Inside Looking Out: The Cleveland Jewish Orphan Asylum, 1868-1924

Inside Looking Out: The Cleveland Jewish Orphan Asylum, 1868-1924

Inside Looking Out: The Cleveland Jewish Orphan Asylum, 1868-1924

Inside Looking Out: The Cleveland Jewish Orphan Asylum, 1868-1924

Excerpt

Set back a considerable distance from the Woodland Avenue business district and separated from the surrounding ghetto homes by a high, iron spiked fence, the imposing brick building offered little hint of what life stirred within its walls. The immaculately groomed green lawn and ornately designed marble fountain in front of the stately structure impressed passersby, yet unless they noticed the iron bars on the basement windows, they would never know that five hundred orphans lived inside. Spread out over seven acres of land near Fifty-fifth Street and Woodland Avenue, the Cleveland Jewish Orphan Asylum during its first fifty years (1868-1918) was the home for 3,581 mostly immigrant eastern European boys and girls.

In 1929 the orphanage was relocated to a thirty-acre site in University Heights, an eastern suburb of Cleveland, where it was built as a cottagetype institution and renamed Bellefaire. Bellefaire continued as an orphanage for Jewish children until 1943, when it became a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed children. Today Bellefaire provides psychotherapy, academic training, and a therapeutic living environment for emotionally disturbed children regardless of their ethnic, religious, or racial background.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, upper- and upper middle-class German Jews in Cleveland attempted to Americanize orphans of eastern European immigrants at the Jewish Orphan Asylum (JOA). Cleveland's acculturated German Jews, who believed they were morally and culturally superior, tried to mold and strengthen the charac-

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