi Aaron Hahn, who had left Tifereth Israel and was now practicing law, conducted the funeral service.
Death mentioned in 1913 American Jewish Yearbook
Buried in Lake View Cemetery.
CJBDB

 
Ben Windecker  1884

1853-1913
Democrat
Ran in 1882, lost by 27 votes
Elected in 1884 Fourth ward
Was deputy City Auditor
Owned a toy store on Public Square with Herbert Hyman.
Buried in Mayfield Cemetery

Photo: Jewish Review and Observer obituary, from Paul Klein

 
Isaac Hoffman

 

 

 

 

photo - ca 1905,  See Merging Traditions first edition, page 175
Also Merging Traditions second edition page 35
Thanks to Paul Klein

Kaufman Hays  1886

(1835 - 1916) Elected to City Council in 1886. Ward 11. Republican.

Born in Germany, Hays came to Cleveland in 1852, worked in retail stores, joined Simson Thorman in his hides and wool business in 1860 and married Thorman's daughter Lizzie the following year.

A banker, Hays headed the Finance Committee and is said to have saved the city's credit. In 1888 he was elected vice-president of council. He was a founder of Cleveland Worsted Mill Company. Hays also served (1867-71) as president of Tifereth Israel. In his day, perhaps the city's wealthiest Jew.  Last residence on Lakeshore Blvd. Buried in Mayfield Cemetery. See ECH

photo 1900 - courtesy Western Reserve Historical Society

  Isadore Kuttnauer 1890

16th ward
Sept 1888 attended first meeting of 16th ward Democrats.
April 1890 on council
Was proposed for vice president, Lost to Kaufman Hays.

(died 1934)
Deutsch Funeral Home.
Buried in Mayfield Cemetery. CJBDB

 

Albert Straus 1891

1864 - 1929
Graduated from Central High School, 1881
Admitted to the bar in 1888, number first in his class.
Republican, Attorney
Served 5th district two terms 1891-1895
Ran for Council in 1897, with his name on the printed cards Czar Bernstein gave illiterate voters
Was Vice President of Council 1892
Served as president of the Young Mens Hebrew Association (PD link)
Trustee of the Excelsior Club (1912)
Buried in Mayfield Cemetery.

Dr. David Bennett Steuer  1895

(1866 - 1959) served three terms for the First District. 1895 - 1901 and was President of Council in his last year of office. Republican.

Born in Hungary, he came to Cleveland in 1879 with his father. His education was extraordinary for the times: Calvin College, the Cleveland School of Pharmacy, MD from Western Reserve University (1895) and three years of post-graduate work in Europe. He returned and resumed practice as a specialist in internal medicine. On the staff of Mount Sinai Hospital for 14 years. He served as President of the Hungarian Benevolent and Social Union, founded in 1881. Member Tifereth Israel. Buried in Mayfield Cemetery. CJBDB  

See Online Biographies - Dr David B Steuer

photo  - Thanks to his granddaughter Ruth S Dancyger who contacted another granddaughter Nancy Friedman.

Max P Goodman  1899

(1872 - 1934) served in the Fourth District, 1899-1901
Republican
Born in Cleveland. Parents came in 1864 from Austria-Hungary. Did not finish high school, but through home study and study of shorthand at the Spencerian College, earned a position in a law office. At age 22 he was admitted to the bar.
Campaigned for safer railroad train crossings
Member and Trustee of Euclid Avenue Temple (Anshe Chesed). In 1921 lived on Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights
President of Cuyahoga Lawyers Association in 1927 and a founder of the Cuyahoga County Bar Association.
Father of Maxine Goodman Levin. Buried in Mayfield Cemetery. 
photo: ca 1910  from Paul Klein source "History of Cleveland vol 2"

Arthur J Halle  1902

(1876 - 1958) served on City Council (at-large) from 1902-1906, when Tom Johnson was mayor. Republican. Declined to run for another term.

Halle may have been the last politician descended from Cleveland's first generation of Jews. He graduated from Central High School, earned BA and a law degree (1901) at Harvard. With the law firm of Halle, Harris, Haber and Berick.

