Second largest city in the state of Pennsylvania. With Allegheny, the twin-city on the north side of the Allegheny River, it is the chief city of western Pennsylvania.
There are no reliable records of the beginnings of the Jewish community; but it has been ascertained that between 1838 and 1844 a small number of Jews, mostly from Baden, Bavaria, and Württemberg, settled in and around Pittsburg. These were joined by others in 1847 and by still others in 1852, who included in their numbers the founders of Jewish communal life. The first Jewish service was held in the autumn of 1844, while the first attempt atorganization was made in 1847, when a mere handful of men combined with the hope of forming a congregation. They worshiped in a room on Penn street near Walnut (now 13th) street, having engaged the Rev. Mannheimer as cantor. They formed also a Bes Almon Society, and purchased a cemetery at Troy Hill. The congregational body finally became known as "Ez Hajjim." It lacked homogeneity on account of the varying religious views of its members; and divisions and reunions took place from time to time until about 1853, when a united congregation was formed under the name "Rodeph Shalom." In 1864 a further division occurred, the seceders chartering a congregation under the name "Ez Hajjim" in 1865, and purchasing a cemetery at Sharpsburg.Congregation-Rodeph Shalom.
Congregation Rodeph Shalom first worshiped in a hall over the Vigilant engine-house on Third avenue, then in the Irish hall on Sixth street, and in 1861 built on Hancock (now Eighth) street the first synagogue in western Pennsylvania. In 1879 it purchased the West View Cemetery. In 1884 the synagogue was enlarged, but it was subsequently torn down, and the present building, under erection during 1900 and 1901, was dedicated on Sept. 6 and 7 of the latter year. Among the early readers and teachers of Rodeph Shalom were Sulzbacher and Marcuson. In 1854 William Armhold took charge of the congregation, remaining till 1865, when he went to Philadelphia. During his administration the congregation erected the temple on Eighth street; and, in conjunction with Josiah Cohen, he conducted a school which was maintained from 1860 to 1868. From 1865 to 1870 L. Naumburg was teacher and reader; and in his day the Reform movement was considerably advanced. The first rabbi of the congregation was Lippman Mayer, who came from Selma, Ala., in the spring of 1870. He successfully guided the congregation along advanced Reform lines until his retirement as rabbi emeritus in 1901. By that time he had seen his congregation grow from a membership of 65 to 150. He was succeeded (April 1, 1901) by J. Leonard Levy, the present (1905) incumbenṭ, who was called from Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, Philadelphia. In the past two years Rodeph Shalom has grown considerably. Its present number of members and seat-holders exceeds 400; and it is worthy of record that on the day after the dedication of the new temple (Sept. 8, 1901) the congregation contributed a sum of money which not only liquidated a debt of nearly $100,000, but left a surplus of over $30,000.
Rodeph Shalom, which during the past sixteen years has been presided over by Abraham Lippman, has since 1901 issued, for the use of its members and others: "A Book of Prayer" for the Sunday services; "A Text-Book of Religion and Ethics for Jewish Children"; "A Home Service for the Passover"; "A Home Service for Ḥanukkah"; "The Children's Service"; "Sabbath Readings" for each Sabbath of the year; and three volumes of Sunday lectures. The congregation distributes these Sunday lectures weekly in pamphlet form to all who attend the services, and also furnishes gratuitously a special edition to non-Jewish residents of Allegheny county.
The Ez Hajjim congregation worshiped for a time in a hall in the Dennis block on Second avenue, and in 1882 purchased its present building on Fourth and Ross streets. It has prospered, and is an active force in Jewish congregational and communal life. Among its ministers may be mentioned: A. Crone (1874-81); A. Bernstein (1881-91); F.Salinger (1891-1897). Michael Fried (since 1898), the present (1905) incumbent, a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Ez Hajjim belongs to the school of progressive conservatism, and now has family pews and confers the rite of confirmation. It has inaugurated Friday evening services and has a Ladies' Auxiliary Society, a flourishing religious school, and a growing alumni association.Philanthropic Associations.
Pittsburg is notable in American Jewish history on account of the conference (see
The Concordia Club fosters Jewish social life in Pittsburg. The Council of Jewish Women is represented by the Columbian Council. The Y. M. H. A. has been reorganized, and gives promise of great activity. The Independent Order of B'nai B'rith has five lodges; and the Independent Order of the Free Sons of Israel, the Sons of Benjamin, Sons of Israel, and Sons of Abraham have two each. There are two weekly papers, one in English. "The Jewish Criterion," of which Rabbi Levy and Charles H. Joseph are the editors, and one in Judæo-German, the "Volksfreund."Prominent Jews.
The Jews of Pittsburg are prominent in the professions and in commerce. Donors to non-sectarian charities include J. D. Bernd and Isaac Kaufmann, the latter of whom in 1895 gave the Emma KaufmannFree Clinic to the medical department of the Western University. Among those who have held positions in public life are Emanuel Wertheimer, select councilman and member of the state house of representatives; Morris Einstein, select councilman (15 years); Josiah Cohen, judge of the Orphans' Court; E. E. Mayer, city physician; L. S. Levin, assistant city attorney. Isaac W. Frank is president of the National Founders' Association, and A. Leo Weil is a member of the executive committee of the Voters' Civic League.
Since 1882 there has been a steady increase in the number of Jews in Pittsburg, the new settlers coming mostly from eastern Europe. Russian, Rumanian, and Hungarian Jews have come in large numbers, and are beginning to display an appreciable interest in public affairs. They have six synagogues (whose rabbis include A. M. Ashinsky and M. S. Sivitz), many ḥebras, and a number of small religious societies. The Pittsburg Jewry strongly sympathizes with the Zionistic movement, having a large number of Zionistic societies. The number of Jewish inhabitants is estimated at between 15,000 and 25,000, in a total population of about 322,000.
- History of Congregation Rodeph Shalom, 1899;
- articles in the Jewish Criterion, 1901, and American Israelite, 1893.