Cleveland was the first location of numerous Hungarian church denominations in North America, namely: the first Hungarian Roman Catholic Church (1892), the first Hungarian Reformed Church (1891), and the first Hungarian Greek Catholic Church (1892). In the 1890s, churches of these three denominations were founded and built by the Cleveland Hungarian community on lower Buckeye Road. Mass Hungarian immigration to Cleveland around the turn-of-the-century signalled the development of additional congregations. In the early 1900s, eight Hungarian churches of six denominations were established on the east side and the west side, in addition to three Hungarian Jewish temples.

       Cleveland was the first and often times the only location in the United States of unique Hungarian religious institutions. The first Hungarian Baptist Seminary was founded on Holton Avenue in the early 1900s to prepare young men for the Baptist ministry. The first Hungarian Lutheran Orphanage was built on Rawlings Avenue in 1913. The first Hungarian Greek Catholic elementary school was constructed in 1954 under the auspices of St. John's Greek Catholic Church.

       At present, all the Hungarian churches established around the turn-of-the-century are maintained by Hungarian congregations. Regionally, there are seven on the east side and four on the west side. Distribution according to denomination is as follows: three Roman Catholic, two Reformed, two Greek Catholic, two Lutheran, one Presbyterian and one Baptist. The three Hungarian Jewish orthodox churches are the only ones which have ceased altogether, due to in large part, the attraction of younger members to temples with reformed practices.





The Roman Catholic Churches

       The King St. Ladislaus Hungarian Roman Catholic Men's and Women's Sick Benefit Society, founded in 1888, was the first organization uniting Hungarian Roman Catholics in Cleveland. According to the organization's 50th Anniversary Booklet, it was founded before any Hungarian Roman Catholic church or priest existed in the United States. Founded by laymen who were led by János Weizer, the Society's ultimate purpose was to establish a church where Hungarians of the Roman Catholic faith could worship.

       Initially, they joined with the Slovaks and built St. Ladislaus Roman Catholic Church, at East 92nd and Holton Avenue. Difficulties arose, however, and the Hungarian congregation, steadily increasing in numbers, felt it was necessary to make the break and establish their own church. The King St. Ladislaus Society requested a Roman Catholic priest from Hungary through Bishop Horstmann of Cleveland and the papal prelate in Washington. It was through the efforts of this organization that the first Hungarian priest, Reverend Charles Boehm was sent to the United States, arriving in Cleveland on 1 December 1892.

       From the day he arrived in 1892 until his retirement in 1927, Reverend Boehm worked tirelessly in the service of Hungarians in Cleveland as well as in the United States. He established St. Elizabeth of Hungary Roman Catholic Church in Cleveland and is credited with the founding of more than twelve Hungarian Roman Catholic churches in the northeast United States. At his funeral in 1931, he was eulogized as "the best loved and best known priest" of his nationality in America.22





Commemorative ceremony held at St. Elizabeth of Hungary R.C. Church . 1906


St. Elizabeth of Hungary Roman Catholic Church (East 90th and Buckeye Road)(Congregation founded: 1892)





       Following his arrival, Reverend Boehm set to work registering parishioners. In that year, he registered 220 families, 340 single adults and 507 children, or a total of 1,287 souls.23 The first mass celebrated by Reverend Boehm was held in the Chapel of St. Joseph's Orphanage (Woodland Avenue) on December 11, 1892. This date marks the establishment of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Roman Catholic Church, the first Hungarian Roman Catholic church in North America.

       With an initial capital of $134.82, Reverend Boehm organized the building of a brick church at Buckeye Road and East 90th Street, which was completed eight months after his arrival. Soon afterwards, a wooden frame schoolhouse was built. In 1900, an even larger three-storey structure school building was completed to house the ever increasing number of children. By 1919, the enrollment of St. Elizabeth Elementary School had reached 1,114.

