"Let's do our level best
To deserve how we are blest
And help along.
Let's help perpetuate
Our heritage so great
In large crowds congregate
That, it is safe to say, given to the tune of "America," will swell from the many enthusiastic throats when Wheeling Jewry observes its 85th anniversary as a congregation. For it was in 1849 that a little group of Jews formed what was to be Leshen Shomayim which today has come to be Eoff Street Temple congregation and on February 7, 8, 9 many Jews from several places will join in an observance for which elaborate plans are being made.
In the years of its existence the congregation which started in order that local Jews might have their own burial ground has occupied several quarters, building the Eoff Street synagogue almost a half a century ago. On November 10, 1916 the congregation observed the 59th anniversary of the permanent organization and the 25th anniversary of the cornerstone laying of the Temple, and it is planned to make the coming event a sort of dual observance, also, of the founding organization and the laying of the cornerstone. The building committee of the Temple was composed of Morris Horkheimer, Samuel Kraft, Samuel S. Bloch, and Harry Jacobs.
Salient events that took place while the history of Eoff Street Temple was being written in Wheeling include:
April 29, 1849--Mount Wood Cemetery purchased by a group of Wheeling Jews; during the years 1849-1856 a small community of Jews were holding divine services during the Holy Days in a small room in the third floor of a house at 14th and Main Streets; in 1856 Wheeling got its first Rabbi, the services of Rabbi Fault being obtained.
In 1861 the congregation moved to the Meledeon Hall in the east side of Main Street near 13th. Four years later Rabbi Ruttenauer named to succeed Rabbi Fault.
1865-Ladies Hebrew Benevolent Society organized--in the same year, the religious school was formed and "family pews" introduced to Wheeling. Also in that year, Dr. Einhorn's Prayer Book supplanted the Orthodox Prayer Book, and a ruling was effective "forbidding the wearing of hats in service."
1872-The congregation moved to the Hub building and Rabbi Meyer of Richland was engaged and the Rabbi began inaugurating regular monthly sermons.
1875--First move launched to build a Temple and the congregation moved to Beck's block at 1517 Market Street and two years later moving in the Odd Fellow Temple at 12th and Chapline streets.
It was 1897 that Rabbi Yogelsdorf, a Californian, took up the Wheeling charge, and while here delivered the first weekly sermons in English. In 1882, the congregation moved to erect a home of its own. During these years, the Mount Wood cemetery which had been held in trust by the city for the congregation and before the turn of the century little groups of Jews now were on the verge of having their own synagogue , and also a burial ground where their race might be buried together. The contract for the building of Eoff Street Temple was let February 9, 1891, and on April 8, 1892, the Temple was formally dedicated, the speakers including Rabbi B.A. Bonhein, Rabbi Dr. Benjamin Stold, of Baltimore, and Louis Grossman of Cincinnati.
The program to be given in connnection with the observance next month so far is only tentative. Arrangements call for a banquet at the Hotel Windsor at 6:30 p.m. the night of Thursday February 7, the speakers to include Dr. Abba Hillel Silver, of Cleveland. On the following day-- Friday, February 8 an anniversary service will be conducted at the Temple to be followed by an anniversary entertainment program in the vestry. Saturday February 9 will be given over to the anniversary service for the children of the Religious School.
A number of committee members have already been named to work out the details. Attending to the fair and committee members...with the chairman...are...Sydney Reichart; finance, A.K. Clifford, Sam Good and Joe Meyer; for gathering momentos of the congregation's history, Mrs. Charles Schlesinger; pagaent, Mrs. Bet Kapner; program and entertainment, D. Milton Gutman; religious service, Rabbi Baruch Braunstein; reservations, Ernest Horkheimer; and speakers, Louis Horkheimer.
A novel part of the anniversary celebration will be the exhibition of photographs, portraits, momentoes, ceremonial objects and all other things which will illustrate the history and growth of the congregation. Members have been asked to search through their closets and trunks, seeking Confirmation pictures, photographs of dear ones who have participated in the life of the congregation. Members coming across such momentos have been urged to communicate with Mrs. Schlesinger.
There have been a number of presidents of the congregation since Meyer Hyman, others serving this high office including Moses Sonneborn, Louis Horkheimer, Simon Kline, Leon B. Stein, Sydney Reichart, Sam Good, Sig Front, Samuel Kraft, Albert L. Rice, Bernard Rosenstein, Michael Emsheimer and Simon Horkheimer.
Service provided by the staff of the Ohio County Public Library in partnership with and partially funded by Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation.