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Pennsylvania - Photo Collection Of Jewish History Goes Online at Pittsburgh Archive

Published on: January 28, 2010 11:18 AM
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Beth Hamedrash Hagodol (BHH) was founded in 1869 by Lithuanian Jews, who had fled to the United States after the unsuccessful 1863 Polish revolt against the Russia Empire. The congregation was chartered as Bnai Israel in 1873. The congregation grew as more Orthodox Jewish Yiddish-speaking immigrants arrived. In 1880, the congregation moved into a building at the corner of Grant Street and Third Avenue.Beth Hamedrash Hagodol (BHH) was founded in 1869 by Lithuanian Jews, who had fled to the United States after the unsuccessful 1863 Polish revolt against the Russia Empire. The congregation was chartered as Bnai Israel in 1873. The congregation grew as more Orthodox Jewish Yiddish-speaking immigrants arrived. In 1880, the congregation moved into a building at the corner of Grant Street and Third Avenue.

Pennsylvania- Longtime residents of Pittsburgh should get a kick out of viewing the collection of photographs from the early days of the Hebrew Institute, recently posted by the Rauh Jewish Archives  to the University of Pittsburgh’s online digital library, Historic Pittsburgh.

















The 27 photographs, which the Agency for Jewish Learning donated to the Rauh Jewish Archives, range in date from 1915 to 1984. Included in the collection are class and graduation photos of students, the laying of the cornerstone on Wylie Avenue in the Hill District in 1915 and a 1921 photo of the school’s first “bus.”

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“I love the Hebrew Institute photos because there are so many children in the pictures who are now adults,” said Susan Melnick, archivist at the Rauh. “There are so many people who will recognize themselves, so hopefully, they will log on and enjoy it.”

The Hebrew Institute got its start in 1911 as the vision of Rabbi A. M. Ashinsky, who wanted to establish a modern Talmud Torah. Its purpose was to make Jewish education a factor in youths’ lives by teaching Hebrew language and literature, and by fostering knowledge of Jewish history and ethics.

On Nov. 7, 1916, after garnering support from the community, the Hebrew Institute of Pittsburgh opened its doors in its new building on Wylie Avenue. The building housed a kindergarten, an elementary school, a student synagogue, a library, a printing department and sewing classes for girls. Housing also a game room and a playground, the building soon became a popular center for the Jewish community.

B'nai Israel cornerstone laying, 1922. In 1920, the congregation purchased land with two existing structures at 327 Negley Avenue. In 1922, ground was broken for the construction of the sanctuary. The building was designed by Henry Hornbostel, Alexander Sharove, and Philip Friedman in a Byzantine style. Prior to construction, the congregation used the two existing buildings on this land as gathering places and offices. A building called the barn was used as a social hall, and a building behind the main sanctuary referred to as the mansion housed a chapel, offices and classrooms. Although the construction was not yet complete, the sanctuary was first used for High Holiday services in 1924.  Initially, members followed Orthodox customs. Rabbi Benjamin Lichter was hired as the congregation’s rabbi in 1920. Under his leadership the congregation affiliated with the Conservative movement. In 1922, the congregation joined the United Synagogue of America. Preferring to follow Orthodox traditions, some members withdrew from B’nai Israel and established Adath Jeshurun in the same neighborhood.B’nai Israel cornerstone laying, 1922. In 1920, the congregation purchased land with two existing structures at 327 Negley Avenue. In 1922, ground was broken for the construction of the sanctuary. The building was designed by Henry Hornbostel, Alexander Sharove, and Philip Friedman in a Byzantine style. Prior to construction, the congregation used the two existing buildings on this land as gathering places and offices. A building called the barn was used as a social hall, and a building behind the main sanctuary referred to as the mansion housed a chapel, offices and classrooms. Although the construction was not yet complete, the sanctuary was first used for High Holiday services in 1924.  Initially, members followed Orthodox customs. Rabbi Benjamin Lichter was hired as the congregation’s rabbi in 1920. Under his leadership the congregation affiliated with the Conservative movement. In 1922, the congregation joined the United Synagogue of America. Preferring to follow Orthodox traditions, some members withdrew from B’nai Israel and established Adath Jeshurun in the same neighborhood.

When Pittsburgh’s Jewish population began to shift to the East End in 1919, the Hebrew Institute began to use two rooms in the Colfax School for classes, and soon provided transportation for the 795 students enrolled.

The institute sold its original building in 1943 and relocated to a new building at Forbes and Denniston avenues in Squirrel Hill. The school flourished there, and by 1954, it had both the largest kindergarten and summer camp of its kind in the country. The elementary school also became one of the country’s largest.

In 1991 the Hebrew Institute, Community Day School and the School of Advanced Jewish Studies merged to form the Jewish Educational Institute of Greater Pittsburgh.

Funding from the Simon Hafner Charitable Foundation and the Giant Eagle Foundation helped to underwrite the preparation of the photographs for posting on the Historic Pittsburgh Web site, as well as supporting other work of the Rauh Jewish Archives.


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1

 Jan 28, 2010 at 04:30 PM nebach Says:

all the old shuls in america that we allowed to become churches. especially in new york city, all the old shuls have become churches. we build all these new shuls, we open little shuls in peoples houses. why not start reusing the shuls that are losing their membership due to old age? the shul i was bar mitzvahed in is a beautiful piece of old european styling. nebach the day that, that beautiful shul becomes a church or a condo. yidden come move to south brooklyn, we have a handful of beautiful shuls that need attendance.

2

 Jan 28, 2010 at 07:35 PM Pittsburgher Says:

Thankfully both shuls are still shuls.

3

 Jan 28, 2010 at 10:21 PM former pgher Says:

No there are not. There is no shul left in stanton heights

4

 Jan 29, 2010 at 01:20 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #3  
former pgher Says:

No there are not. There is no shul left in stanton heights

There never was a shul in Stanton Heights there were a total of 5 shuls in East Liberty/Highland Park

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