First to be established under the new conception of a chain of gardens was the Hebrew Cultural Garden, the site for which was dedicated in 1926.
Located across the roadway and just southwest of the Shakespeare Garden, it is an oriental garden in three sections in a circular forest-tree setting. The stone walks are laid out to form the chief-motif--the six-pointed Star, or Shield, of David.
A hexagonal pool in the center reflects a pink Georgia marble fountain, its seven slender columns representing the seven Pillars of Wisdom, and inscribed with the quotation, in Hebrew characters, from Solomon's Book of Proverbs: "Wisdom hath built herself a house she hath hewn her out seven pillars."
The garden was designed by Landscape Architect T. Ashburton Tripp.
At four points of the Star of David are bronze portrait reliefs of world renowned philosophers. Moses Maimonides, Biblical scholar and physician, was born in Cordova, Spain, in 1135 and died in Cairo, Egypt, in 1204. Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), Spanish-born philosopher of Amsterdam, was a major, dynamic force in the development of Western civilization and moulder of the thoughts of such great figures as Lessing, Goethe, and Coleridge. Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), grandfather of the composer, represents a modern school of Jewish thought, and translated the Bible into German. Achad Ha'am (pseudonym of Asher Ginsburg, 1856-1927) was the leader of cultural Zionism and a great writer who was responsible for the revival of the Hebrew language. The olive tree, the tree most characteristic of Hebrew history, figures prominently in the planting of the Philosophers' Circle.
A smaller, adjoining garden on the left, the "music section", is planted in the shape of a Hebrew harp, or lyre. It was dedicated in July of 1937 with the unveiling of a monument bearing one plaque of three portrait heads of Jewish composers. These are Jacques Halevy (1799-1862), teacher of Gounod and Bizet, and composer of the opera, The Jewess Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864), who wrote L'Africana, Les Hugenots, and Le Prophete and Karl Goldmark (1830-1915), author of Queen of Sheba, and uncle of the wife of former Chief Justice Louis Brandeis. Funds for this plaque were provided by the Gan Ivri Women's League.
To the right of the main section is the Poet's Corner, a ravine rock garden containing Palestinian plants and bronze tablets with appropriate inscriptions from Hebrew literature. This completes the general design of the Hebrew Garden. A dominating feature of the rock garden is a large boulder, set
with a circular plaque, a bronze bas-relief, to the memory of Rebecca Gratz of Philadelphia. She was the founder of the first Jewish religious school in America, and is famous as the prototype of Rebecca, the heroine of Scott's Ivanhoe. She lived from 1781 to 1869. The Gratz plaque is flanked by plaques of Henrietta Szold and Emma Lazarus.
The dedication of the Hebrew Garden site occurred during an important event: the visit of Chaim Nachman Bialik to Cleveland. Acclaimed as the greatest Hebrew poet since the Prophet Isaiah, Bialik had come from Palestine on an American tour in the cause of Zionism. On May 5, 1926, in the presence of a large crowd despite steady rainfall, Bialik planted three Cedars of Lebanon in the future Poet's Corner of the Hebrew Garden, and delivered an eloquent address in Hebrew, translated by the late Rabbi Solomon Goldman. City Manager William R. Hopkins, in his speech of greeting, paid tribute to the contributions of Hebrew writers to world culture. Edmund Vance Cooke, Cleveland poet, Councilman A. R. Hatton, and A. H. Friedland, superintendent of Cleveland's Hebrew schools, also participated.
In his address, Bialik, Hebrew translator of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," emphasized the joint literary domination of Shakespeare and the Hebrew Bible in modern culture, noting at the same time that the Hebrew Garden site faced the Shakespeare Garden.
Mrs. Jennie K. Zwick, Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, City Manager Hopkins, Leo Weidenthal
"Today Chaim Bialik plants the older poetry into a newer earth," said Mr. Cooke, referring to the Cedars of Lebanon, "immortal in a truer sense than material reality, immortal in song, and story…the symbolism of their evergreen fragrance representing an ancient faith." Mr. Cooke concluded his address with the words, "And the significance of it all is that this ceremony occurs not in hoary Palestine, or in dreamy Stratford-on-Avon, but in this modern, throbbing, vital City of Cleveland, unsurpassed in its modernity by any city in the world."
In memory of Julius Schweid, Cleveland civic and Jewish communal leader, a plaque of Israel's renowned poet, Chaim Nachman Bialik was dedicated in the Hebrew Garden on July 25, 1954, more than 28 years after Bialik's visit to the site of the garden. The plaque, designed by Dr. Bernard Cooper, was the gift of a sponsoring committee of which Edward J. Schweid and Dr. Haskell H. Schweid, sons of Julius Schweid, were members.
The formal opening of the Philosophers' Circle of the Hebrew Garden, October 30, 1927, was a national event. Ceremonies were participated in by noted Jews from all parts of the world, by civic leaders, and by rabbis of Cleveland. Speakers included Dr. Judah L. Magnes, chancellor of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah, Rabbi Barnett R. Brickner, Rabbi Solomon Goldman, Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, and Rabbi Abraham Nowak, of Cleveland. Miss Szold and Rabbi Magnes planted cedars at the Achad Ha'am plaque. Rabbi Brickner unveiled the Mendelssohn plaque, a gift of the Gan Ivri Women's League. Rabbi Silver unveiled the Achad Ha'am plaque, given by the Cleveland Zionist District and Cleveland Hebrew schools Rabbi Goldman unveiled the Maimonides plaque, memorial gift made to the garden by Mrs. Rae Roodman.