He moved in the highest Jewish circles, becoming president of the Excelsior Club and serving on the boards of the Oakwood Club and the Euclid Avenue Temple. Buried in Mayfield Cemetery. CJBDB

PD story

photo ca 1920 from "Bench and Bar of Northern Ohio" (1921)

Harry Bernstein  1903

(1856 - 1920) served one term representing Ward 13: 1903 -1905. In his day (1881 to perhaps 1905) he was one of the most effective ward bosses, delivering the immigrant vote to the Republicans. Brought here in 1868 from Russia-Poland by his parents and educated in the public schools, he was 25 years old and wise in the ways of the city when the great wave of Jewish immigration began in 1881. An entrepreneur, he owned a Yiddish theater, a saloon, a hotel, and bank. His power waned as other groups moved into his ward and Jewish voters moved east. For evidence of his influence, seen our Bernstein's Elbow page. Served as President (1916-17) of the Hungarian Benevolent and Social Union. His funeral in 1920 was attended by 900 persons and he was praised for his many good works.  See ECH. Buried in Fir Street Cemetery. CJBDB
See CJN story - Al Bernstein remembers his grandfather (1983)

See Plain Dealer essay April 21, 1907  "Rise and Fall of Czar Bernstein"

David J Zinner  1906

1895 (est.) - 1937  Lawyer. Democrat.
Sixteenth Ward, January 1906 to January 1910
In 1905 Mayor Tom Johnson campaigned for Zinner's opponent, Councilman Henry C Erdman. Zinner, a Bohemian (of Czech origin) said Bohemians not being represented. Zinner won primary 620 to 576, and in a great Democratic sweep was elected.

The Plain Dealer mentioned him often: 109 times over four years.
After a hiatus of two years he returned to represent the 13th ward, January 1912 to 1914 and was President pro-tem of Council.

Died 1943. Buried in Mayfield Cemetery.  CJBDB

Photo 1913: courtesy City Council Archives

Maurice (Bernstein) Bernon  1908

(1885 - 1954) served one term - 1908-1909 - representing the 15th Ward on lower Woodland Avenue. A Democrat, only 23 years old when his term began.

Born in Cleveland, son of immigrants from Russia-Poland, he entered the Western Reserve Law School at 18 (an undergraduate degree was not needed) and earned his degree in 1906. He went on to serve as a member of the Ohio Senate 1913-14, Assistant Attorney General, Ohio 1917-18 and Judge in the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court 1920-24. He was the first campaign chairman of the Jewish Welfare Fund. Member: Euclid Avenue Temple. Buried in Mayfield Cemetery. See ECH

photo ca 1920 from "Bench and Bar of Northern Ohio" (1921)

Alex Bernstein  1910

Nephew of "Czar" Harry Bernstein. Elected to Ward 15 and served 1910-1912; later in Ward 12, January, 1912-January, 1916; He then became Director of Public Service. A 1916 photo shows him with Mayor Davis and his cabinet at an Indians game in League Park. He is in the back row at the right. See the full photo at Cleveland Memory.

Last residence: Park Lane Villa. (near Chester Avenue and East 105th)
Died 1958. Buried in Mayfield Cemetery. CJBDB

photo: 1913, courtesy City Council Archives

Alfred Benesch  1912

(1879 - 1973)
Democrat. Served as a Councilman-at-Large in District 4 1912-1914, the northeast area of the city. In 1913, at Mayor Newton D Baker's request, he ran for council in Ward 12 against Republican Alex Bernstein and was soundly beaten. The mayor named him Public Safety Director. He held other posts for the city, the school district and the state, was a Trustee of The Temple and a founder of the Benesch law firm.

Our Abba Hillel Silver pages see him as the man who brought Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver from Wheeling West Virginia to Cleveland. 

Last residence: Kemper Road. Buried in Mayfield Cemetery.  See ECH 

photo: 1913, courtesy City Council Archives

Herman H Finkle  1917

(1891-1952) was elected in November, 1917 and served 18 terms. Also known as "Little Napoleon of Ward 12." Republican.

Born in Detroit he moved to Cleveland at 11. Law partner and brother-in-law of ward leader Harry Bernstein. Re-elected 17 times, he became Republican floor leader. His early years on Council were associated with scandals. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to oust him. His behavior seemed to change in the mid-1930s. His interests extended to city-wide problems such as street lighting, health centers, mass transportation, airport development, and minority-rights. He served many years as chair of the powerful finance committee. By the 1940s, many, including the Citizens League, lauded him as a respectable political leader. He was a member of Council at the time of his death. See ECH. Member: Anshe Chesed. Burial in Mayfield Cemetery.

Photo 1950: courtesy City Council Archives

Abner Goldman  1926

Born 1896 in Massachusetts.
An attorney, served as Councilman at Large, 1/1926 - 1/1930 in the 4th District of the Proportional Representation plan. Independent, though in the 1930's is active in Republican politics. The Maltz Museum has examples of Ku Klux Klan literature directed against his candidacy.

