Timeline of Jewish history in Cincinnati


1817 | Arrival of Joseph Jonas, who claimed to be the first Jew to settle in Cincinnati.

Joseph Jonas
Joseph Jonas

1821 | Land at Chestnut and Central is purchased from Nicholas Longworth to establish the Chestnut Street Cemetery, used for Jewish burials until 1849. The cemetery, in the West End, 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 local Jews and gentiles and from 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.

Jewish Hospital
Jewish Hospital

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 envisions a new form of American Judaism – later known as Reform Judaism – that will modernize traditional Jewish customs and observances.

Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise
Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise

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 Eighth 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.

Plum Street Temple
Plum Street Temple

1868 | Charles and Maximilian Fleischmann, immigrants from Moravian Silesia, create the first commercially produced yeast in Cincinnati.

1873 | The first Jewish congregational association in America, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (known today as the Union for Reform Judaism), is established. The Union’s purpose is to support American congregations and to provide financial support for Hebrew Union College. 

First HUC classroom
First HUC classroom

1875 | Hebrew Union College (HUC) is founded 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, which opens in 1912.

First HUC building
First HUC building

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.

Elias Kahn
Elias Kahn

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, it was shipping mass-produced kosher products throughout the world.

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.

1893 | The Phoenix Club (Samuel Hannaford, architect) is built on the corner of Ninth and Race Streets to house the first Jewish businessmen’s organization in the region.

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 and Julius Fleischmann, son of Charles, a founder of Fleischmann’s Yeast. Fleischmann wins the election and is later re-elected. At 29, he is the youngest mayor in Cincinnati history.

1902 | Losantiville Country Club is established in response to the exclusion of Jews from established clubs of the time.

Irvin Westheimer
Irvin Westheimer

1903 | Irvin F. Westheimer befriends a young boy in Cincinnati; 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 its president, Kaufmann Kohler.

Jewish Hospital Psychiatric Institute
Jewish Hospital Psychiatric Institute

1915 | The Psychopathic Institute, the first inpatient facility for the study and treatment of behavior disorders in children, is established at the Jewish Hospital.

1916 | Setty Swarts Kuhn establishes Cincinnati’s Better Housing League.

Setty S. Kuhn
Setty S. Kuhn

1917 | The Helen S. Trounstine Foundation is established. In 1931,  the Foundation becomes a division  of the Community Chest, 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 political machine left behind by party boss George B. “Boss” Cox. Seasongood is elected mayor the next year 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.

Murray Seasongood
Murray Seasongood

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.

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, where he remained until his death in 1968.

Eliezer Silver
Eliezer Silver

1931 | Jewish Community Center Association is formed by 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, who spent 25 years as a commissioner on the Cincinnati Park Board.

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 gather 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 Dachau escapee 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 expands to an  old shoe factory downtown.

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. 

Jacob Rader Marcus
Jacob Rader Marcus

1947 | Jacob Rader Marcus establishes the American Jewish Archives on the campus of Hebrew Union College.

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 parents interested in creating a high-quality dual education in English and Hebrew with special emphasis on spoken Hebrew and the study of Modern Israel. In 2008 the school is renamed Rockwern Academy after a generous donation from the Rockwern Charitable Foundation.

1960 | 180,000 Cincinnati school children receive the oral polio vaccine pioneered by Albert Sabin at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, effectively eliminating polio in Cincinnati and paving the way to worldwide eradication of the disease.

Nelson Glueck
Nelson Glueck

1963 | HUC-JIR President Nelson Glueck 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. 

Rabbi Sally Priesand
Rabbi Sally Priesand

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. The accompanying art gallery is named for patrons Alice and Harris Weston.

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 relocated to the Cincinnati Museum Center in 2019 and named the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust and Humanity Center.

Contemporary Arts Center
Contemporary Arts Center (Photo by Brian Kurtz)

2003 | The 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.” Another gift by the Rosenthal Foundation to the Cincinnati Art Museum eliminates the general admission fee, making it free to all. 

2008 | The Mayerson Jewish Community Center opens in Amberley on a large campus adjacent to Rockdale Temple. 

Mayerson JCC
Mayerson JCC (Photo courtesy Mayerson JCC)

2008 | The Jewish Family Service Food Pantry begins in the basement of Golf Manor Synagogue. In 2013, it moves to the HUC-JIR campus and is 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.

2015 | Rosenthal Education Center for families at the Cincinnati Art Museum opens thanks to a donation from Lois and Richard Rosenthal. 

Richard Rosenthal
Richard Rosenthal (Photo by Tina Gutierrez for Movers & Makers)

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.

Timeline created by the Cincinnati Jewish Bicentennial Steering Committee and The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives in cooperation with Movers & Makers. This is a glimpse at the past 200 years and not meant to be comprehensive. 

Images are courtesy of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, except where noted.

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