200 years of history is difficult to condense into one presentation, but Cincinnati has a resident scholar who is more than up to the task. Dr. Gary Zola, Rabbi, Ph.D. recently spoke at the Abraham Moss Society Reception about the Jewish Cincinnati Bicentennial. You can watch and listen below and find out more information about Dr. Zola here.
Join Dr. Gary Zola, Rabbi, Ph.D. as he guides you through 200 years of Jewish Cincinnati's history.
Below is a compilation of milestones related to our history over the last 200 years. Each milestone weaves Jewish history within the greater context of our community's development, and our country at large.
1817 | Arrival of Joseph Jonas, who claimed to be the first Jew to settle in Cincinnati.
1821 | Land is purchased from Nicholas Longworth on Chestnut and Central to establish the Chestnut Street Cemetery, which was used for Jewish burials until 1849. In 1873, a brick wall with iron gate was added. The Chestnut St. Cemetery is the oldest Jewish cemetery west of the Alleghenies.
1824 | K.K. Bene Israel (now Rockdale Temple), the oldest Jewish congregation west of the Alleghenies, is officially established. In 1836, its first synagogue building was built at Sixth and Broadway with contributions from the local community (Jews and gentiles) and Jewish congregations in other cities.
1842 | Solomon “Samuel” Fechheimer opens a small dry goods company that will evolve into The Fechheimer Brothers Company which, to this day, manufactures uniforms for public safety workers.
1850 | The first Jewish Hospital in America is founded to provide health care for Jews in need. From its earliest days, the Jewish Hospital served people of every faith.
1854 | Isaac Mayer Wise is given a lifetime contract to assume the pulpit of the then traditional congregation, K.K. Bene Yeshurun (now the Isaac M. Wise Temple). He envisioned a new form of American Judaism that would modernize traditional Jewish customs and observances.
1854 | The Israelite (now American Israelite) newspaper is founded by Isaac M. Wise to promote his ideas of American Judaism in Cincinnati and throughout the country.
1854 | Bloch Publishing Company is founded by Edward H. Bloch (Wise’s brother-in-law).
1866 | Plum Street Temple is built at the corner of 8th and Plum to house the growing Bene Yeshurun congregation. It still stands, a mix of Moorish and Gothic styles, opposite St. Peter in Chains cathedral and catty-corner to City Hall.
1868 | Charles & Maximilian Fleischmann, immigrants from Moravian Silesia, created the first commercially produced yeast in Cincinnati.
1873 | Establishment of the first Jewish congregational association in America, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (known today as the Union for Reform Judaism). This Union is the oldest Jewish congregational union. The Union’s purpose is to support American congregations and to provide financial support for HUC.
1875 | Founding of Hebrew Union College (HUC) in the basement of K.K. Bene Israel, to educate and ordain American rabbis. HUC moves above ground in 1881 to a large house on West Sixth Street. Funds are raised to build the current campus on Clifton Avenue across from the University of Cincinnati which opens in 1912.
1877 | Lipman "Lip" Pike is the first Jewish Cincinnati Reds player and captain.
1882 | Justus Thorner is the first Jewish owner of the Cincinnati Reds.
1883 | First four rabbis educated in the USA are ordained by HUC at the Plum Street Temple.
1883 | Elias Kahn, a German-Jewish immigrant, establishes Kahn’s Meat Packing in Cincinnati.
1889 | The Jewish Home for the Aged and Infirm is dedicated.
1889 | The first and oldest rabbinical association, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, is established.
1888 | Dov Behr Manischewitz, a Lithuanian-born rabbi and businessman, launches the Manischewitz Company, which started as a small matzah bakery in the basement of his home in Cincinnati. By the early 20th century, they were shipping mass-produced kosher products throughout the world.
1896 | Founding of United Jewish Charities which centralized responsibility for several individual charities including: The Ladies’ Sick Poor Society, The Ladies Sewing Society, The Foster Home Association, The Kitchen Garden Association, and The Industrial School for Boys.
1896 | Irwin Krohn and Samuel Fechheimer found the Krohn-Fechheimer Shoe Company, which produces Red Cross shoes.
1896 | Jacob Frank and his brothers Emil and Charles establish Frank’s Spice & Tea Company.
1900 | Two prominent Jews run against one another in the hope of becoming mayor of Cincinnati – the distinguished lawyer, Alfred M. Cohen & the son of the founder of Fleischmann’s Yeast, Julius. Fleischmann wins the election (and is later re-elected). He is the youngest mayor in Cincinnati history.
1902 | The establishment of Losantiville Country Club, in response to the unavailability of membership for Jews at established clubs of the time
1903 | Irvin F. Westheimer befriends a young boy in Cincinnati, OH; seeds are formed for the start of Big Brothers (and later Big Sisters) movement.
1913 | Union Museum (currently the HUC-JIR Skirball Museum) is founded at HUC by then president, Kaufmann Kohler.
1915 | The Psychopathic Institute is established at the Jewish Hospital, the first inpatient facility for the study and treatment of behavior disorders in children,
1916 | Setty Swarts Kuhn establishes Cincinnati’s Better Housing League.
1917 | The Helen S. Trounstine Foundation is established to memorialize the 27-year-old founder of Cincinnati’s Juvenile Protective Association who died unexpectedly in 1916. In 1931, the Foundation became a division of the Community Chest, the predecessor of the United Way.
1920 | Frank’s Red Hot Sauce goes on the market.
1924 | Murray Seasongood founds the Charter Party, driving out the corrupt party boss George B. Cox and his political machine. Seasongood is elected mayor and is credited with instituting the city manager form of government, with city employees hired on merit rather than favoritism. The amphitheater in Eden Park bears his name.
