As Cleveland’s Jewish federation ponders a move to the suburbs, a group of civic activists is urging the organization’s board to keep its headquarters downtown.
A loose coalition of players in Cleveland’s Jewish and civic life will meet with the board of the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland this week and urge it not to follow the city’s Jewish population and institutions out of the city to the eastern suburbs. The activists are warning that moving out of Cleveland would be a blow to the struggling city and could alienate the civic establishment and young Jews alike.
“The Federation’s location in the City of Cleveland makes a crucial statement that the Jewish community is an integral part of the fabric of life in Cleveland,” said a statement released by the ad-hoc committee. “To abandon that position could be considered by some as a betrayal of our long-standing commitment to the quality of life of our fellow citizens and to our own best interests in intergroup relationships.”
Like many industrial Midwestern cities, Cleveland has been losing jobs and population for decades, and much of the middle class, including the Jewish population, has moved to the suburbs. Meanwhile, the federation has decided that its headquarters, built in 1965, is cramped and outdated.
Harvey Freiman, a federation vice president, said that the federation is planning to build a new headquarters, but that it has not made any decision between downtown and the eastern suburbs.
The effort to keep the federation downtown has garnered the support of some of the biggest names in Cleveland Jewish philanthropy. The group’s informal leader, David Goldberg, is chairman of Amtrust Bank and the brother of former federation chairman Robert Goldberg (who is not involved in the effort).