       In 1894, Reverend Boehm founded the Magyarországi Szent Erzsébet Amerikai Hírnöke (St. Elizabeth of Hungary's Herald in America), which served not only as a parish bulletin but also as a valuable religious newspaper and guide for immigrants whose only source of religious instruction was the local parish itself. In its second year, the number of subscribers had already reached 320 in Cleveland, 700 in the entire U.S. and 11 in Hungary.24 Reverend Boehm donated all income from the newspaper to the building fund of the parish; he served as editor until 1907. In 1901, the newspaper was renamed Katolikus Magyarok Vasárnapja (Hungarian Catholics' Sunday), a weekly newspaper which is still in existence today.





St. Elizabeth Hungarian School Erected: 1900






       Reverend Boehm initiated the campaign to build the great stone church which is the present structure located at Buckeye Road and East 90th Street, the building of which was completed by Rev. Julius Szepessy in 1922. Reverend Szepessy became pastor in 1907, when Reverend Boehm gave up his pastoral duties in order to do missionary work among Hungarians in the United States. During this time, St. Elizabeth's Hall was also completed, which became the social and religious meeting centre of "Little Hungary" on Buckeye Road. In 1923, Reverend Boehm was called back to St. Elizabeth's due to the death of Reverend Szepessy. He served again as pastor until his retirement in 1927.

       Since then, three other pastors have served the parish: Right Reverend Monsignor Emory Tanos, who served for more than forty years, Reverend Julius Záhorszky and Reverend John Nyeste (present pastor).

       St. Elizabeth of Hungary has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior and has been designated as a historic landmark by the State of Ohio and the City of Cleveland. The parish celebrated its 85th year in 1977.


*  *  *  *  *  *


       Hungarians on the west side grew weary of travelling nearly 1 ˝ hours to St. Elizabeth Church on Buckeye Road and decided that the time had come to build a Roman Catholic Church on the west side of Cleveland. With the support of Monsignor Boehm, St. Emeric Parish was established and placed under the guidance of Reverend Joseph Hirling in 1904.

       Reverend Stephen Soltész, who became pastor in 1905, gathered and registered the widely scattered parishioners on the near west side. On January 22nd of that year, a wood frame church, located at Bridge Avenue





and West 24th Street was dedicated. Reverend Soltész directed the purchase of the property surrounding the church, including homes, and renovated them to serve as a school. The Ursuline Sisters taught in the school where more than 150 children attended. Reverend Soltész conducted classes in Hungarian language instruction, history and geography. In 1909, he founded a Catholic Hungarian newspaper, Haladás (Progress). In 1911, Reverend Soltész was appointed to a church in Lorain, and was replaced by Reverend József Szabó. Two other pastors, Reverend József Péter and Reverend John M. Rácz, served the parish until 1920.

       Fire destroyed the wooden church in 1915. A few years later fire again ravaged Annunciation Church a few blocks away where the congregation had relocated. In 1924, St. Emeric Church was purchased by the Union Terminal Company, which was completing the construction of the Terminal Tower in downtown Cleveland. The Company required the land for railway tracks which led to the Tower's train depot.

       In 1925, the present church and school building were built under the direction of Reverend Joseph Hartel. The Daughters of the Divine Redeemer Sisters taught in the new school. Reverend Hartel was succeeded by Reverend John B. Mundweil, who served as pastor of St. Emeric Church for over thirty years. Reverend Mundweil became a pioneer among the priests of the diocese in caring for and educating the mentally retarded and handicapped.

       Since 1965, Reverend Francis Kárpi has served as pastor of the parish. Father Richard Orley, a third generation Hungarian-American assists at both St. Emeric and St. Elizabeth Roman Catholic Churches. Reverend Orley learned the native tongue of his grandparents to be able to work more effectively within his ethnic community.





