Senior member, Belkin Productions
Jules Belkin’s family used to attend Community Temple at 9801 Euclid Ave. in Cleveland when Jules was a boy. But Community Temple, an establishment on the top floor of a building otherwise devoted to retail, wasn’t big enough or well-equipped enough to accommodate his becoming a man.
That meant the Belkin clan had to repair to what used to be known as the Cleveland Jewish Center in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood for the boy’s bar mitzvah in 1944. The former Jewish Center, on East 105th Street six blocks north of Superior Avenue, is now the Cory United Methodist Church.
The Community Temple was “very small,” Belkin says. “You really went to that temple as a kid until you were bar mitzvahed, then you had to find something else,” he says. “They just did not have the facility or the teachers to continue through the bar mitzvah.”
The Jewish Center beckoned – and satisfied.
“It was a wonderful celebration,” recalls Belkin, the senior member of Belkin Productions, a powerhouse company formerly synonymous with Cleveland-area rock and roll concerts. “I remember the guy who taught me my bar mitzvah. I went to the Jewish Center to take lessons, it was a guy by the name of Weinraub.”
Belkin can’t recall Weinraub’s first name, but that’s OK; in those days, you didn’t address people by their first names but by their last (with a “Mr.,” “Mrs.” or “Miss” in front), out of a kind of respect.
“As we talk, I remember from that old community temple, there was the rabbi, a guy by the name of Goldfarb, he went as a chaplain in the second World War, so he was away for a while,” Belkin recalls. “Maybe that had something to do with the bar mitzvah, so there was only one rabbi. I would have been 11 or 12 years old, so it was on the cusp of the bar mitzvah.”
The Jewish Center eventually sold to another religious group “because again the population was starting to move out to the suburbs,” says Belkin, who with his wife, Fran, lives in Mayfield Heights. The Jewish Center evolved into Park Synagogue, where Belkin continued to go to Hebrew School. The Belkins attend Park Synagogue Main.
His bar mitzvah at the Jewish Center was a joyous occasion, he recalls, gathering the “very, very small” Belkin family and a few of his parents’ friends.
“The bar mitzvah wasn’t like today where you have all your schoolmates and everything else. It was relatively contained, it was family and friends.”
Did he get a lot of nice stuff? Belkin laughs.
“Honestly, I don’t remember,” he says, “but there was always that old joke, that you usually get a bunch of fountain pens at your bar mitzvah. Whether I got them I don’t know.”
What about the after-party? Belkin remembers his kid brother Mike’s – held at the Lake Shore Country Club in Bratenahl – better than his own. Belkin thinks his was at the big party room at the old Tudor Arms, a newly swank DoubleTree in University Circle, cautioning he’s beginning to remember things “that only happened in my mind.” BB
This article appeared in the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of Bar•Bat Mitzvah.