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Cleveland Jewish History Sources
The 16,000 index cards that were the sources for
Lloyd Gartner's book History of The Jews of Cleveland.

From 1954 - 1956 two research teams worked on gathering source information for a planned history of Jewish Cleveland. One team worked in the American Jewish History Center in New York, using the library of The Jewish Theological Seminary. The second team worked in Cleveland. Their work resulted in the creation of more than 16,000 4" by 6" index cards.

Years later historian Lloyd P. Gartner, who worked in Israel, used the cards to help write his 1978 book "History of The Jews of Cleveland".


Above: one of the 12 boxes of index cards
in the Research Library of the Cleveland History Center

The card shown above refers to an August 20, 1858 column in the American Israelite by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise. It is the source Gartner and others have used to describe Cleveland's first Jewish burial, which was on August 7, 1840.  Read our page on the burial of Kanweiler.

Once a relevant item in an old book, magazine or newspaper was found the technology of the day (1954) was used:

  • type a 4" x 6" index card,
  • copy the story (photocopying was used),
  • cut it to size and staple it to the card,
  • file the card, date within its category.

The more than 16,000 index cards are now in 15 boxes in the Jewish Archives at the WRHS Research Center and available to researchers.

A finding aid (detailed inventory) for this collection, named Cleveland Jewish History Sources, which also describes how the cards were created, was prepared by Dr. Louis Rosenblum in 1992.  It is MSS 4621. Like all WRHS Finding Aids it is now available online, and searchable through the OhioLINK online repository Access the online finding aid.

Many Clevelanders will remember the Cleveland-based researchers who prepared many of these cards more than 60 years ago: Rabbi Jack Herman (1922-1969) and Judah Rubinstein (1921-2003).

These cards came to the WRHS Archives in 1988 from Judah Rubinstein. That means they had been kept at Federation's offices and were available to Allan Peskin in his research for his 1973 work This Tempting Freedom.

Why are these cards important

They can help anyone researching our Jewish history, through 1954.

Imagine you want to study Cleveland's Jewish Community Council, an organization that existed from 1935 until 1951 when it merged with the Jewish Welfare Federation creating The Jewish Community Federation. As the Finding Aid shows, there are index cards for this topic. They can give you a good start.

Another key research tool today is the Cleveland Jewish News online archive. This free and open site includes our Jewish papers of that era: the Jewish Review & Observer, Jewish Independent and Yiddishe Velte.

August 4 2018

Update July 21, 2023
Recent interest in the acquisition of our first Jewish burial ground, Willet Street Cemetery, its deed recorded on August 7, 1840, and the first burial there on the same day, of Alexander Kahnweiler (Kanweiler) has raised several questions. These events were 50 years before our first Cleveland Jewish newspapers. I am about to visit the Cleveland History Center to use those index cards! My hope is to add to our page on the first burial.

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