Agudath B’nai Israel Congregation in Lorain has served as the hub of the Jewish community in the area since it was formed in 1925. But the history of the community goes back even further.
This resource page is the result of collaboration between longtime members of the congregation and WRHS. The WRHS collections of records and photographs from A.B.I. can teach us much about how Jewish communities developed and flourished. Check out the items featured here and learn more about your neighbors and about Jewish life in the Lorain area.
Was your family a part of Jewish community life in or around Lorain? Let us know so we can talk about how you can contribute your memories of the community. A.B.I. and WRHS are eager to collect more family histories, recipes, photographs, and other items that help us tell the story of this congregation. Help us by sharing your stories!
Agudath B’nai Israel, or Union of the Children of Israel, takes its name from the three groups that came together to form the congregation in 1925 – two existing congregations, Agudath Achim (Union of Brothers) and Beth Israel (House of Israel) and a B’nai B’rith group (Children of the Covenant, a Jewish service organization) that had planned to form a third congregation.
The congregation met at the Fifteenth Street Synagogue of Agudath Achim until they completed the construction of a new building at Ninth Street and Reid Avenue, dedicated in 1932. In 1969 the congregation moved again, to a newly dedicated temple at Meister Road and Pole Avenue. Part of the Conservative Jewish religious movement, the congregation remembers its origins in three different groups and aims to achieve “unity in diversity”.
These dedication and anniversary books, from 1932, 1954, and 1969, tell the most complete story of A.B.I., at least until 1969. This is where you’ll find a summary of the early history and mentions of many individuals and families who were involved members in local Jewish community life. If you can tell us more about the congregation after 1969, be in touch!
B’nai B’rith Lodge No. 863 and its Women’s Auxiliary sponsored benefit performances to support causes important to their group, including the Hillel Foundation at Ohio University in Athens. These booklets include details about B’nai B’rith and its work, the performances, and, not least, about the many businesses, groups, and individuals who placed ads in the program as support. The Lorain lodge of B’nai B’rith celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1970. B’nai B’rith continues its service work throughout the United States. Search these documents for friends and relatives or browse to learn more about Jewish life in the mid twentieth century.
The Community News has served the congregation for decades. Check out a few issues here and find more in the A.B.I. collection in Digital Cleveland Starts Here.
When the congregation’s new building on Meister Road and Pole Avenue was dedicated in 1969, the congregation consisted of 270 families. Thanks to the work of local glass artist Douglas Phillips, they were able to worship in an inspiring and brilliantly lit sanctuary. The documents here, ABI’s brochure on the stained glass windows and the artist’s own description of his work, tell us more about the meaning behind the images. Phillips was a graduate of both the Cleveland Institute of Art and Syracuse University. He opened his studio in 1953 and was the only African American glass artist to have a major studio. Tanya Rosen-Jones, of The Rosen-Jones Photography Studio, documented the look of the sanctuary in these contemporary photographs, from 2022. Other ceremonial artifacts were designed by Sam Rosen and Henry Libiki. We will post more information about these artifacts at a later date.
These brief family stories reveal how involved the members of A.B.I. were in building a community. Read them to learn about their connections to the congregation and to other friends and family members. You’ll learn about Petey the Horse, the Lorain Towel wagon, and Midway Mall. And about the love and care the members put into their work supporting A.B.I.
Food always brings us together! Take a look at these recipes to bring back your own memories of home cooking, and try them out at home. Over the years the ABI’s Sisterhood published several cookbooks. We would like to post favorite recipes from these cookbooks. Please be in touch with us (at firstname.lastname@example.org) to suggest a recipe for posting or forward a recipe to our attention so we can honor the culinary traditions of your family. Our first recipe, apart from this Morning Journal article on hamantashen, is for Schneken, or pecan rolls, submitted by master bakers Marge Goldstein and Jeanne and Minnie Goldberger. Sisterhood cookbook archivist Kathy Jaffe will also help us to locate your favorite recipes.
Emil Schoenbrun, a Holocaust survivor and Hebrew teacher, was born in Hungary. He completed an elementary school education in the city of Uzhhorod (Ungvar), which was part of Czechoslovakia before World War II and is now part of Ukraine. Schoenbrun studied in Budapest and then returned to Uzhhorod to teach. His first wife and children died in an concentration camp. After coming to the United States in 1948, Schoenbrun married Hilma Polster. He taught at Lorain from 1958 until his retirement in 1970. He died in 1974.
Schoenbrun was beloved by members for his kindness and his skills as an artist and for giving drawings he made to congregants for special occasions. The two drawings pictured here were given to Nat Fields in 1965, on the occasion of Fields’ bar mitzvah.
These three drawings below were given to Randi Klein by Emil Schoenbrun. Klein’s family history essay is included in the Mosaic Family Essays section.
- See more at Digital Cleveland Starts Here® | Search and browse all WRHS digital content including images, text, and video.
- All of the photographs here were donated by A.B.I. to WRHS in 1983. They include many of the photographs in the 1969 dedication book but many others as well, including many Sunday School classes and youth groups. A.B.I. has also digitized class pictures from the 1920s to the present. Search the site to find family and friends and to observe changes in ritual, style, and fashion over the decades.