Little is known about the early Jewish families of Richland County, Ohio. Most newspaper articles place the start of the movement for a Jewish congregation to 1886 when Mrs. A. J. Heineman led a group of women who were sewing for immigrants. This group became Sisterhood Emanuel, which led to the formation of Temple Emanuel, but only tidbits are in local newspapers about the Jewish community prior to 1900. These mostly appear as one or two-sentence briefs about Jewish holidays and how this affected the closing of Jewish-owned businesses. But Jewish residents were active in Mansfield and Richland County long before Mrs. Heineman’s group met. Her husband, Abram, arrived in Mansfield in 1866 and followed in the family business by becoming one of the most successful horse dealers in the United States, at one time buying and shipping more than 3,000 draft horses per year. When A. J. Heineman died in 1903, his remains were sent to Ridgewood, New York to be buried in the Jewish, Union Field Cemetery.
It was the same year as A. J. Heineman’s death that a real push was made to start a Jewish congregation in Mansfield. On Thanksgiving day 1903, a Jewish service was held in room 25 of the Vonhof Hotel, by Rabbi George Zepin, of Cincinnati. A reporter from the Mansfield News talked to one of the church’s promoters and Rabbi Zepin and it was made clear that a new religious body was being established. A few days later on November 29, another meeting was held and officers were elected. M. L. Miller was elected president, I. Shonfield and Louis Freundlich were elected vice presidents, W. F. Foust was elected secretary, and S. W. Loeb was elected treasurer. Alfred T. Godshaw, of Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, served as the first rabbi when services began on January 10, 1904, in the old Y.M.C.A. hall. Godshaw would make the trip from Cincinnati to Mansfield every two weeks to conduct services. In October of 1904, Rev. Isador Philo, from Akron, Ohio, took over leading the congregation. Services would continue like this over the next couple of decades with services being held in various halls in the city by visiting rabbis.
132 West Second St. (from the Richland County Auditor)
In 1929 the congregation was finally able to afford a space of their own and purchased the Thomas R. Barnes home at 132 West Second Street. The home was remodeled for religious services and Sunday school and decorated by Rabbi Charles Latz. The home served Temple Emanuel until 1944 when it was turned into apartments. The building has a much darker recent history. It was the home of convicted serial killer, Shawn Grate, between 2014-2016. It was condemned in 2017 and razed in 2020. It was in 1927 when an Orthodox Jewish congregation was formed, the B’nai Jacob Congregation. Like Temple Emanuel, they began meeting in homes, the Eagles Hall, and in the Bowers building before sharing the building at West Second Street. In 1941, the B’nai Jacob Temple purchased the home at 50 Sturges Ave. from the estate of Mrs. Clemie France and converted it into a chapel. By 1944 Temple Emanuel was sharing the building at 50 Sturges Ave.
From the Mansfield News-Journal, 08 May 1944
In 1946 Temple Emanuel acquired land at 473 Cook Rd. and on July 28, 1947, the cornerstone was laid for the new Temple Emanuel building: the first Jewish house of worship to be built in Mansfield. The Temple was dedicated on September 26, 1948 by Rabbi Eugene Lipman and Rabbi Bertram Korn in front of 200 people. On March 3, 1957, ground was broken for the new temple for B’nai Jacob just down the street from Temple Emanuel at the corner of Cook and Larchwood Roads. The new building was opened on September 25, 1957 for Rosh Hashanah Services. In 1977 the building at 50 Sturges was condemned and demolished. The two congregations again shared a building in 1979 after Temple Emanuel sold the building at 473 Cook Rd. to the Southwood Baptist Church. The church is today home to the Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church. In 1987 Emanuel Jacob was born with the merger of Temple Emanuel and the B’nai Jacob Congregations. The congregation is still located at 973 Larchwood Rd., at the corner of Cook Rd.
- The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 12 October 1903, p. 7.
- The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 27 November 1903, p. 6.
- The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 30 November 1903, p. 2.
- The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 30 December 1903, p. 2.
- The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 10 October 1904, p. 5.
- The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 28 May 1944.
- The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 08 May 1944.
- The Mansfield News Journal (Mansfield, Ohio). 03 August 1977, p. 3.
- The Mansfield News Journal (Mansfield, Ohio). 02 June 1979, p. 2.