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Benesch, Alfred Abraham


BENESCH, ALFRED ABRAHAM (1879–1973), U.S. attorney and civic leader. Benesch was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Bohemian immigrants. He established a law practice in Cleveland and was elected to the Cleveland City Council in 1912. In 1914–15 he served as public safety director in Mayor Newton D. Baker's cabinet. Under Benesch's direction the first electric traffic signal lights were installed in Cleveland on August 5, 1914, by the American Traffic Signal Company. In 1922 Benesch gained prominence as a libertarian for his fight against a proposed quota system for Jews at Harvard. His public career was highlighted by 37 years of continuous service on the Cleveland Board of Education (1925–62); he was its president in 1933–34. Benesch made an immediate impact on school policy when he successfully opposed compulsory reserve military training in the city's public high schools. He was Ohio State Director of Commerce during 1935–39. Benesch held many public and civic offices and was equally active as a Jewish communal leader, serving as a trustee of many local Jewish agencies.

[Judah Rubinstein]

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