In February 2020, the Rauh Jewish Archives and the Jewish Genealogy Society of Pittsburgh launched a three-year partnership to bring more Jewish genealogical programming to Pittsburgh. With support from the William M. Lowenstein Genealogical Educational Fund at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, the partnership has now hosted 31 programs with some of the best Jewish genealogists in the world. These programs brought together more than 2,500 attendees from across Western Pennsylvania and all over the world, leading to a dramatic increase in JGS-Pittsburgh membership. In addition to these programs, the Rauh Jewish Archives and the Jewish Genealogy Society re-started the JGS-Pittsburgh’s monthly newsletter Z’chor and launched the new Western Pennsylvania Yahrzeit Plaques Project.
The partnership originally planned to bring out-of-town speakers to Pittsburgh. With the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, that plan quickly shifted to an ambitious schedule of virtual programming. With pandemic restrictions now easing, the next phase of the partnership will continue to provide a monthly calendar of virtual programming featuring some of the best genealogical educators around, but it will also feature several in-person programs at the Heinz History Center. We’ll be launching this effort on Sunday, March 26 with our program “Once More Under the Clock: Remembering Kaufmann’s.” This is a hybrid program, designed for in-person attendance but with a virtual option available, as well. We look forward to bringing other speakers to Pittsburgh for hybrid events over the next two years.
We will also be working together to foster the local Jewish genealogical community in other ways, including meetups, open houses, informal gatherings, social media outreach, and other experiments designed to bridge the divide between the virtual and physical worlds. If you are passionate about Jewish family history and want to join an active community of passionate people, we hope you will join us as we work to develop these local resources.
1321 Fifth Ave., showing facade of Brody's Restaurant, September 21, 1928.
—from Pittsburgh City Photographer Collection
University of Pittsburgh Archives & Special Collections
On Friday, Sept. 21, 1928, a photographer with the Division of Photography at the Department of Public Works snapped a picture of 1321 Fifth Ave.
The storefront was a little raggedy. The tile facade was chipped in places. The windows were dusty, and the striped awning was stained with soot. On one window was painted “Brody’s Restaurant” with the note: “Tables for Ladies.”
Advertisement announcing opening of Caplan & Brody's Restaurant at 1229 Fifth Ave.
—from Jewish Criterion, September 19, 1924 [Pittsburgh Jewish Newspaper Project]
Abe Brody was one of many people who bounced around the local Jewish restaurant world in the first half of the 20th century. In 1925, he partnered with Louis Caplan on Caplan & Brody's Restaurant at 1229 Fifth Ave. In 1937, he partnered with Isadore Lampel on the Center Café and Restaurant at 1830 Centre Ave. In between, he was a waiter with many establishments, including Lampel’s, Caplan’s, and Weinstein’s. He may have also briefly run the Pitt Hotel & Mineral Springs in the Jewish resort town of Cambridge Springs with an N. Bloom in 1926, although it may have been a different Abe Brody.
Advertisement for Brody’s Restaurant at 1321 Fifth Ave. Features “Hungarian Cuisine” with “steaks, chops, kernutzlich, etc—Broiled on Charcoil (sic).”
—Jewish Criterion, February 9, 1939 [Pittsburgh Jewish Newspaper Project]
Brody's career is documented through city directory listings, a few advertisements, and the Pittsburgh City Photographer Collection image above.
In one of his advertisements, Brody promotes his “Hungarian Cuisine” and writes, “Try Our Steaks, Chops, Kernutzlich, etc—Broiled on Chaorcoil (sic).”
Kernutzlich (sometimes spelled Karnatzlach) were a type of popular Jewish sausage. While his recipe doesn’t survive, available recipes usually feature ground meat packed with garlic, shaped into sausage without casing, and broiled over charcoal. A little baking soda gave it bounce. Kernutzlich could also be found on the menu at Canter’s Restaurant in the mid-1940s.
All year, the Rauh Jewish Archives is highlighting Jewish restaurants in Western Pennsylvania. If you would like to donate a material from a Jewish restaurant, or just reminisce, contact the archiveor call 412-454-6406.
Jewish Encyclopedia of Western Pennsylvania
Bickur Cholim Society
Black and white architectural rendering of proposed extension to the Bickur Cholim Convalescent and Nursing Home at 208 N. Negley Ave. in the East End of Pittsburgh.
