Get a Glimpse of Cincinnati's Jewish Past at the Skirball Museum's Upcoming Exhibit

In "Jewish Cincinnati: A Photographic History," J. Miles Wolf breathes life into places where Cincy's Jewish community once gathered.

click to enlarge Former Lexington Avenue Synagogue, Adath Israel, built 1927. Now Southern Baptist Church, Avondale. - Photo: Archival pigment print © J. Miles Wolf // Historic photographs courtesy Adath Israel Congregation
Photo: Archival pigment print © J. Miles Wolf // Historic photographs courtesy Adath Israel Congregation
Former Lexington Avenue Synagogue, Adath Israel, built 1927. Now Southern Baptist Church, Avondale.

Local photographer J. Miles Wolf has created images that bind the Cincinnati cityscapes of past and present together. In Jewish Cincinnati: A Photographic History, he turns his lens to places of worship once used by the Jewish community that are now extinct.

But the images also function as collages, bending back the veil of time. In one photo, the former Romanian Synagogue,  Anshei Sholom, stands stark against a dusky sky. A round stained glass window depicting the Star of David shines brightly against red brick walls. Sepia-toned faces of one-time congressional members peer outward as if welcoming onlookers inside.

To create the work, Wolf dug through library catalogs, synagogue archives and personal collections for research, according to a press release.  Now, that work has culminated into photographs that reveal what early Jewish places of worship may have looked like.

The exhibit, which will be held at the Skirball Museum as part of the citywide FotoFocus Biennial, opens Oct. 11. There will also be a visual timeline and maps that show streets then and now. Artifacts — like the aforementioned stained glass window and a key to the Mound Street Temple — will also be showcased.

click to enlarge Mound Street Temple, K.K. Bene Israel, built 1868. Formerly Eighth and Mound Streets, West End. - Archival pigment print © 2018 J. Miles Wolf // Historic photographs courtesy K.K. Bene Israel Rockdale Temple
Archival pigment print © 2018 J. Miles Wolf // Historic photographs courtesy K.K. Bene Israel Rockdale Temple
Mound Street Temple, K.K. Bene Israel, built 1868. Formerly Eighth and Mound Streets, West End.

“From its earliest days in the 1830s through the migration of the Jewish population from downtown to the West End and to Avondale, Roselawn, Amberley Village and beyond, the story is told by showing the chronological history of places of worship and by highlighting some of the community’s congregants and early leaders,” says the press release. “This important visual history of immigrants who helped to build Cincinnati from a small river town to one of the largest and most influential cities of the 19th century is sure to have a lasting impact.”

Another item depicts the former Lexington Avenue synagogue, Adath Israel. Backdropped by a milky navy sky, the building, built in 1927, is aglow with golden-beige hues. Now, Avondale's Southern Baptist Church stands in its place.

Jewish Cincinnati: A Photographic History will run through Jan. 6, 2019, with special events peppered throughout its stint. At 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 11, an opening reception will be held with remarks at 6:15 p.m. Other events are as follows:

  • Jewish Cincinnati Bus Tour (10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 14): Attendees can visit Jewish sites in the downtown and Avondale neighborhoods themselves. The free event is in partnership with the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives. Registration is required.
  • Historic Preservation: Religious Institutions Then and Now (6-8 p.m. Nov. 14): This free panel discussion is moderated by WVXU’s Dan Hurley (of Cincinnati Edition) and includes Pastor Robert Baines of Southern Baptist Church; J. Miles Wolf; Dr. Gary P. Zola, the executive director of the American Jewish Archives; and Cincinnati Preservation Association director Margo Warminski.
  • Gallery Talk (7-8:30 p.m. Nov. 27): Guests can tour the gallery and chat with the artist, Wolf, and the museum’s director, Abby Schwartz. Free.
  • Lunch and Learn (noon-2 p.m. Dec. 11): Visit the exhibit for lunch and hear Wolf and Schwartz talk about the process behind the photos and their eventual execution. Free.
  • Closing reception (1-5 p.m. Jan. 6): Take a last peek at the exhibit before it closes and snack on light refreshments. Free.

All programs are held in Mayerson Hall on the campus of HUC-JIR, 3101 Clifton Avenue 45220. For more info or to RSVP email [email protected] or visit Hebrew Union College's website. 



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