Kneseth Israel’s Most Notable Interment
Earlier this year, Kneseth Israel Cemetery in Covedale, which had previously been operated by Congregation Zichron Eliezer, became the 23rd cemetery to be operated by JCGC. JCGC already operates the other ten cemeteries in Covedale, so now all eleven cemeteries will be JCGC properties. Kneseth Israel is an Orthodox cemetery and the first cemetery to join JCGC since JCGC started operating in the fall of 2008 after 22 of the 26 Jewish cemeteries in the area decided to become founding members of the organization.
One of the leaders of the American Orthodox movement in the early to mid 20th century, Rabbi Eliezer Silver (1882 – 1968), is interred in Kneseth Israel Cemetery. To escape the anti-semitism of Czarist Russia, Rabbi Silver came to the United States in 1907. He had received his rabbinic ordination in Lithuania. After a brief stay in New York, he took a rabbinical position in Harrisburg, PA. In 1925 he took a position in Springfield, MA, before moving to Cincinnati in 1932 to become the Rabbi at Kneseth Israel.
An early political activist, Rabbi Silver helped circulate a petition against a U.S. treaty with Russia in 1912 as a protest against Russia’s persecution of Jews. He was also active in relief efforts in World War I. In the 1930’s, Rabbi Silver started the first American branch of Agudath Israel, an Orthodox political organization founded in Europe in 1912. Through this organization, Rabbi Silver formed the Vaad Hatzalah which raised over $5 million for World War II rescue efforts for European Jews and, capitalizing on an exemption to U.S. immigration quotas for religious leaders and students, secured the issuance of 2,000 visas. Rabbi Silver also was very active in the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the U.S. and Canada, elected its president in 1929.
In 1931, several Cincinnati Orthodox congregations invited Rabbi Silver to visit from Springfield to help organize the Orthodox Jews who had been suffering spiritually from a lack of recognized leadership. When efforts to find a new spiritual leader could not turn up an appropriate candidate, the community turned to Rabbi Silver. In his almost 40 years leading Kneseth Israel, Rabbi Silver changed the course of Jewish history in Cincinnati. He created the Vaad Hoir, built a mikveh in Avondale, established the Chofetz Chaim Day School and Kindergarten and organized a kosher kitchen at Jewish Hospital. Rabbi Silver, more than any other figure, demonstrated that Cincinnati could be a center for Orthodoxy despite its strong Reform roots.