A Brief History of Pittsburgh’s Jews

Last fall, the massacre of Jews by an anti-immigration fanatic at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh brought brief national attention to the city’s Jewish community. Barbara Burstin, a historian of Pittsburgh Jewry, provides an overview of its development, with special attention to the synagogue itself and the Squirrel Hill neighborhood where it is located:

Beginning around 1910, [more recently arrived] East European Jews began to join their more established German Jewish brethren in the [city’s] nicer East End neighborhoods of Oakland, East Liberty, Bloomfield, and even Squirrel Hill, the most prestigious of them all, with its elegant houses and tree-lined streets. . . . Squirrel Hill soon became the center of Pittsburgh Jewish life, though Tree of Life would not move from its building in the more modest Oakland neighborhood to its present location in Squirrel Hill until after World War II. . . .

In 1948, Tree of Life broke ground for its current building in Squirrel Hill, but with the founding of the state of Israel, its rabbi, Herman Hailperin, called for a stop to the fundraising so the congregation could focus on helping Jews in Israel. The cornerstone of the building, which opened four years later, was hewn from Jerusalem limestone. These were boom years for Tree of Life. In 1959, the synagogue broke ground again to build a new, 1,400-seat sanctuary. A local artist, Nicholas Parrendo, was commissioned to create the massive modernist stained-glass windows that flank its bimah and pews, depicting creation, the acceptance of the Torah, and the Jewish ethos. . . .

Unlike Jews of other cities that are, in one way or another, comparable (say, Philadelphia, Chicago, or Cleveland), Pittsburgh’s Jews never moved en masse to the suburbs, and the fact that the community remains centered in Squirrel Hill may have helped with their complete integration into the city’s life.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: American Jewish History, History & Ideas, Synagogues

Hizballah Is Preparing Terror Attacks on U.S. Targets

June 18 2019

On May 16, a New York jury convicted the Hizballah operative Ali Kourani on multiple terrorism-related counts, including planning attacks on FBI and Secret Service offices as well as on an Army armory. His arrest and questioning, writes Matthew Levitt, suggest that the Iran-backed Lebanese organization is far more focused on carrying out attacks on U.S. soil than law-enforcement agents previously believed:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Canada, Hizballah, Iran, Terrorism, U.S. Security