In 1947 was vice-chair and in 1948 chair of the American Savings Bank.
Last residence on Van Aken Blvd.
Died in 1952. No relatives named in obituary.
Deutsch Funeral Home. Buried in Willet Street Cemetery. CJBDB

photo: Cleveland Jewish News

Charles Sacks  1928    new 9/30/15

Born 1897 in Russia. Came to Cleveland at age 12. Graduated from Baldwin Wallace and law school. An attorney and a loyal Republican. Assistant City Attorney. Elected councilman of the 30th ward (Mount Pleasant) in 1927. Lost bid for re-election in 1929. Elected in 1931 and named by Council to serve again when the seat became vacant.

Resided on East 139th Street, member of N'Vai Zedek (Orthodox) and active in Jewish life.

The archives of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency report on 9/11/29 that Cleveland was the first large city to condemn the "Palestine outrages". Sacks sponsored the resolution.

He died in 1935 when only 38 years old, leaving a widow and three young children. Berkowitz funeral.  Buried in Mt. Olive Cemetery. CJBDB

photo: from an ad in the Call & Post, then known as Cleveland's Negro newspaper. It asked voters to re-elect him to Council and began "A REAL FRIEND OF THE RACE, TRUE AND TRIED". Sacks lost.

Milton S Grossman  1932

Alumnus of Yale Law School (1918)
C
ouncilman in the Third District 1932-34. Democrat. Five councilman were to be elected in the district. Grossman came in fifth, just 15 votes ahead of the sixth ranked candidate.

Died 1937 
Cleveland Temple Memorial. Buried at Lake View Cemetery. 

 

Herman E Kohen  1932

(1891 - 1962)
Admitted to bar 1914
In 1916 participated in a benefit for Jewish war sufferers, along with Jewish judges and leading Jewish attorneys. Plain Dealer story
Served four terms on Council 1932-1940, representing the 4th district.
 
In November 1939 lost re-election in the 25th ward to Harry T Marshall.
Moved to Miami Beach in 1940 after his last term. Died there in 1962.
In a Cleveland Memory photo in 1934 as councilman, with Ernest Bohn.
See photo.
No burial information.

Photo 1931: courtesy City Council Archives

George Pillersdorf  1933

(1904 - 1973) served as Councilman 1933 - 1936
Graduate of Adelbert College and Law School of Western Reserve University. A Republican, he had served a special counsel to Ohio attorney general. President of Cuyahoga County Bar Association 1969-70. After service on City Council he practiced law. Ran (unsuccessfully) for Ohio Senate in 1940. In 1970-71 he served as a Judge of the Cleveland Municipal Court Judge, having been appointed by Republican Governor James Rhodes.

Pillersdorf, who lived near Shaker Square, was a founder and president of Balfour Lodge B'nai B'rith and a member of Fairmount Temple. Buried in Mayfield Cemetery.

photo: Cleveland Jewish News

Victor Cohen  1933

(1906 - 1970)
Born in Cleveland, youngest of nine children.
All-Ohio basketball player at Glenville HS,, star at Ohio Northern.

Played professional basketball.

Undergraduate and law degrees from Ohio Northern University.
Republican. Elected to City Council, ward 27, in 1933 at age 27 and was re-elected to seven more consecutive terms.
Board member of Cleveland Transit System/

Elected three times to six-year terms on Common Pleas bench, although he retired before completing third term.

Board member at Park Synagogue, buried in Park Synagogue Cemetery.

Photo: Plain Dealer obituary

Harry T Marshall  1937

1900-1986 Born in Russia
Graduate Marshall Law School of Baldwin Wallace College
Served nine terms on City Council, starting in 1937 ward 24
Judge, Court of Common Pleas, 1966-75 (appointed by Governor James Rhodes)
Previously member of Industrial Commission of Ohio, Parole Board
Ran for Ohio Attorney General in 1956
Member Park Synagogue
Buried in Bet Olam Cemetery. CJBDB
Obituary in Cleveland Jewish News

 

Photo 1950: courtesy City Council Archives

Harry Jaffe  1939

(1908-1999)  Ward 25  (Glenville)
Served 1939 - 1957, except for war years.

Born in Russia, he graduated from Ohio State and the U of Michigan and WRU Schools of Law (1933). Elected to City Council in 1939. He left for service as an Army officer in World War II and was re-elected while in the service. His younger brother Solomon served in his place. He returned to Council after the war. With Councilman Frank Carr he initiated the comprehensive Fair Employment Practices Ordinance.

When he left Council in 1957 he was appointed to the Cleveland Municipal Court by Republican Governor C. William O'Neil. In 1963 he became a Common Pleas Judge, retiring in 1997 at 89.
Buried in Bet Olam Cemetery. CJBDB

Read obituary from CJN Archive   1976 CJN story by Nina Liston

Photo 1950: courtesy City Council Archives


 Plain Dealer Jan 20, 1942

Solomon Jaffe  1942

1900 - 1980
Ward 25 (Glenville) Served 1942 - 1946.
Harry Jaffe's older brother, a 37-year old haberdasher and a political unknown, was appointed in 1942 to take his brother's place on City Council when Harry resigned to re-enter the Army. In 1944 "Sol" was elected in his own right. After Harry's return from the Army, Sol did not run and Harry was elected again.
No burial information. CJBDB   May be Miami Florida.

