a new era for an historic space
Announcing the creation of CWRU’s Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center at The Temple – Tifereth Israel
“Education and the Good Life” (1930)
For increasing numbers of students across the university, performing arts have become an integral part of a Case Western Reserve education. In any given semester, 1,000 undergraduates take courses in music, dance or theater, and more than half of all undergraduates participate in extracurricular ensembles. Within this group, one can find both “creative amateurs” and students preparing for careers as performing artists.
Now, with the creation of CWRU’s Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center at The Temple – Tifereth Israel, a majestic Cleveland landmark will provide a new home to programs that have largely outgrown the spaces they inherited from the college’s predecessor institutions.
“Decades ago, a religious community had a dream—a dream of a soaring structure that would hold the emotions and the aspirations of generations of congregants,” said President Barbara R. Snyder, who announced a partnership between the university and the congregation at a press conference in the sanctuary on March 19.
“Today,” Snyder continued, “we envision legions of young people honing their craft in rehearsal rooms within this complex, and then showcasing their talents in its theater and other beautiful spaces, including this venue. Our dream is that these performances will carry their own sense of hope and possibility, and that artists and audience members alike will be transformed by their experiences here.”
Case Western Reserve’s partnership with The Temple – Tifereth Israel has been launched with a $12 million lead donation from The Maltz Family Foundation of the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland. Milton and Tamar Maltz, whose other philanthropic projects include the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood, Ohio, are longtime members of the congregation.
Under the partnership agreement, the university will assume ownership of The Temple after completing fundraising efforts directed toward its renovation. Even then, however, the 1,400 families of the congregation will continue to hold High Holy Day services, b’nai mitzvot and other special observances in the University Circle building. The congregation has operated its religious school and other programs at a second complex in Beachwood since 1971.
University officials estimate that renovations to The Temple will cost $25.6 million. Preliminary plans call for modernizing the heating and air conditioning, installing new lighting and sound systems and replacing the original 2,000 seats in the sanctuary.
Speaking at the press conference, Milton Maltz said that one goal of his family’s gift is to create “a gorgeous, modern facility without sacrificing the heritage and beauty of the structure itself.” Beyond this, he added, he and his wife embraced “the opportunity to do something positive for Cleveland.”
Mark Cochrane ’10 is a member of the CWRU Jazz Ensemble, which performed at the March 19 press conference.
Located at E. 105th Street and Ansel Road, The Temple was dedicated in 1924. Its construction, which took two years and cost $1.3 million, was overseen by Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, whose gifts as a scholar and orator led to his appointment as Tifereth Israel’s spiritual leader when he was only 24. Silver would become a major figure in Reform Judaism and a powerful advocate for the creation of the state of Israel. He led the congregation until his death in 1963, and to this day, many Clevelanders call the building “Silver’s Temple.”
Designed by Boston architect Charles R. Greco, The Temple won early acclaim for its monumental scale and artistry. In the lead article for The Architectural Forum in November 1925, Richard R. Stanwood offered what may still be the most detailed appreciation ever written.
With its gold-colored dome, Stanwood observed, The Temple appeared “symmetrical and unified no matter from what direction it happened to be seen.” The Indiana limestone of its exterior, and the Tennessee marble of the vestibule floor, enriched the structure with their patterns and colors. Stanwood especially admired the great interior arches of the sanctuary and the recessed stained glass windows on each of its seven sides. Praising “the unusual softness and mellowness” of the lighting, he compared it to the “subdued daylight” in medieval cathedrals.
The Temple – Tifereth Israel complex originally included a chapel, a library, a meeting hall large enough to accommodate 1,000 people, and a school with 27 classrooms. In 1959, the congregation added a new wing with a 750-seat auditorium. It also acquired a seven-acre parcel, now known as Silver Park, extending along Ansel Road to 101st Street. This property, like The Temple itself, will become part of the university’s West Campus.
A Thriving Culture
The renovated facility will expand opportunities for students in all of the college’s performing arts programs. Karen Potter, director of the Mather Dance Center, offers one example. For years now, CWRU dance ensembles have presented their concerts in a studio theater. This small, intimate space has its advantages; for one thing, it gives audience members an unobstructed view from any seat in the house. But the new center opens up the possibility of mounting productions on a proscenium stage. And that experience, Potter says, “really prepares young dancers for the professional world.”
For student actors, the center will bring chances to “perform in varying theater configurations,” says department chair Ron Wilson. It will also provide updated technical facilities and support areas, including a scene shop, a costume shop and dressing rooms. Eldred Theater, which has hosted student productions since 1898, is “charming but technically antiquated,” Wilson says. Moreover, it is on the other side of campus from the department’s offices and classrooms. Within the unified space of the Maltz Performing Arts Center, students will have more frequent interactions with theater faculty and administrators.
At the ceremony announcing the university’s partnership with The Temple – Tifereth Israel, Milton and Tamar Maltz (first row) celebrated with music department chair Mary Davis, Dean Cyrus Taylor, theater and dance department chair Ron Wilson, and dance program director Karen Potter (second row, left to right).
Music ensembles will benefit from having their rehearsal and performance spaces in a single building, says department chair Mary E. Davis. The CWRU-University Circle Orchestra, for example, currently rehearses in Denison Hall (a former infirmary) but performs in Severance Hall and other venues. For each concert, the percussionists spend hours transporting their instruments, rolling the timpani into and out of elevators and trucks. Once the new facility opens, the musicians won’t be doubling as movers nearly so often.
The Maltz Performing Arts Center will also allow the department to enhance its relationships with the Cleveland Institute of Music and other University Circle institutions, Davis says. For example, she imagines practice sessions bringing small groups of student musicians together with members of the Cleveland Orchestra. As it is, finding the right spot for such interactions is a challenge, since “every performance space in this area is already booked 24/7 or is not suitable for small-scale activities.”
Beyond these considerations, Davis points to the symbolic significance of the Maltz Performing Arts Center. “There is a thriving performing arts culture on this campus, but it’s always been under the radar,” she explains. “Now, for the first time, the performing arts as a unified entity will be recognized for their importance to the undergraduate and graduate student experience at Case Western Reserve.”
Published sources: Abba Hillel Silver, Religion in a Changing World (New York: Richard R. Smith, Inc., 1930); Ruth Dancyger, The Temple – Tifereth Israel: One Hundred and Fifty Years, 1850-2000 (Cleveland: Epstein Design Partners, 1999).