First Holy Communion at St. Emeric's Hungarian Roman Catholic Church 1914 (Congregation founded: 1904)


St. Margaret of Hungary R. C. Church and School located on East 116th Street (Congregation founded: 1918)





*  *  *  *  *  *


       By the 1920s, the increasing number of Hungarian Roman Catholics on upper Buckeye Road necessitated the construction of another Roman Catholic church, St. Margaret of Hungary at East 116th Street. At a time when walking was the primary means of transportation, St. Elizabeth of Hungary (East 90th) was at a considerable distance for the parishioners living around upper Buckeye Road.

       In 1918, Father Richard Roth was named administrator to the newly-formed parish. Two years later Father Ernest Rickert, who received his education in Hungary, was appointed first pastor of St. Margaret of Hungary Church. Under his direction, a wooden church and a small recreation center were constructed in 1922. In 1927, Father Andrew Köller became pastor of the church, serving in this capacity for more than thirty years. Parishioners remember him as the "Miracle Man" of the parish.

       The leadership and faith demonstrated by Reverend Köller inspired all around him. In 1928, plans were initiated for a new church and school building; a loan of $200,000 was applied for and granted. The new church was constructed and the dedication took place in October 1930 by Bishop Joseph Schrembs of Cleveland. Through the painstaking efforts of Reverend Köller and the parishioners, the church survived the Great Depression, despite the enormous amount of annual interest due on the loans received. The mortgage was amortized in 1946.

       Father Andrew Köller was named Domesticate Prelate in 1934 by Pope Pius XI for his tireless efforts and many noteworthy accomplishments. Monsignor Koller retired as Pastor Emeritus in 1965, and was succeeded





by Reverend John B. Mundweil. Reverend Dezso Hoffman became pastor in 1968. The present pastor, Reverend László Roskó, has served the parish since 1972.

       Over 2,000 students have graduated from St. Margaret Elementary School, where, during the 1920s, some Hungarian language instruction was conducted. Presently, there are about 155 students enrolled in the school which is maintained almost entirely by the parish. Over 650 families are presently members of St. Margaret's, with nearly half of them living in the east side suburbs of Cleveland.

The Greek Catholic Church

       St. Michael's Sick Benefit Society was founded in 1891 by eighteen Hungarian Greek Catholic families to provide sick benefits and insurance and to eventually establish a church. The congregation was officially organized in 1892 by Father Janos Csurgovich, who was sent from Hungary in response to a request by the Society. Within a year, the construction of St. John's Greek Catholic Church was completed at 8021 Rawlings Avenue. Later, this church was sold to the Hungarian Lutheran congregation. In 1908, the Greek Catholic congregation moved to the site of their present church at Buckeye Road and Ambler Avenue. By this time the membership of the parish had expanded to 250 families. In 1939, St. John's Hall, a cultural, social and civic center was constructed next to the church.

       Father Alexander Bobák became pastor in 1950. Under his leadership, a new church, replacing the previous one was constructed in 1954. That same year, the first Hungarian Greek Catholic elementary school in the United States was completed. Although the congregation itself has always been relatively small, these families have maintained their congregation





St. John's Hungarian Greek Catholic Church on Buckeye Road (Congregation founded: 1892)


The First Hungarian Reformed Church and Bethlen Hall located at corner of East Boulevard and Buckeye Road. (Congregation founded: 1891)





and church as a strong, viable segment of the Cleveland Hungarian community The re-building of the church in 1954 cost $600,000; this substantial debt was accepted and paid off by the supportive congregation of 150 families. In addition tothe new church, St. John's Hall and the school, a shrine was built by the congregation at Maria Pocs in Troy, Ohio.


*  *  *  *  *  *


       In 1925, Hungarian Greek Catholics living on the west side separated from the east side congregation and established St. Michael's Greek Catholic Church at 4505 Bridge Avenue. The first pastor of the parish was Reverend Father Basil Béres.

       Under the direction of Reverend Stephen Poratunszky, a church hall, also utilised as a school building, was built in 1935. For many years, the Hungarian boy scouts used these facilities for meetings and special events. Other pastors serving the congregation included: Reverend Father Theodore Fedás and Reverend John Kovács.