< Solomon (left) and Harry Jaffe, taken the day after Sol was named to take his brother Harry's seat representing ward 25.

Irwyn Metzenbaum  1949

(1912 - 2002)
Represented Ward 27 from January 1949 to January 1952

Older brother of Howard Metzenbaum
Once ran (unsuccessfully) for the Ohio Senate
Past president of former Jewish Recreational Council.

Owned and operated an income tax service on Broadway Avenue for 30 years. Owned a very successful radio distributorship.

Read obituary in the CJN Archive (2002)
Buried in the B'rith Emeth section of Hillcrest Cemetery.

Photo 1950: courtesy City Council Archives

Joseph Horwitz  1950

(1915 - March 1999)
Ward 10 (Mt Pleasant) councilman 1950 - 1958  Democrat
Served as first chairman of Council's Urban Redevelopment Committee
Last Jewish Cleveland City Councilman until Merle Gordon, below.
Served in World War II. Attorney. Active in veterans affairs.
Ohio State undergraduate and law school degrees.
Citizens League called him PREFERRED and commended him for sponsoring sound legislation such as fluoridation. Lost to Lowell Henry (D) in 1957, despite PD endorsement. Horwitz owned many slum properties and that was used against him. He then resided at 3578 East 154th Street. By 1961 he had moved to Beachwood where he ran for mayor. Member of Park Synagogue.
Obituary in CJN Archive  Buried in Bet Olam Cemetery. CJBDB

Photo 1950: courtesy City Council Archives

Jerome B Goldman  1952

(1897 - 1966)
Graduated from Baldwin-Wallace College and Cleveland Law School (now the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at CSU).
Served as police prosecutor.
An attorney specializing in criminal cases.
Republican.
Lived on Eddy Road. Served ward 27 (Glenville) four terms: 1952 to 1960. He was the last Jewish City Councilman until 1997.
Member of B'nai B'rith.
Died 1966. Services at Berkowitz-Kumin.
No burial information. CJBDB
 



Photo: Plain Dealer

Merle R Gordon  1997

(1970 -       )
Ward 15 councilwoman Feb 3, 1997 - May 23, 2005. Grew up in Lakewood and Beth Israel - The West Temple. After graduation from Hampshire College became an assistant to James Rokakis, councilman for Ward 15 (Old Brooklyn and Brooklyn Centre). In February 1997 he was elected County Treasurer and chose her, then 27, to complete his term. Elected by her ward in 1997 and again in 2001, she become chair of the Public Health Committee and the Community & Economic Development Committee. In May 2005 she stepped down to attend Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, receiving an MPA in 2006. The last ("latest"?) Jewish Cleveland City Council member, she works in healthcare. On June 13, 2016 she became Cleveland's Director of Public Health. Ms Gordon lives near Shaker Square.  Photo courtesy of Merle Gordon

 
 

Cleveland's 1951-52 Annual Report told of a growing, prosperous city with a population of 985,000 (391,000 as of 2013) in a county of 1,385,000 (now 1,263,000). Its back cover showed all 33 council members and is the source for our photos of Herman Finkle, Joseph Horwitz, Harry Jaffe, Harry Marshall and Irwyn Metzenbaum.
 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Martin Hauserman
Chief Archivist of the City of Cleveland, he has helped by responding to many emails and by giving us access to the archives.

Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
Links labeled ECH are from the online Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.

Paul Klein
Told us about six members overlooked in our first page:
Max Goodman, Milton Grossman, Arthur Halle, Isadore Kuttnauer, Ben Windecker and David J Zinner, and furnished pictures for several.

Michael Bennett
Publisher and Editor of the Cleveland Jewish News, for telling us we had missed Merle Gordon who had served from 1997 - 2005.

Merle Gordon
The most recent Jewish council member edited her "bio" and sent us a photo. (She is the only one on our list who has email.)

Gary Silverstein
One of the best fact-finders I know, who discovered former councilman Charles Sacks in September 2015 while searching obituaries in an old Jewish weekly.

Online Cleveland Plain Dealer
In November 2010 the Cleveland Public Library's website made the newspaper, back to 1845, available for online browsing and searching.

Cleveland Jewish News
The new Digital Archive, with all issues back to 1965, was helpful for some of the councilmen from the 1940s and 1950s. The older Jewish papers can now be search as well. 

Federation Staff
For researching burial information from their new burial database.

 

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