—Jewish Chronicle Records [MSS 906]
The Bickur Cholim Society was a service agency in Pittsburgh providing care for people recovering from illness. The organization assumed many forms over its existence, including arranging hospital visits, overseeing a convalescent home, and awarding grants. Our entry for the Bickur Cholim Society includes photographs and newspaper clippings detailing its many transitions, including a 1920 article from the local Yiddish newspaper The Volksfreund.
The Jewish Encyclopedia of Western Pennsylvania brings together numerous online resources into a clearinghouse for conducting research about Jewish history in this region. As we migrate information to this new website, we’ll be announcing new entries and resources in this section of the newsletter.
Western Pennsylvania Yahrzeit Plaque Project update:
243 records added
The Western Pennsylvania Yahrzeit Plaques database now contains 647 listings. We recently added 243 individual plaques from three memorial boards from Congregation Adath Israel in Oakland (also known as the Ward Street Shul) and four memorial boards from Lubavitch Center in Squirrel Hill.
The Adath Israel plaques were transcribed by Rauh Jewish Archives volunteers Jon Halpern (English) and Carol Hoffman (Hebrew). The Lubavitch Center plaques were transcribed by volunteer Carol Hoffman (English/Hebrew).
We are actively transcribing yahrzeit plaques from congregations from throughout the region. Each month, we’ll use this space in the newsletter to report on additions to the database. We are currently working through a backlog of nearly 20,000 individual records. The more help we have, the quicker we’ll go. We’re currently looking for volunteers who can read and transcribe Hebrew names and Hebrew dates. Work can be completed remotely or in-person at the Archive. To volunteer, email us or call 412-454-6406.
IMAGE: Adath Israel Congregation memorial board, housed at Congregation Poale Zedeck.
JGS-Pittsburgh and the Rauh Jewish Archives present:
Once More Under the Clock: Remembering Kaufmann's
Photograph showing Kaufmann's Department Store on Smithfield Street in downtown Pittsburgh, during construction, July 19, 1913.
—from "Progress Photographs, Kaufmann’s Department Store [2008.0040]
Kaufmann’s Department Store holds a special place in Pittsburgh memory.
Kaufmann’s iconic clock, its decorated window displays, its special cultural exhibits, its dynamic promotional offers, and of course its beloved Tic Toc Restaurant, Arcade Bakery, and Vendome boutique—all recall a golden age of downtown retailing history. Starting from a small menswear store on the South Side in 1871, Kaufmann’s grew to become the largest department store in downtown Pittsburgh. In the years since its flagship building on Smithfield Street passed into new use in 2015, three books have been written locally about the legendary department store and the family behind it.
In “Once More Under the Clock,” a special presentation hosted by the Jewish Genealogy Society of Pittsburgh and the Rauh Jewish Archives, the authors of all three books will offer insights into Kaufmann’s Department Store and the Kaufmann family. They’ll also share their favorite discoveries from the vast collection of Kaufmann’s materials held at the Rauh Jewish Archives.
The program will begin with a talk from journalists Marylynne Pitz and Laura Malt Schneiderman, authors of the new book “KAUFMANN’S, The Family That Built Pittsburgh’s Famed Department Store" (University of Pittsburgh Press). The book traces the Kaufmann family’s tremendous influence in the Pittsburgh region as retailers, philanthropists, and patrons of the arts and architecture. It also tells the decades-long story of the struggles and successes of a Jewish immigrant family in Pittsburgh.
Following the talk, Pitz and Schneiderman will join a panel discussion with Letitia Savage (author of the 2016 book "Kaufmann's: The Big Store in Pittsburgh") and Melanie Linn Gutowski (author of the 2017 book "Kaufmann’s Department Store." Together they’ll trade stories and insights from their research. Each author has chosen a selection of materials from the Kaufmann’s Department Store collections, all of which we be on display for one-day only.
The program is Sunday, March 26 from 11-1:00 p.m. ET. This is a hybrid program. It is designed for in-person attendance but will have a virtual option.
This program is possible through the support of the William M. Lowenstein Genealogical Research Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation.
