Should the Jews abandon Cleveland?

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For months now, a debate has been raging in the Jewish community about whether its bedrock agency, the Jewish Community Federation, should move its headquarters from Euclid Avenue downtown to Beachwood. The non-profit organization is basically a United Way for Jews — sponsoring social events, fundraising for Israeli causes, and doing charity work. Since 1965, its main office has been planted firmly in heart of the city. The question now is whether the group should mimic the mass exodus of its people to the eastern ’burbs. And it’s forcing people to acknowledge some uncomfortable truths… An op-ed in this week’s Cleveland Jewish News notes that 86 percent of local Jewish households now live east of University Circle. For a people who were segregated in European ghettos, it’s a little embarrassing to find themselves now self-segregating in places like Beachwood. Downtown boosters argue that the Federation should stay put to show its support for the upcoming “renaissance” downtown, which is expected to occur in 2078. After all, how can you purport to care about your city, and then abandon it when times are tough? Then again, how can your ignore the determined flight of the people you serve? Or the city’s equally determined four-decade decline? And so Jewish leaders, long a backbone of wealth and entrepreneurship in the city, have to decide whether the Paris of the Rust Belt is still a safe bet for their future. People of Cleveland, can you change their minds? —Lisa Rab

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