       The Greek Catholic congregation on the west side has always been relatively small, with membership averaging 100 families.

The Reformed Church

       The history of the Hungarian Reformed Church in Cleveland began on the west side in 1890. In that year, Reverend Gusztáv Jurányi, the first Hungarian Reformed minister in Cleveland preached the first sermon to a Hungarian congregation in a church on West 32nd Street near Lorain Road. Initially, the east and west side congregations worshipped together. The east side congregation was first to construct a church in 1894, thereby moving the Hungarian Reformed congregation to the east side. This Cleveland





congregation was the first Hungarian Reformed congregation to be organized in the United States, closely followed by one in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Construction of the church was initiated by Reverend Jurányi but completed by his successor, Reverend Sándor Harsányi in 1894. The site of the church was at East 79th and Rawlings Avenue. In 1898, Reverend Elek Csutoros was elected pastor of the congregation. Reverend Csutoros served for thirteen years, after which time he was succeeded by Reverend Alexander Tóth. The increasing congregation soon necessitated expanding the original church structure. The church was rebuilt and expanded twice, in 1904 and again in 1929.

       By 1919, membership reached 650 individuals or 350 families. Saturday school Hungarian language and religious instruction classes were held as well as every day summer school classes. On the average, 600 children attended these sessions.

       In 1925, under the leadership of Dr. József Herczeg, the congregation purchased land at the corner of Buckeye Road and East Boulevard to build Bethlen Hall. This massive structure soon became one of the cultural and civic centers of the Cleveland Hungarian community. Dr. Stephen Szabó, who became pastor in 1947 and has led the congregation ever since, directed the construction of a new cathedral next to Bethlen Hall. The new cathedral, built in Romanesque style, was paid off in record time-the shortest in the history of the congregation.

       In 1967, membership reached 1,200 families, representing the "largest Hungarian-American congregation."25 Today that number has declined somewhat; however, the church is still strongly supported by a large number of second and third generation Hungarian-Americans and their families.


The first location of the West Side Hungarian Reformed Church (W.32 and Caroll Ave.)(Congregation founded: 1906)


West Side Hungarian Lutheran Church (W.98th and Denisson)(Congregation founded: 1938)





*  *  *  *  *  *


       In 1906, under the direction of Dr. Elek Csutoros, the west side congregation separated and formed the West Side Hungarian Reformed Church. The following year, Reverend Károly Erdei became first pastor of the congregation and two buildings were purchased on Monroe and West 25th Street to facilitate a church and a school. In 1913, Reverend Erdei was succeeded by Dr. Elek Csutoros, who served as pastor until 1926. In 1923, the church which was used previously by the congregation at West 32nd Street and Carroll Avenue was purchased from the German Reformed congregation. The church hall, Calvin Hall, became a cultural and social centre for the west side Hungarian community. Reverend Csutoros organized the church Sunday School as well as summer Hungarian language instruction for the children.

       In 1926, Reverend Edmund Vasváry was elected pastor of the church. Reverend Vasváry later became a prominent researcher of Hungarians in America, with special reference to Hungarians who fought in the Civil War. In 1936, Reverend Vasváry was replaced by Reverend Matthias Daróczy, who served as pastor for nearly thirty years. During the pastorate of Reverend Daróczy, the congregation increased in membership and became a viable force in the Hungarian community of Cleveland. The church was instrumental in aiding hundreds of "D.P.s" who came after the Second World War as well as many homeless refugees who fled after the Hungarian Revolution in 1956.

