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Cleveland Celebrates Its 78th Anniversary

The Cleveland Buddhist Temple (CBT) held its 78th anniversary celebration on Jan. 15 — a testament to its history of perseverance in overcoming obstacles and difficulties since its founding near the end of World War II.


The temple has also transformed itself from a Sangha of mostly Japanese Americans who settled in the Cleveland area to a diverse, non-Japanese American Sangha.


“The CBT has survived fire bombings, rain damage, flood damage, Japanese membership declines, organizational difficulties, and several moves over its 78 years,” CBT Minister’s Assistant Rev. Anita Kazarian said. “We survive because we continue to evolve and change in order to share our Shin teachings with those new to Buddhism.”


The celebration was held at the CBT’s rented site at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Shaker Heights, where it holds in-person services on the third Sunday of each month.


A social gathering with cake, coffee, tea and other foods followed the Hoonko and January memorial service. After the gathering, a study class discussed Rev. Dr. Taitetsu Unno’s iconic book, “River of Fire, River of Water: An Introduction to the Pure Land Tradition of Shin Buddhism.”


The Cleveland Buddhist Temple formed as a result of the influx of Japanese American families from World War II detention camps. The families settled in the Cleveland area seeking jobs and beginning new lives.


The initial dedication service was held Jan. 7, 1945, at the First Unitarian Church.

The first church building was purchased in 1955 on East 81st St. In July 1966, the temple building was firebombed and services were suspended during the city’s Hough neighborhood riots. Two years later, an appeal to BCA temples and members was made for funds to help purchase a new building. As a result of the generous donations, a building was dedicated in Euclid in May 1970.


Because of declining membership as well as maintenance problems — including a major roof leak and burst pipe — the Euclid building was sold in December 2018.

Rev. Kazarian noted that the CBT’s Bon Odori in 2022 had the greatest attendance in several decades, even exceeding the turnout that gathered at the Euclid location.


The CBT is grateful to Supervising Minister Rev. Ron Miyamura, the Eastern District Council and the BCA for their support in our efforts to spread the Shin Buddhist teachings in the Cleveland area.


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