Marylynne Pitz is an award-winning journalist covering art, architecture, books, and history. She was a member of the news team that won the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Tree of Life shooting in 2018. She has won five Golden Quills, an Inland Press Association award for investigative reporting, and a Matrix Award. A native of Indianapolis, she has lived in Pittsburgh since 1980.
Laura Malt Schneiderman is a journalist and web developer in Pittsburgh. She has won seven Golden Quills and was part of a team that won the Scripps Howard Edward J. Meeman Award in 2011. Originally from Saint Louis, she has worked in journalism in Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
Melanie Linn Gutowski is a historian and museum educator based in the Greater Pittsburgh area. She is the author of the pictorial histories “Pittsburgh’s Mansions” and “Kaufmann’s Department Store” (Arcadia Publishing).” A self-professed “Gilded Age geek,” Melanie is continually fascinated by American and European history and culture from 1865-1920, especially robber barons, historic homes and decorative arts. Melanie holds a Master’s degree in professional writing from Chatham University and a Bachelor of Arts in French and history of art & architecture from the University of Pittsburgh.
Letitia Savage published her first article while still in college, a chapter for an engineering book on the effects of oil spills on marine organisms. She continued freelance magazine writing while working as an environmental consultant, primarily on hazardous waste cleanups for the military and the USEPA. In addition to contributing environmental and gardening articles to Country Journal, she wrote about horse training and horse keeping for many national horse publications, including Chronicle of the Horse and Horse Illustrated. After years of magazine writing, Letitia published her first book on Kaufmann’s Department Store in Pittsburgh for Arcadia Press in 2016. She and her husband live in a pre-Civil War farmhouse that they restored in Sewickley.
"When Henry Silverstein Got Cold: How Terrible Enumerators Help Us Do Better Census Research"
with Tammy Hepps
IMAGES (clockwise from upper left): Tammy Hepps; Google Map showing households included in Enumeration District 144 of Homestead's Third Ward in the 1920 Census; Section of page 11A, Homestead Ward 3, ED 144 of the 1920 Census. Handwritten text reads, "Here Ends Enumeration of District 144 Homestead Borough Henry Silverstein."
On Jan. 2, 1920, Henry Silverstein began his first day as a census enumerator by turning left instead of right. Things went downhill from there, and within days he became so overwhelmed that he resorted to an illegal scheme to finish the job. Through this shocking story and the painstaking detective work that uncovered it, you’ll come to see the census—and your ancestors’ presence or absence in it—in a whole new light. You’ll laugh at Henry’s misdeeds, and you’ll grow your census research skills.
The program is Sunday, April 16 from 11-1:30 p.m. ET. This is a hybrid program. It is designed for in-person attendance but will have a virtual option.
This program will be recorded and made available to current JGS-Pittsburgh members. Those who attend in person are encouraged to stick around after the program for refreshments and a meet-and-greet with JGS members.
This program is possible through the support of the William M. Lowenstein Genealogical Research Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation.
Tammy Hepps is a historian of the Jewish experience in Western Pennsylvania. She combines in-depth historical research with techniques from technology and genealogy to reconstruct overlooked stories from the past in an engaging way. She has presented her findings around the world, including the Library of Congress and the International Jewish Genealogy Conference in Jerusalem. Her best-known research is into the history of the Jewish community in the former steel-making center of Homestead, PA (HomesteadHebrews.com). Tammy earned her AB in computer science from Harvard and is a Wexner Heritage Fellow.
From the Jewish Cemetery & Burial Association
"Road Trip: The Jewish Cemeteries of Western Pennsylvania"
The Jewish Cemetery and Burial Association of Greater Pittsburgh has released a new documentary showcasing Jewish cemeteries in Western Pennsylvania.
“Road Trip: The Jewish Cemeteries of Western Pennsylvania” is a one-hour tour of the many cemetery properties overseen by the JCBA, as well as an overview of the organization’s ongoing work to care for these sacred burial grounds. The video is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate these special Jewish cultural sites in our region. The video includes many historic photographs and documents from the collections of the Rauh Jewish Archives.
Father James Cox was the pastor of Old St. Patrick’s Church during the Great Depression. He printed the first food stamps, fed almost 3 million people, led a major march on our national’s capital with 25,000 jobless, and was even nominated for President. He was one of the first preachers on national radio, defended Jewish Americans, and went head-to-head against antisemites.
