For more than nine decades, the gold dome of the Temple-Tifereth Israel in University Circle served as a grand home to one of Cleveland's earliest Jewish congregations. Now the National Register of Historic Places landmark is fulfilling a new calling as Silver Hall, the auditorium of the Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center.
"It means a great deal to the congregation," says senior Rabbi Richard Block. "We have a lot of multigenerational families who grew up there. For them, it's a part of their family and Jewish identity."
In 2010, the congregation acknowledged it didn't have the funds to repair 76 years of deterioration — a leaking dome, dirt-coated exterior and cramped seating. So Case Western Reserve University bought the temple and gave the congregation the right to use it on eight holidays with daily activities now occurring at its Beachwood location.
Milton Maltz, a former child actor, broadcast industry veteran and congregation member, pledged $30 million from the Maltz Family Foundation of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland to rescue the crumbling icon and repurpose it as a fine arts facility for CWRU's music, theater and dance programs. Additional supporters brought commitments to more than $59 million, with hopes of still raising more.
"[The building] is considered one of the most elegant and historic in all of the country," Maltz says.
Silver Hall fittingly opened Sept. 27 with the Violins of Hope concert, in which the Cleveland Orchestra played violins rescued from the Holocaust. This month, see the Mandel JCC Cleveland Jewish FilmFest's Oct. 18 screening of Breaking Home Ties, a silent film accompanied by a live violinist and pianist.
Renovations honored the building's Judaic roots. Hinges were added to mosaic-like, Byzantine stained-glass windows to allow for the installation of spotlights. And the bimah, the altar where the Torah and Prophets are read during holidays and on the Sabbath, was restored to its original glory. Wooden pews were replaced with 1,200 comfortable seats. Working around those existing cornerstones, crews added a hydraulically adjustable stage, an acoustic canopy with theatrical lighting, a projection system and more.
The next phase of the project, to be completed when fundraising wraps, adds proscenium and black-box stages, classrooms, dance studios, and a landscaped boulevard that links the Maltz Performing Arts Center to the Cleveland Museum of Art.
This boulevard, along with the renovation of the temple, will connect CWRU with a richer arts experience and open up the legacy of the holy hall to a larger audience. "We are thrilled that this majestic space will host a diverse variety of activities, sacred and secular," says Block, "as the building enters its new phase of life."
MORE INFO: performingarts.case.edu