When Joseph Jonas arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1821, he had no way of knowing that his founding of the first Jewish cemetery would lay the foundation for a long, formal, and stable Jewish life in the city.
While Jewish families had resided there since 1817, the establishment of the small lot on Chestnut Street in the West End as a place of eternal rest exemplified the opportunity for a permanent presence—and so they stayed.
Our Shared Story: 200 Years of Jewish Cincinnati, an exhibit currently on display in the Cincinnati Museum Center until October 2, 2022, tells the story of immigrating Jews laying down roots in Cincinnati in hopes of building a better life rich in faith and tradition. From steamer trunks to yarmulkes and menorahs, the display takes visitors into the homes of Jewish settlers who were intent on establishing themselves and building a future in Cincinnati, bringing with them those things that defined their history of Judaism and Jewish culture.
The influence of the Jewish community for the past 200 years has helped to shape daily life in Cincinnati with everything from medicine to social justice movements to the food on their tables during religious celebrations. A table set for a Passover seder inspires museum guests to experience the holiday as they did more than two centuries ago.
While Judaism is a dominant theme throughout the exhibit, the contributions to the business world, sports, and even medical breakthroughs can’t be understated. Albert Sabin, a Cincinnati doctor, developed the oral version of the polio vaccine. Henry Heimlich, also Jewish, is best known for his lifesaving technique in rescuing an individual from choking. Their efforts have saved countless lives.
The extensive exhibit is just one aspect of the Jewish Cincinnati Bicentennial. The testimonial to the Jewish community began as a series of more than 50 celebrations and events commemorating their many contributions to Cincinnati.
Our Shared Story allows one to step back in time and witness the history, courage, and fortitude of people on a path to combine new ideas and ancient traditions to leave a lasting legacy.
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