return to Home page The Memorial Tablets  
At the Jewish Orphan Asylum in Cleveland

The Jewish Orphan Asylum, founded in 1868, was one of the region's oldest, largest and most respected Jewish institutions.

B'nai Brith members in 15 states helped to support it. Its memorial program was a major source of funds. Such gifts and bequests were noted in the minutes of the Orphan Asylum Board of Trustees and were sometimes announced in the Jewish newspapers.

This announcement in the Jewish Independent of August 15, 1913 explains that a gift of $100 or more assured a perpetual yahrzeit, recited by the orphans.

Rabbi Samuel Wolfenstein PhD, (1841 - 1921), born and educated in Bohemia, was the director from 1878 to 1913.


Below: an image from "Inside Looking Out" by Gary Polster PhD
shows memorial hall, the tablets with the names of those to be remembered
on the anniversary of their death and a Ner Tamid (Eternal Light).
The marble steps are mentioned in a 1979 CJN story (below).

In 1927, on Woodland near East 51st and now named the Jewish Orphan Home, considered to be a more gentle name, it bought 30 acres at Belvoir Road and Fairmount Blvd and then built the campus we know as Bellefaire.

Reading the minutes for 1927 through 1930 finds no mention of these plaques. The trustees did decide that only communal areas were to have memorials or be named for donors. To be home-like, the cottages would have no dedications.

The minutes list new bequests of $100 and more, presumably for this memorial program.

Were these plaques moved to Bellefaire? Did a  book or list replace them? Did the custom of kaddish at weekly services continue?

The minutes and the books by Gary Polster and Michael Sharlitt (director 1922-1941) do not mention how the orphans were helped to honor the memory of their own deceased parents.


As shown on old postcards

Below: around 1900.
Looking south from Woodland Road  The site, once beyond Cleveland's city limits, by the 1920s had become industrial. The property extended south to the ravine known as Kingsbury Run.
Image source: offered for sale on eBay.

Below: around 1930.
Looking south toward Fairmount Blvd. The 30 acre property had five residential units, each with two "cottages" whose first floor was used for social, dining and staff purposes with the second floor for bedrooms. If the memorial tablets were moved, their most likely home would have been in the building in the center foreground: the B'nai B'rith Chapel which was remodeled in the 1990s and renamed the Wuliger Chapel.
Image source: Walter Leedy Collection, Michael Schwartz Library, CSU.
What the Bellefaire-JCB staff says

The memorial tablets and a yahrzeit book cannot be found. However the Torah scrolls and cabinet (Aron HaKodesh) from the old orphan home are still there in the building that is now called the Wuliger Center and used for staff training and community meetings.

Editor's note:
We hope to add a picture to this page soon.
AB  July 22, 2019