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Cleveland's First Jewish Burial

Elchasnador Kanweiler  •  August 7, 1840

The record for Kanweiler in Access Jewish Cleveland's online burial database

Introduction to an Untold Tale of Loving-Kindness

After nearly 180 years of weathering, his headstone in Willet Street Cemetery still shows hands raised in the priestly blessing -- a symbol that the Bavarian-born Elchasnador Kanweiler was a Kohen (a member of the priestly class).

He was an itinerant peddler who died in a rural area. Citizens there, knowing he was Jewish and that there were Jews in Cleveland, brought his body here in the hope that his brethren would look after him. It may have arrived on Thursday August 6, 1840. Our small Jewish community did not yet own a burial ground.

Somehow our first Jewish settlers were able to complete the cemetery purchase and bury Kanweiler  before sundown Friday, which began Shabbat and the most solemn day of the Jewish year: Tisha b'Av.

I tell the tale of this communal act of loving-kindness in the hope that it will be remembered and re-told.

Arnold Berger

August 21, 2018     more to come.

photo Jeffrey Morris   


The first published account of the burial of Kanweiler is in the oldest surviving American English-language Jewish weekly, The Israelite.  Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise takes the train from Cincinnati to Cleveland, spends a week here and writes a report. It includes I. M. Wise's account of Simson Thorman's memory of events of 18 years earlier.

The Israelite August 20, 1858


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