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The Cleveland Monkey Trial

The Cleveland Jewish Center Mixed Seating Dispute of the 1920s

by Ira Robinson PhD


The 2017 issue of The American Jewish Archives Journal includes Professor Ira Robinson's study of what students of Cleveland's Jewish history may know as the Cleveland Jewish Center dispute over mixed seating of the 1920s. We show a brief summary, followed by a link to read the entire essay on the AJA website, and some Learn More links.

In the years of disagreement, which concluded with litigation at several levels, that are discussed in Professor Robinson's essay, "Cleveland Jewish Center" was the generally used name for the Anshe Emeth Beth Tefilo Congregation. It was then on East 105th Street in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood. Since its 1950 move to the site of the Park School on Mayfield Road in Cleveland Heights the congregation has used the English name Park Synagogue.

Arnold Berger September 6, 2017

"A “Jewish Monkey Trial”: The Cleveland Jewish Center and the Emerging Borderline between Orthodox and Conservative Judaism in 1920s North America

Ira Robinson

In the 1920s, the world of Orthodox Judaism was shaken by a movement that challenged traditional synagogues to “modernize” themselves by abolishing the separate seating of men and women. This article will analyze one of the most prominent cases—that of the Jewish Center of Cleveland, Ohio, which adopted mixed seating in 1925. A dissenting minority within the congregation refused to concede and brought the case to court. This article brings to bear extensive archival documentation preserved by the family of Abraham A. Katz, one of the prime instigators of the lawsuit. It also contains the complete transcript of the expert testimony of some of the most prominent American Orthodox leaders of the era, whose testimony and cross-examination yields much information of importance."

Source: Contents page of the American Jewish Archives Journal

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