The Spinoza plaque, gift of the Cleveland Lodge of B'nai B'rith had previously been unveiled with impressive ceremony to mark the 250th anniversary of the philosopher's death. A. H. Friedland, noted Cleveland poet and educator, delivered the principal address.
Both the Gratz monument and the rock garden were dedicated in September, 1932, as part of the Sir Walter Scott centennial celebration. Park Commissioner John Brown accepted the memorial for the city. Max E. Meisel delivered the address on Rebecca Gratz. Mrs. Jennie K. Zwick made the presentation of the plaque, a gift of the Gan Ivri League. Dr. William Auld of Elyria gave the address on Sir Walter Scott.
Completing a grouping of memorials to famous Jewish women in this section are bronze plaques of Henrietta Szold and Emma Lazarus. The Henrietta Szold plaque was dedicated June 4, 1950, the 90th anniversary of her birth. She was founder of Hadassah and creator of the Youth Aliyah. The plaque was a gift of the Cleveland Chapter of Hadassah.
Mrs. Albert P. Schoolman of New York, member of the Hadassah National Board, spoke on Henrietta Szold. Greetings were by Albert A. Woldman, director of Ohio Industrial Relations Department. Mrs. Lewis W. Phillips was chairman of the Henrietta Szold Committee.
The Emma Lazarus plaque was dedicated June 16, 1949, to mark the 100th anniversary of her birth. The Federation of Jewish Women's Organizations, presented the plaque, which is inscribed with a phrase from the sonnet of Emma Lazarus which is affixed in bronze to the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
These words reflect the spirit of the Cultural Gardens, which symbolically, also "lifts its lamp beside the golden door."
To the right of the Philosophers' Circle and at the entrance tot the rock garden is a bronze memorial plaque of Milton B. Schweid. The tablet is inscribed with a quotation from Ecclesiasticus, concluding with the following lines:
"Bountifulness is as a garden of abundance. And benevolence endureth forever."
Also in this section is a boulder to which is affixed a plaque inscribed with a passage from the writings of Emma Lazarus:
"The Soul at Peace Reflects the Peace Without. Forgetting Grief as Sunset Skies Forget the Morning's Transient Shower." The boulder was presented to the Hebrew Garden by Cleveland B'nai B'rith Auxiliary, Cleveland Heights B'nai B'rith Auxiliary, and Balfour B'nai B'rith Auxiliary, honoring the Women's Grand Lodge District No. 2 B'nai B'rith.
Dr. Chaim Weizmann, who in 1949 became Israel's first president, in 1927 visited the Garden and planted several Cedars of Lebanon. This planting was sponsored by the Keren Hayesod Women's Club. The Gan Ivri Women's League took part in this event.
In 1937 Cleveland Jewry celebrated the 100th anniversary of its existence in the community, with a Hebrew Garden festivity tree planting program. Descendants of Simson Thorman, Cleveland's first Jewish settler, participated.
Set in a semi-circular niche just beyond the fountain and opposite the entrance tot he Hebrew Garden is a bronze memorial plaque dedicated to the memory of Max E. Meisel by his B'nai B'rith associates.
Reliefs and plaques in the Hebrew Garden are the work of Cleveland artists of renown. The Musicians' and Gratz plaques are by Miriam E. Cramer, the Spinoza portrait by Max Kalish, the Szold plaque by Esther Samolar, the Emma Lazarus head by Walter Sinz. The three remaining philosophers' plaques are the work of Alexander Blazys.
Active in the establishment of the Hebrew Garden were Leo Weidenthal and Mrs. Jennie K. Zwick.
View of the Hebrew Garden from the Main Entrance
Mr. Weidenthal, editor of the Jewish Independent, in 1936 received the Eisenman award of $1,000 for distinguished citizenship. Immediately upon the citation, Mr. Weidenthal turned over the $1,000 as a contribution toward the completion of the Hebrew Garden.
It was on March 5, 1927, that the Gan Ivri Women's League was organized at the home of Mrs. Jennie K. Zwick, for the purpose of developing the Hebrew Cultural Garden. At this meeting, plans were made for the planting of Cedars of Lebanon in the garden by Dr. Chaim Weizmann, then president of the World Zionist Organization, who was soon to visit Cleveland. Officers elected at this meeting were Mrs. Zwick, president Mrs. Henry Frankel, treasurer Mrs. O. Fink and Mrs. O. K. Greenberg, financial secretaries Mrs. L. Dembo, recording secretary Mrs. L. W. Phillips, publicity secretary.
On March 9, a committee representing the organization, called upon City Manager William R. Hopkins and presented plans for the embellishment and development of the garden. The committee consisted of Mrs. Zwick, Mrs. B. R. Brickner, Mrs. Henry Frankel, Mrs. L. W. Klusner, Mrs. D. Gara, Mrs. O. K. Greenberg, and Mrs. L. W. Phillips. The meeting was attended by Sculptor Max Kalish and Leo Weidenthal.
On Monday, April 11, Councilman Abner H. Goldman introduced an ordinance establishing the Cultural Garden and defining its units. The site chosen was diagonally across from the Shakespeare Garden, on the upper East Boulevard.
Among other pioneers in the Hebrew Garden cause were Edward J. Schweid, the late A. H. Friedland, the late Max E. Meisel, and the late Judge Lewis Drucker.
Present officers in the Hebrew Garden Association are Leo Weidenthal, president Edward J. Schweid, vice-president and Mrs. L. W. Phillips, secretary-treasurer.
The Hebrew Garden in its setting of tall old trees gleams "as a garden of abundance" reflecting teachings that have guided the way of myriads through the passing ages.
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