       The present pastor is Reverend Aaron Elek, who has served in this capacity since 1963. In response to the needs of the congregation, a new church was recently purchased at West 150th Street and Puritas Road. The





The Hungarian Lutheran Orphanage-built 1913


The First Hungarian Lutheran Church at the corner of East Boulevard and Buckeye Road (Congregation founded: 1906)





congregation relocated in 1976 and simultaneously, construction of a new church hall was initiated. The new hall, costing $450,000 was completed in September 1978. This modern facility serves as the new center for Hungarian community activities in Cleveland. Of the Hungarian churches, the congregation of the West Side Hungarian Reformed Church presently represents one of the largest and most active.

The Lutheran Church

       Some twenty Hungarian Lutherans held their first meeting in 1905 and shortly afterwards, on April 23, 1906, they were granted a charter to establish an independent congregation. The first minister, Reverend Stephen Ruzsa arrived from Hungary in 1907 and within a few months the congregation purchased a church and schoolhouse on Rawlings Avenue. By 1911, summer school classes were organized with over seventy children attending Hungarian language instruction. In 1913, the Hungarian Lutheran Church founded and financed the first Hungarian Lutheran Orphanage in the United States. The orphanage operated successfully with more than forty children until its closing in 1920.

       Reverend Stephen Ruzsa was succeeded by his brother, Reverend László Ruzsa, in 1923. Reverend Andor Leffler became pastor in 1934. Under his leadership a new church was constructed to accommodate the ever increasing number of parishioners. The new church, located at Buckeye Road and East Boulevard, was dedicated on May 4, 1941. In 1943, the mortgage for the newly constructed church was amortized and in 1954, the construction of a new educational center was completed. Membership reached 1,000 families in 1950. Reverend Gábor Brachna has served the parish since 1955.





The Magyar Presbyterian Church (East 126th Street and Buckeye Road)(Congregation founded: 1914)


B'nai Jeshurum Hungarian Jewish Orthodox Synagogue (E.55 and Scovill Ave.)(Congregation founded: 1866)(Cleveland Public Library)





*  *  *  *  *  *


       The West Side Hungarian Lutheran congregation was organized in February 1938 with eleven members. Reverend Gábor Brachna, first minister of the newly formed congregation took charge in March of the same year. Soon afterwards, the congregation purchased a student dormitory on West 28th Street, which was then converted into a church. The new facility was dedicated in October 1938. By 1940, membership reached 125 families.

       In 1950, the need for a new church became evident due to the increasing numbers of parishioners. Furthermore, by this time the church was located at a considerable distance for most members, who had relocated further west in the suburbs of Cleveland. A new church was constructed at West 98th Street and Denison Avenue, its dedication took place on March 19, 1950.

       Reverend Brachna was succeeded in 1955 by Reverend Aladár Egyed, who served as minister for a few months. Reverend Imre Juhász became pastor in 1956 and has served the congregation since. One hundred and eight freedom fighters were welcomed and given temporary homes by the church after the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. At present, 230 parishioners regularly attend services.

The Presbyterian Church

       The Magyar Presbyterian congregation was organized on May 24, 1914 by a handful of people under the leadership of Reverend Julius Kish. At first, the congregation initiated a number of community service projects, such as English language instruction classes for adults as well as a kindergarten for pre-schoolers.

       The congregation's first church was constructed in 1915 at the corner of Buckeye Road and East 103rd Street. However, this location





proved to be at a considerable distance for most parishioners and a few years later, a new church was built on upper Buckeye Road at East 126th Street. This new church, which is the present location of the congregation was dedicated on January 12, 1919.

       Reverend Kish retired in 1926. Reverend Béla Bashó served the congregation until 1929, when he was succeeded by Reverend Stephen Csutoros, who was pastor of the church for forty years. Reverend Csutoros guided the congregation through many difficult years, including the Great Depression and the Second World War.

       He maintained an effective radio ministry, reaching thousands through the "Hungarian Radio Church" from 1940 through 1959. In 1956, Reverend Csutoros travelled to Austria to be of personal assistance to the homeless refugees who fled after the Hungarian Revolution. In 1969, Reverend Csutoros retired. The present pastor is Reverend Ferenc Erdei.

