Cleveland's Jewish history is written in large part by the experiences of
the eight original synagogues that comprise our congregation. Each met the needs
of diverse immigrant groups settled in different areas of this city.
The first to arrive, Hungarian Jews, settled around Perry and Orange and organized the Sherith Jacob Congregation in 1899. Ten years later, Jews from Tetiev, fleeing hardship and terror, emigrated and settled around Woodland and East 40th Street.
Russian Jews and a few Spanish Jewish families also got together on East 37th Street and Woodland to start the Ohel Jacob Congregation in 1915. It moved to Scovill Avenue in 1919 and out to Kinsman and East 140th Street in 1925.
After World War I, the Mt. Pleasant area appealed to many Jewish families. As early as 1916, a small group started a Minyan at the Axelrod home on 118th Street between Kinsman and Union Avenues. They attracted Lithuanian Jews and ardent early Zionists and together they erected the N'Vai Zedek Congregation in 1922.
As Jews settles in Upper Kinsman, synagogues followed. In 1919, the Levine family moved to East 149th and Kinsman, and a Minyan began at their home, which developed into the Ohel Yavne Congregation. In 1920, Polish and Austrian Jews started the Tifereth Israel in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood. In 1923, the Sherith Israel Congregation developed to server the flourishing neighborhood around Kinsman and 118th Street.
In 1930, Jews in upper Kinsman began to erect a combined synagogue and community center on a tract of land at Kinsman Road and East 147th Street. Chartered as B'nai Jacob Kol Israel, it was known as the Kinsman Jewish Center.
The flight to the suburbs following World War II weakened Cleveland's older Jewish neighborhoods. By the early 1950's, the Tetiever Congregation, which had moved from Woodland to Linn Drive in 1926, determined to relocate further east. In 1957 the Tetiever Congregation constructed a synagogue on Warrensville Center Rd. In 1959 a merger of three synagogues took place. The Kinsman Jewish Center and the N'Vai Zedek congregations also realized that they must move on and Rabbi Jacob Muskin became the spiritual leader of Warrensville Center Synagogue.
In 1970, Sherith Israel and Sherith Jacob joined the three synagogues that had merged into Warrensville Center Synagogue. The total grew to eight in 1972 when Ohel Jacob, Ohel Yavne and Tifereth Israel, which had previously merged as Shaker -Lee in 1959, voted to become equal partners.
For many years, the combined congregation also had been home to a number of Holocaust survivors who brought their own traditions, adding flavor to the synagogue family.
In 1990, following the death of Rabbi Jacob Muskin who had served the Shul for 40 years, the synagogue adopted the name Kehillat Yaakov. The name was chosen in recognition of Rabbi Muskin's ability to unify all the component congregations who had individual but not one unifying Hebrew name. "Kehillat" means "Congregation" and "Yaakov" is Hebrew for "Jacob."