But who was the man behind it all?
“SHANTYTOWN: The Ballad of Fr. James Cox” explores the forgotten tale of Fr. Cox and celebrates what he accomplished—his courage, his ideas, his love for his people, his rise to near sainthood, and his survival of a federal trial for a lottery scam.
The musical also considers Father Cox's longstanding friendship with Henry Ellenbogen, using materials from the Rauh Jewish Archives.
Performances runs March 11-26 at Madison School, 3401 Milwaukee St.
Book, music and lyrics by Ray Werner
Composer and Music Director: Dwayne Fulton with arrangements by Mike Gallagher, Bruce Foley, Jerry McCarthy and Walter Woodward
Detail from front page of Jewish Daily Forward, including photograph showing President and First Lady Kennedy, 1960.
Founded in 1897 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the Jewish Daily Forward became the most widely read Jewish news source anywhere. By the 1920s, this Yiddish-language daily had more readers than the New York Times. With rigorous reporting, incisive editorials and powerful commentary, the Forward chronicled the events that affected immigrants eager to earn their place in American life. This was the paper read by congregants from its neighborhood’s many synagogues, by families squeezing into tenement apartments, by sweatshop workers and pushcart vendors. Its articles were debated on park benches and at local haunts like the Garden Cafeteria and the Royal Café, its discarded pages then used to wrap fish for Friday night Sabbath eve dinners. The Forward’s ideals have been held dear for generations of readers, not just on the Lower East Side but across the country and around the world.
The new exhibit Pressed at Hillman Library on the University of Pittsburgh campus looks into the vast Forward archive to present a selection of metal plates used to print photographs in the paper from the 1920s to the 1960s. These plates are accompanied by prints made just for this exhibition. These prints have rendered the images with greater clarity than they had as dotted, halftone prints in the newspaper. The Forward pages on which some of these images appeared are also displayed. These pages are enlarged and reproduced from microfilm and photographs because printed copies of the newspaper have not been preserved at the Forward or in any other archive, although they occasionally pop up at auction or in private collections. Together these images of strikes and activists, Yiddish theater stars and baseball players, daily life and historic moments, present the depth and breadth of this singular publication, its audience and Jewish life in America and around the world.
Pressed is organized by the Forward in collaboration with the Museum at Eldridge Street, and hosted by the University of Pittsburgh Library System and the Jewish Studies program. It will remain on display through April 2023.
The Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle reports on an effort by Rodef Shalom Congregation to identify two people from a pair of mid-19th century portraits in the congregation's holdings. Do you recognize these two people?
The Pittsburgh Jewish Newspaper Project contains digitized, searchable copies of four local English-language Jewish newspapers between 1895 and 2010. It is a valuable tool for researching almost any topic about Jewish history in Western Pennsylvania. For a primer on using the website, watch our video.
The Rauh Jewish Archives launched the Western Pennsylvania Jewish Cemetery Project in 1998 to preserve burial records from Jewish cemeteries across the region. Over a period of fifteen years, the information was compiled into a searchable, online database containing approximately 50,000 burial records from 78 Jewish cemeteries throughout the region.
Western Pennsylvania Yahrzeit Plaques Project
The Rauh Jewish Archives launched the Western Pennsylvania Yahrzeit Plaques Project in 2020. The goal was to create a comprehensive collection of burial records from memorial boards at synagogues across the region. Volunteers are currently transcribing these boards and records are being added monthly to our online database. The database currently contains almost 400 listings.
University of Pittsburgh librarian and Rauh Jewish Archives volunteer Laurie Cohen created this comprehensive bibliography of the Rauh Jewish Archives library holdings from 1988 through 2018. It lists nearly 350 volumes arranged by type and then by subject. This a great tool to use early in your research process, as you’re surveying available resources on a given subject.
Rauh Jewish Archives Newsletter
The Rauh Jewish Archives has been publishing a weekly newsletter since 2020. The newsletter contains a variety of articles about local Jewish history, including much original research not found anywhere else. You can find and read every issue—more than 150!— in our new index.
The Rauh Jewish Archives was founded on November 1, 1988 to collect, preserve, and make accessible the documentary history of Jews and Jewish communities of Western Pennsylvania. You can help the RJHPA continue its work by making a donation that will directly support the work being done in Western Pa.