6. The Baptist Church

Hungarian Baptists were already organized in Cleveland in 1903. At first they met in two different buildings on East 79th and on Holton Avenue. Within a few months they purchased the First German Christian Alliance Church, which served as their first permanent location. Using the church as a meeting place, the congregation organized a band and a choir in order to preach gospel in the streets.

In June 1908, Reverend Stephen Orosz became the first minister of the small but determined group of forty-two members. In 1911, the congregation constructed a new church at 8907 Holton Avenue, thereby becoming independent of the German Church.





The Shaker Square Hungarian Baptist Church (Congregation founded: 1903)


The Orthodox Temple Built by the Shomre Hadath Hungarian Jewish Congregation-corner of East 123rd Street and Parkhill Avenue (Congregation founded: 1922)





       The Hungarian Baptist Seminary was initiated around the time of the founding of the mission to prepare young men for the Hungarian Baptist ministry. In 1920, eleven men were enrolled in the four year course of study.26 Reverend Orosz served as Dean of the Seminary.

       The congregation lent aid and support to other missions, including: the North West Virginia Mission, the West Side Mission (Cleveland), the Mission in Barberton, Ohio and the Buckeye Road Mission (East 118th Street). In addition, their efforts assisted in the organization of the Youngstown, Ohio Mission.

       During the pastorate of Reverend Orosz, which lasted until 1920, membership rose to 242. Reverend Orosz was followed by Reverend Michael Biró, who guided the congregation through the Great Depression. Dr. Charles Gruber became pastor in 1937. In 1948, the Holton Avenue and Buckeye Road Churches were unified, forming the Shaker Square Hungarian Baptist Church, which relocated to 2844 East 130th Street. Dr. Gruber took a leave of absence due to illness in 1948, and was replaced by Reverend Emil Bretz. In 1957, Reverend Bretz introduced a bilingual preaching service (English-Hungarian) in order to accommodate the ever increasing number of second and third generation members. Presently, Reverend Edward Orosz, son of Reverend Stephen Orosz serves as pastor of the church.

Jewish Temples

       The first Hungarian Jewish congregation, B'nai Jeshurum, was organized in 1866 by Herman Sampliner with an initial group of sixteen meeting at the homes of individual members. As membership increased, public halls were rented to accommodate the congregation and visitors on the great Holy Days. The first rabbi was Morris Klein, who officiated





from 1875-1886. Halle's Hall on Superior Avenue and the Anshe Chesed Synagogue on Eagle Street served as temporary homes of the congregation. A new temple, dedicated on September 16, 1906, was constructed at the corner of East 55th Street and Scovill Avenue. By that time the congregation had grown to 454 members.

       Originally founded as an orthodox congregation, B'nai Jeshurum became increasingly liberal in the 1900s. Dissident groups formed offshoot congregations, such as the Oheb Zedek congregation. In 1922, the temple at East 55th Street and Scovill Avenue was sold and the congregation moved to a new location at Lee Road and Mayfield in Cleveland Heights.


*  *  *  *  *  *


       The Oheb Zedek Hungarian Jewish congregation was organized as an orthodox offshoot of B'nai Jeshurum in 1904. The congregation constructed a temple at Parkwood Drive and Morrison Avenue in Glenville and purchased land to be used as a cemetery. By 1920, the membership had grown to 300. One of the founders of the new congregation, Dr. H.A. Liebowitz, wrote the first history of the Cleveland Hungarians.


*  *  *  *  *  *


       Shomre Hadath originated with the formation of a "minion" (religious requirement of ten adult males for organized prayer) in 1922. The congregation's first permanent synagogue, constructed in 1926, was located at East 123rd Street and Parkhill Avenue. The membership organized a Sunday School after completing the construction of the new synagogue. A women's auxiliary was founded to raise financial support. A burial society, the Chevre Kadisha, was established to assure members of an orthodox burial rite.