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Exhibit explores 200 years of Jewish life in Cincinnati

a Torah on wooden dowels is being unscrolled on a table, two sets of gloved hands hold each end
Miranda Lally
/
Courtesy Cincinnati Museum Center
The exhibit includes artifacts and documents from 200 years of Jewish communal life. This Sefer Torah was created around 1780 and used in Cincinnati at Isaac M. Wise Temple.

Cincinnati's Jewish community marks the dedication of the Chestnut Street Cemetery in September 1821 as the beginning of communal life in the Queen City. A 14-month-long bicentennial is in full swing across the city. An exhibit opening Friday at the Cincinnati Museum Center explores the last 200 years.

Our Shared Story: 200 Years of Jewish Cincinnati examines the local Jewish community's traditions and culture. It includes personal stories from prominent and everyday Jewish Cincinnatians.

"This exhibit really demonstrates the impact that the Jewish community has had on Cincinnati," explains Danielle Minson, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. "We date back to 200 years and we are a minority community, and it really demonstrates what minority and other communities' impact can be on Cincinnati and other communities."

The exhibit begins just as the community did with Cincinnati's first Jewish resident, Joseph Jonas. He and several others founded the Chestnut Street Cemetery after a man named Benjamin Leib contacted the the town's small community of Jews, asking to be buried in consecrated Jewish ground.

Minson says there's a clock in the exhibit made by Jonas that you might miss if you don't know to look for it.

"He did so much; he was part of the Ohio State Legislature. He founded the first synagogue west of the Alleghenies here in Cincinnati. He founded the Chestnut Street Cemetery, which really was the formation of the Jewish community — and when you look at one item and what that evokes and what that represents, broadly, it's really impressive."

artifacts including a chalice, golden Seder plate and a Hagada are displayed on a table.
Miranda Lally
/
Courtesy of Cincinnati Museum Center
Passover Seder items are part of the exhibit.

Artifacts including immigration papers, religious documents, trunks, suitcases, dreidels, menorahs, yarmulkes and more help tell the story. That includes books and diaries from Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, the man credited with founding the Reform movement in North America while here in Cincinnati.

Other highlighted individuals include Eliezer Silver, Jacob Marcus Rader, Albert Sabin, and the people behind many companies and brands folks in Cincinnati may recognize: Kahn's, U.S. Shoe, Standard Textile, Mosler Safe Company, plus philanthropists like Krohn, Aronoff and Rosenthal.

"Do you like Frank's Red Hot Sauce as an example?" Minson asks, noting it was invented in Cincinnati by Jacob Frank. "I think it's really important to see that the impact that immigrants and minorities can make on the on the greater community."

Album cover reading "Manischewitz presents The Jewish Cowboy."
Miranda Lally
/
Courtesy of Cincinnati Museum Center

There are also names you may not know but whose legacies you've certainly heard. For example, the story of Harry Hartman, a Cincinnati Reds play-by-play announcer in the 1930s who coined the phrase, "going, going, gone!"

"What makes the exhibit so special is it shows the impact of the Jewish community in Cincinnati for 200 years," Minson says. "As a Jewish community, we believe in responsibility to make the world a better place for all of us, and so this exhibit really demonstrates a lot of the history and a lot of the current initiatives that are taking place in our city that were founded by members of the Jewish community."

The exhibit is a collaboration between the Jewish Cincinnati Bicentennial committee, the Museum Center, the Holocaust & Humanity Center, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, Hebrew Union College, the Skirball Museum, and the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.

old sports equipment on a display table including football, basketball, bat, baseball glove and baseball box.
Miranda Lally
/
Courtesy of Cincinnati Museum Center

The exhibit runs through Oct. 2.

The Cincinnati Museum Center, the Jewish Federation, and the Holocaust & Humanity Center are financial supporters of Cincinnati Public Radio.