1925 | Philip M. Meyers, a prominent UC football hero, organizes Fashion Frocks, a pioneering enterprise that sells products door-to-door. In the early 1950s, Fashion Frocks becomes one of the first businesses in Cincinnati to integrate its workforce by training and hiring three black women.
1927 | The first issue of Every Friday is published in Cincinnati by Samuel M. Schmidt.
1929 | Sidney Weil becomes majority owner of the Cincinnati Reds.
1931 | Eliezer Silver, the president of Agudath HaRabbonim, the oldest organization of Orthodox rabbis in the US (est.1901), assumes the pulpit of Kneseth Israel Congregation in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he remained until his death.
1931 | Jewish Community Center Association is formed from the merger of the Young Men-Young Women’s Hebrew Association and the Wise-Rockdale Center. Within 12 months it has over 1000 members.
1937 | Eden Park Greenhouse is renamed in honor of Irwin M. Krohn.
1939 | Dr. J. Louis Ransohoff, Rabbi Abraham Franzblau, Julius Holzberg, Dr. Jacob Rader Marcus, and Henry C. Segal establish what would become the Jewish Community Relations Council.
1939 | Nearly 200 youth delegates from across the nation gathered in Cincinnati to establish the National Federation of Temple Youth, the nation's oldest federated organization of synagogue youth.
1940 | Standard Textile is established by Charles Heiman, a Holocaust survivor and refugee, as a small business based out of the Heiman family’s third floor apartment in Cincinnati. The company grows quickly and in 1945 expanded to an old shoe factory in downtown Cincinnati.
1943 | Sydney 'Syd' Nathan founds King Records.
1943 | Eliezer Silver organizes a mass protest of more than 400 Orthodox rabbis in Washington D.C. to urge the US government to do more to save European Jews from the Nazi inferno.
1945 | David Lazarus becomes president of Federated Department Stores (now Macy’s) and moves the headquarters to Cincinnati.
1947 | Jacob Rader Marcus establishes the American Jewish Archives on the campus of Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati.
1947 | David Frisch acquires a franchise to open the first Frisch's Big Boy Drive-In restaurant, Big Boy One, on Central Parkway north of downtown Cincinnati.
1949 | Cincinnati Hillel is established on Straight Street by a group of students and sponsors to provide a center for Jewish life to University of Cincinnati students.
1958 | Yavneh Day School is founded by a group of parents interested in creating a high quality dual education of English and Hebrew with special emphasis on spoken Hebrew and the study of Modern Israel. In 2008 the school is renamed Rockwern Academy after receiving a generous donation from the Rockwern Charitable Foundation.
1961 | HUC-JIR President, Nelson Glueck, delivers the benediction at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. In 1963, he appears on the cover of Time Magazine for his work as a Biblical Archaeologist.
1967 | The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati is formed to centralize educational, community relations, and social welfare agencies within the Jewish community.
1972 | HUC-JIR ordains Sally Priesand, the first woman rabbi ordained by the faculty of a rabbinical seminary.
1985 | HUC-JIR President, Alfred Gottschalk, delivers one of the prayers at Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration.
1989 | Mayerson Hall is dedicated on the campus of HUC to house the Study of Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems and provides a multi-purpose auditorium and conference room.
1990 | Cincinnati Skirball Museum opens in Mayerson Hall on the historic Clifton campus of HUC-JIR, after operating in other locations on the campus as the Gallery of Art and Artifacts. The Skirball preserves and interprets a rich collection of fine art and artifacts that tell the vibrant story of the Cincinnati Jewish community and global Jewish history, religion, and culture through thoughtful core and temporary exhibitions and engaging public programs for visitors of all faiths.
1995 | As a result of The Jewish Health system joining the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati is formed to benefit health care initiatives and Jewish causes in Greater Cincinnati and throughout the world.
1995 | Stanley J. Aronoff Center for the Arts opens, named for the former president of the Ohio Senate.
1997 | The Orthodox Jewish Home for the Aged and the Home for the Jewish Aged (Reform-affiliated) merge to form Cedar Village.
2000 | Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education is formed by the Combined Generations of the Holocaust of Greater Cincinnati on the campus of HUC-JIR. It is re-located to the Cincinnati Museum Center in 2019 and named the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust and Humanity Center.
2003 | Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Arts opens and is the first U.S. museum designed by a woman, Zaha Hadid. It is hailed by the New York Times as "the most important American building to be completed since the cold war."
2008 | The Mayerson Jewish Community Center opens in Amberley on a large campus adjacent to Rockdale Temple.
2008 | The Jewish Family Service Food Pantry began in the basement of Golf Manor Synagogue. In 2013, it was moved to the HUC-JIR campus and named, The George & Anne Heldman Food Pantry.
2012 | Jewish Vocational Service and Easterseals Work Resource Center combine to provide services to help children and adults with disabilities and/or special needs as well as support to their families.
2013 | Barbash Family Vital Support Center is established on the Cincinnati campus of HUC-JIR to help all those with pressing needs access a range of resources that will improve their situation.
2015 | Rosenthal Center at the Cincinnati Art Museum opens thanks to a generous donation from Lois and Richard Rosenthal. The donation also allows for completely free access to the Museum.
2017 | Ish, a new arts and cultural festival, debuts in Washington Park.
2021 | Cincinnati celebrates 200 years of Jewish communal life in the Queen City!
Created by the Cincinnati Jewish Bicentennial Steering Committee and The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.