TOLEDO, city in Ohio, U.S. The estimated population (2005) was 315,000, with the Jewish population somewhat less than 4,000 (5,900 in the metropolitan area), approximately 6,000 fewer than cited in the 1972 Encyclopaedia Judaica. Local legend has it that the name of the city, borrowed from the Spanish city, was suggested by the Jewish citizens as it derives from the Hebrew toledot which connotes history and continuity.
The history of the development of the Toledo Jewish community began with a handful of German and Dutch Jews who arrived via Cincinnati. They were joined by several Hungarian Jews. In 1837 when the city was chartered there were several Jewish families. Toledo and Cincinnati were connected by a series of canals and the local Jews were largely in commerce with goods that were ferried from Cincinnati. Happily, there was no need for a Jewish cemetery until 1867 when the Hebrew Benevolent and Cemetery Association was founded. The first cemetery was interdenominational. Since then, the three congregations have created separate burial grounds for their members. There is a ḥevra kaddisha that serves all the Jews of the community.
Among the first Jewish families were the Marx brothers. Emil, Guido, and Joseph published the Ohio Staatszeitung intended for the largely German-speaking population of the area. Emil was an early volunteer at the beginning of the Civil War. Joseph was appointed U.S. consul to Amsterdam by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864.
The first settlers were staunchly individualistic free thinking or atheistic Jews who were bound to the community through a network of family business and shared capital. Attempts to form synagogues were spasmodic and short lived.
The first mention of the observance of High Holidays was in 1865 but it wasn't until 1867 that Congregation B'nai Israel, now affiliated with the Conservative movement, was founded. It has been served by Rabbis Halper, Glazer, Herowitz, Epstein, Lichtenstein, Goldberg, Perlmutter, Bienstock, Ungar, Kaiman, and Leff.
Eight years later Reform Congregation Shomer Emunim ("keeper of faithfulness"; Isaiah 26:2) was founded. The name was suggested by Isaac Mayer Wise, the initiator and organizer of the then incipient Reform movement in the United States. It was assumed that a Jewish community in such a remote section of the mid-west United States deserved a name affirming its faithfulness. It appears to be the only synagogal congregation in the world with that name. The rabbis of the congregation have been Schanfarber, Meier, Freund, Alexander, Coffee, Harris, Kornfeld, Feuer, Sokobin, and Weinstein.
Congregation Etz Chaim was founded by the merger of smaller Orthodox congregations. Its rabbis have been Katz and Garsek.
Several of the rabbis of Toledo have had contributory positions in Toledo to the nation and national Jewish organizations. Following World War II when Israel was struggling to create its independence Rabbi Leon *Feuer was the chief lobbyist in Washington seeking American political support for the establishment of a Jewish State. He later became president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Rabbi Morton Goldberg served as both president of the Toledo Public School System and the Toledo Library system. Rabbi J.S. *Kornfeld was ambassador to Persia and Rabbi Alan Sokobin was chair of studies of the educational system as well as the court and justice systems of the City of Toledo. Both Rabbi Feuer and Rabbi Sokobin taught at the University of Toledo.
In response to the large number of Jews arriving in Toledo the need to organize led to the establishment of the Toledo Federation of Jewish Charities in 1907. The Jewish Banner Boys Club had previously been organized to assist 12 and 13 year olds integrate into the community. A Banner Club for girls was formed and the boys and girls met together on a weekly basis for a discussion group. The many social and
In 1936 the Jewish Educational League, the Jewish Family Service, and the Transient Service became a part of the Jewish Community Center. Since that time the Jewish community of Toledo has been exceedingly well represented in national Jewish organizations. There are active chapters of Hadassah, ORT, and B'nai B'rith as well as chapters of Young Judea and Synagogue Youth. The United Jewish Council is the governance body for the Toledo Board of Jewish Education that maintains a Jewish day school as well as an afternoon Hebrew program serving the Orthodox and Conservative congregations. In 2004 the athletic programs of the Jewish Community Center were combined with those of the Toledo YMCA.
Jews have become an integral part of the general Toledo community. There are Jews who have been elected to important judicial as well as legislative posts. While the community began largely with merchants, today the majority of Toledo Jewry is engaged in the professions. Like many Ohio communities, elderly Jews have migrated toward the sunbelt and younger Jews have left for college and not returned home.