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More About Abba Hillel Silver's Gift to the Farmers

Banquet Given in Honor of Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver by the Jewish Farmers of Geneva Ohio    Labor Day  September 3, 1928
Photo by H. Koss    Courtesy of the Western Reserve Historical Society

$1,000 towards a Jewish Center in Geneva

The Geneva Free Press story of September 4, 1928 (courtesy of the Ashtabula County Library, Ric Consiglio) tells us that the Jewish farmer families at the Labor Day 1928 banquet were told of Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver's gift of $1,000 toward a Jewish Center.

Marc Raphael, Abba Hillel Silverís biographer, tells us that Silver was very generous to those who came to him for financial help, but the sum of $1,000 then was more than a monthís salary, so it not likely to have been a personal gift from the rabbi.

The minutes of the Trustee meetings of The Temple, Silver's congregation, for 1927 - 28 have no mention of the gift nor of a letter of thanks from the Geneva Jewish farmers.

A search of Cleveland's Jewish newspapers from 1927 - 1930 finds no mention of a Jewish center for the farmer families.

Could the gift have been from the Bureau of Jewish Education, which Silver helped found in 1924? Not likely as the BJE had to raise its own funds and supported only local programs. It would not get funds from the annual Federation campaign until 1931.

Then who gave the $1,000 and for what purpose?

The Abba Hillel Silver archives at the Western Reserve Historical Society are s great resource for research. They are nearly 100 lineal feet of papers, organized in nearly 6,000 folders and available on more than 235 reels of microfilm.

The detailed descriptions (Finding Aids) of the WRHS archives are online.

A search for farmers found a folder on the Geneva Jewish Farmers. The Finding Aid entry is shown below.


What the Silver archives tell us

A visit to the Research Library of the WRHS allowed me to read the microfilm that held the contents of folder 646. The documents showed that the gift was the result of a personal solicitation by Rabbi Silver.

This first letter, from the Farmers Association in New York City, thanks Rabbi Silver for the gift "from the congregation of which you are the spiritual head." The rabbi may have been solicited because he led Clevelandís Bureau of Jewish Education.

It is not likely that Silver thought that The Temple would make the gift.  The Temple, in those days, was adjusting to the costs of a new building and its first assistant rabbi. It was even late in paying its dues to the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

Silver sent his gift of $100 and another donorís check for $100, to Joseph Golomb, a grape farmer in Geneva.

He reached out to leaders in the two Reform congregations: Alfred Benesch (The Temple) and Nathan Loesser (Euclid Avenue Temple). They asked others and forwarded their checks to Silver who sent them on to Geneva.

The gift was completed early in January 1928, nine months before the Labor Day banquet at which it was first reported. The aim was not for a community center. It was simply to hire a Hebrew School teacher for the children of the Jewish farmer families.

The gifts are an admirable expression of "Klal Israel" (Jewish Unity or Jewish Peoplehood). Here are Reform Jews, children of "pioneers" from German-speaking Central Europe, supporting the traditional Jewish education of the children of Eastern European Jewish immigrants.

Yasher Koach!

The Research Library in the Cleveland History Center of the Western Reserve Historical Society, in University Circle.

Photo from WRHS website.

The six images below are from the Abba Hillel Silver Archive
at the Western Reserve Historical Society

November 23, 1927
Letter from The Jewish Agricultural Society to Rabbi Silver

The JAS was supported by (Baron) Maurice de Hirsch, who had made his fortune
building the Orient Express Railway in southeast Europe.
Samson Liph and Gabriel Davidson attended and spoke at the Geneva banquet.

December 10, 1927
Letter from Nathan Loeser to Abba Hillel Silver
Nathan Loeser served as president of Anshe Chesed, then the Euclid Avenue Temple and today Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple..
Named Partner Edgar Hahn was the son of Rabbi Aaron Hahn
who left The Temple in 1892 to practice law.
Today the firm Hahn + Loeser has offices in six cities.

December 23, 1927
Letter from Rabbi Silver to Nathan Loeser
Silver reminds Nathan Loeser of the need for funds soon.
Silver's letters have no letterhead because they are carbon copies

December 31, 1927
Letter from Nathan Loeser to Rabbi Silver
Nathan Loeser sends his own check and those of four others,

January 4, 1928
Letter from Rabbi Silver to Alfred Benesch
Attorney Alfred Benesch was a Temple trustee. We believe that he knew Silver from B'nai Brith activities and in 1917 brought him to the attention of The Temple trustees who, on hearing him speak offered him the pulpit of The Temple.

January 5, 1928
Letter from Joseph Golomb to Abba Hillel Silver
Geneva grape grower Joseph Golomb's letter of thanks is in Yiddish and Hebrew and is dated 12 Tivet 5688. Yiddish was Lithuanian-born Silver's first language and was spoken in his family home on New York's Lower East Side.

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