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Tikkun Olam for Cleveland's Jewish community

Marc Lefkowitz  |  08/22/08 @ 11:45am

A group of more than 30 influential members of the Jewish community, including some of the area's biggest developers and powerful families, have formed an Ad Hoc Committee to present their vision of a renewed Jewish presence in Cleveland.

The city is where many of their forebears earned their fortunes, built grand temples and opened hundreds of mom-and-pop shops along streets like Kinsman, Woodland, and E. 105th Street.

Some are members of the board of trustees of the Jewish Community Federation, which stirred a storm of controversy in 2007 when it proposed abandoning Cleveland, where tens of thousands of Jews called home and found opportunity from the late 19th through the first half of the 20th century.

It was the JCF who hired world-renowned architect Edward D. Stone-designer of Radio City Music Hall, The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.-in 1965 to build their striking headquarters on Euclid Avenue and E. 18th Street.

The Ad Hoc Committee is trying to change the minds of a faction of board members who want to move the Federation to the eastern suburbs. They counter that the current JCF Headquarters should anchor a new campus of Jewish life downtown, and that trends point to a renaissance of interest among young professionals and empty nesters moving back in. The committee cites the successful campus and buzz of activity found in café, meeting spaces and retail shopping developed recently by Trinity Cathedral just east on Euclid Avenue between E. 22nd and E. 24th streets. In between Trinity and the JCF, Dave Kaufman, co-owner of Brothers Printing is investing millions of dollars on Collegetown, two blocks of Euclid that will see new retail and swanky loft apartments and condos.

One of the proposals of the Ad Hoc Committee is to conduct a survey to determine the opinion of members of the Jewish community on this issue. The committee wants to see more transparency in evaluating the potential of a downtown campus, and invite guest speakers representing all sides of the issue to make their case, according to one source.

"From New York to Los Angeles and Seattle and Miami, central city leadership is focused on improving the attractiveness and quality of their downtown areas as residential communities," the committee wrote in its presentation to the board. "Changing demographic conditions as well as the importance of educated human capital for economic expansion has made downtown life a policy issue for governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. There is growing acceptance of the view that sustaining economic growth will require attention to the development and redevelopment of downtown areas."

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