return to Home page  The Story of the Yizkor Plaque in the Auditorium
of the Maltz Performing Arts Center
 
     

Did you know there was a Zionist Pavilion in the 1939 Worlds Fair?

The New York World's Fair, which opened in 1939 and closed in October 1940, had a Jewish Palestine Pavilion. The exhibit, whose presence had been opposed by many, told the Zionist story to four million visitors. It was nearly a decade before the State of Israel was recognized by the world.

In 1941 a precious remnant of that exhibit was installed in the Silver Sanctuary of The Temple - Tifereth Israel in University Circle. It remains there today, now part of the auditorium of the Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center of Case Western Reserve University.

It is very appropriate for it to be there in the place where Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver preached, for it was Silver who led the mobilization of American and world support for the founding of the State of Israel.


The exhibit's politically correct official name was The Jewish Palestine Pavilion.
Millions of Jewish visitors, as they approached the building, must have felt proud
to read "Eretz Israel" (Land of Israel) and to see the symbols of the Twelve Tribes.

Photo from Wikipedia entry on New York 1939 - 1940 World's Fair
 

Walk through the lobby of the Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center of Case Western Reserve University and enter the auditorium. Then look to your right. On the wall in the back (southeast) corner of the room you will see a basalt plaque with the Hebrew word "Yizkor" (Remember) above the words IN MEMORIAM. 

Below this plaque was once the memorial book in which Temple members would have inscribed the names of deceased family members. The book, enclosed in a glass case for protection, would be open to the page for the current day. At services each week the names of those who had died the current week and those who had died that week in past years - "yahrzeits" - would be read. Mourners and the congregation would stand and recite the "kaddish" (memorial prayer).
 

The Memorial Book is now at The Temple - Tifereth Israel in Beachwood, but the plaque remains. It is embedded in the wall of the sanctuary and could not be moved safely.

The plaque with its Eternal Light had been crafted in Israel and had been on display in the Jewish Palestine Pavilion in the 1939 - 1940 World's Fair in New York.

Minnie Klausner, mother of Temple member Nathan Klausner, a manufacturer and Zionist leader, died in June 1940. The Worlds Fair closed on October 27, 1940. At the request of Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver Nathan Klausner made a gift to The Temple to cover the costs of obtaining the plaque and installing it in the wall at the rear of the sanctuary, where it can be seen today.

The dedication under the Yizkor plaque reads as follows:

IN REVEREND AND LOVING MEMORY OF
MINNIE KLAUSNER
1864 - 1940
GIVEN BY HER SON
NATHAN KLAUSNER

Looking for more on the plaque at the Worlds Fair  

Fortunately the 144 page souvenir book has been preserved online. We show at the right the cover of the souvenir book.

Two parts of the souvenir book are shown below. First is the artist's rendition of the entrance where, also at the right of the entrance, the Yizkor plaque would have hung. Second is the book's text which tells of a Hebrew inscription (Yizkor) and an Eternal Light, but there is no picture of the Yizkor plaque. The last image is a photo taken at the opening of the Jewish Palestine Pavilion. We see the Hechalutz Zionist youth dance troupe and behind them the first visitors to the Pavilion. Unfortunately the photo does not show the wall with our Yizkor plaque.

How did Nathan Klausner learn that the Yizkor plaque was available? When was it installed? We worked with many Klausner family members when developing this site's section on the family of Sam and Minnie Klausner. Perhaps one of Nathan's descendants can tell us.

Arnold Berger, editor

 

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Below: the Memorial Plaque as visitors saw it

In May 2001 Professor Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, a scholar of Yiddish and Jewish studies, posted a page about the Jewish Palestine Pavilion on the New York University website. Somehow the page survived and at last we can show an image of the Yizkor Memorial Plaque as visitors would have seen it in 1939 and 1940.
 

 

When was the plaque installed?

The October 19, 1941 issue of The TEMPLE BULLETIN in its GIFTS and BEQUESTS column mentioned the gift of the Memorial Plaque in what it called "the Memory Corner". As the Bulletin did not publish in the summer months, we assume that the plaque was installed some time during the summer of 1941.


 

Beatrice Klausner Gray talks about her father Nathan Klausner and the Yizkor plaque

October 2017 Bea Gray (third from right) tells family members about her father's gift of the Yizkor plaque.

Bea Gray remembers that her father Nathan Klausner so admired Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver that the family joined The Temple in 1929. For Nathan that was a leap from the Orthodox Linn Drive Synagogue (the Tetiever shul) to the Classic Reform Temple, though he remained a member of the Linn Drive "shul" until his death. He and his wife Mary had seats on the main floor of the sanctuary and often attended services. Bea remembers starting Sunday school there at age 8 and being confirmed at The Temple.

How did her father knew the plaque was available? He didn't. Rabbi Silver told him it was and that The Temple would make all the arrangements. So Nathan  wrote a check - presumably a large one - to The Temple.

How did Rabbi Silver know Nathan Klausner could readily make such a gift?

Soon after joining The Temple Nathan purchased two seats in the center of the main floor of the sanctuary for $1,000. That was twenty times a year's dues and an act that would mark him as a man of means.

Further, Cleveland's weekly English language Jewish papers of the period (Jewish Review & Observer and Jewish Independent) mention Nathan in several fund raising campaigns for relief of Jewish refugees from Germany and other good causes. He had also been a trustee of the Cleveland Zionist Society whose president was Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver.

 


Nathan Klausner at 43

 

Nathan Klausner   (1890 - 1945)

Nathan was born near Tetiev, Ukraine in 1890. His father Sam taught him to be a cooper (barrel maker). Nathan came to Cleveland at age 18. He was a co-founder of Klausner Cooperage and was its president. By 1940 the company had more than 200 employees.

Nathan died suddenly on February 8, 1945 in Florida, only 55, leaving his wife Mary, daughters Mrs. Beatrice Gray, Doris, Arlene (later Mrs. Marvin Wagman) and Evelyn (later Mrs. Don Casselman); one grandchild; also his father Samuel Klausner; brothers Ben, Jake, Abe, Harry and sisters Mrs. Mary Klotzman, Mrs. Sarah Lewis and Mrs. Rose Kreisman.

After a funeral service in the Mayfield Cemetery Chapel, he was interred in the Mayfield Cemetery mausoleum. Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver officiated. Later that year his name was entered in the Memorial Book that was on display just below the Yizkor plaque he had obtained for The Temple.

 

To learn more, visit these pages:


Thanks to Jordan Davis (Maltz Performing Arts Center), to Nate Arnold (leader of tours of old Jewish Cleveland), to Lanny Yelsky (Maltz Museum docent) for the photo of the Yizkor memorial plaque, to Bea Klausner Gray for her clear recollections, to Lisa Klausner for the picture of the luncheon, to archivist Jane Rothstein (The Temple-Tifereth Israel) and to Professor Kirshenblatt-Gimblett for her page on the pavilion.
 
10/20/17
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