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Tetiev History

Tetiev is a small town in today’s Ukraine (formerly Russia), about 70 miles southwest of Kiev. The town was established by Catherine the Great, in the late 1700s.  Before World War I, about 7,000 Jews lived in Tetiev.

A small group of Tetiever Jews came to Cleveland before the turn of the 20th century, and in 1899, established the Tetiever Verein (social club) later known as the Tetiever Social and Benevolent Society. More Jews from Tetiev joined their fellow townsmen in Cleveland in the early years of the 20th century, as many Jews left the hardship and persecution of eastern Europe for freedom and economic opportunity in America. The Society evolved into the Tetiever Ahavath Achim Anshe Sfard Congregation in 1910.

The congregation met for religious services in members’ homes, until 1911, when a house was purchased on East 40th Street near Woodland Avenue. A synagogue was built on the property in 1914, and the congregation remained at that location until 1927.

Following World War I, those Jews who had remained in Tetiev (including many family members of those settled in Cleveland) faced increased poverty and a series of devastating pogroms. In 1919-20, there were a number of attacks on Tetiev’s Jews by roving groups of bandits, including some with varying allegiances to Ukrainian and Bolshevik military forces. During these attacks, Jewish businesses and homes were looted and burned. Women were raped. People of all ages were murdered.

The final destruction came in March 1920. Nearly 4,000 people were killed over the course of a couple of days. The most devastating loss came in the main synagogue. Two thousand people took shelter in the building, thinking they would be safe. But the synagogue was set on fire, and all those inside perished, except for perhaps ten people who miraculously escaped. Virtually the entire town was destroyed. The Red Army put a stop to the pogrom and evacuated the remaining 1,500 Jews to a nearby town.

In 1922, the Cleveland synagogue sent agents to Odessa, Kiev and surrounding areas to seek survivors of the final pogrom and assist them in coming to Cleveland. Several families were reunited through these efforts.

As Cleveland’s Jews moved further east from the central city area, the synagogue purchased property on Linn Drive in the Glenville neighborhood and a new synagogue was built and dedicated in 1927. Rabbi Mordechai Landa, a Tetiev native, was the congregation’s first fulltime spiritual leader, serving from 1931-53. Active affiliated groups include the Tetiever Ladies Aid Society and Young Women’s Relief Society, which assisted new immigrants from Tetiev; the Tetiever Ladies Auxiliary which raised funds; and the United Tetiever Service Organization which kept in contact with Tetievers serving in the armed forces during World War II.

As Jews migrated to the eastern suburbs, the congregation purchased property on Warrensville Center Road, near Mayfield, in 1954. The Linn Drive property was sold. Services were held in a house on the property until a new building was completed in 1957. In 1959, the Kinsman Jewish Center and Congregation N’vai Zedek merged with the Tetiev congregation to form the Warrensville Center Synagogue. The Tetiev community’s proud, resilient legacy is carried on today at Oheb Zedek Cedar Sinai Synagogue.

Fri, October 22 2021 16 Cheshvan 5782