Summary Information
Title: Beth Hamedrash Hagodol-Beth Jacob Congregation Records,
Collection Number: mss#438
Creator: Beth Hamedrash Hagodol-Beth Jacob Congregation
Collection Dates: 1880-2005
Extent: 9.5 linear feet (5 boxes, 73 volumes)
Abstract:
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 collection includes a wide range of materials related to the function of the congregation.

Language:

The material in this collection is in English.

Repository:

Rauh Jewish Archives
Senator John Heinz History Center
1212 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
412-454-6364
library@hswp.org
http://www.heinzhistorycenter.org/libraryArchives.aspx

Date Published:

September 2008
Author:

The guide to this collection was written by Susan M. Melnick.
Encoder:

Encoded by Matt Strauss on August 8, 2008, from an existing finding aid.

History

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 B’nai 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.

In 1883, members of the congregation from the Lithuanian region around the town of Suwalk split off and formed a congregation which they chartered in 1883 as Beth Jacob (BJ). In 1901, they moved from a building on Wylie Avenue to Epiphany and Townsend.

The B’nai Israel congregation continued to expand as more Yiddish-speaking immigrants arrived. When the congregation outgrew the building on Grant Street, the congregants built a new synagogue in 1892 on Washington Street with seating for 1600 people. The congregation renamed itself Beth Hamedrash Hagodol or the Great House of Learning and was known colloquially as the Washington Street Schul.

During the first part of the twentieth century, as immigrant Jews acculturated, they began to move from the Hill. As the population of Jews living on the Hill declined, synagogues closed or moved to the areas east of the Hill where Jews were establishing communities. BHH and BJ, however, stayed on the Hill. In 1960, the Washington Street Schul was destroyed by fire and the congregation moved into temporary quarters. This happened just as planned urban development was about to clear the lower Hill. In 1964, the two congregations merged forming Beth Hamedrash Hagodol-Beth Jacob. A new building was built on Colwell Street and was dedicated in 1965. Built into the new building was the ark that had been saved from the fire that destroyed the old building. Without a resident Jewish community in the vicinity, the synagogue now serves those Jews who work in downtown Pittsburgh. The BHH-BJ is the oldest existing Orthodox congregation in Pittsburgh.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The Beth Hamedrash Hagodol-Beth Jacob Records are housed in 5 boxes and 73 volumes and arranged chronologically. The bulk of the collection precedes the merger and is from BHH. Those materials which are clearly from Beth Jacob are identified. However, since no name is evident on many of the ledgers, the ledgers are arranged together. Much of the early material is in Yiddish. Many of the ledgers contain several types of information.

The collection includes a wide range of materials related to the function of the congregation. Most of the financial records are contained in the ledgers. These detail receipts and expenses, dues, seat sales, and membership dues. Of interest are membership lists, meeting minutes, and documents related to the merger of the two congregations and the building of the Colwell Street synagogue. The functioning of the congregation can be seen in the correspondence related to the hiring of cantors, correspondence with members, receipts for goods and services, and pay records for rabbis. Of note is information concerning the hiring of Rabbi A.M. Ashinsky. The cemeteries are documented with correspondence concerning plot purchase and upkeep. The building related records include architectural specifications for the building of the Colwell Synagogue, and maintenance records of the Washington Street Schul. Receipts are available for the goods and services required for the function of the congregation, including quantities of fabric for the making of shrouds. Of interest as well are the appeals for funds from Jewish organizations to which donations were made. The nature of the appeals reflects the historical context in which they were made from pre-World War I through the establishment of the state of Israel.


Controlled Access Terms
Personal Names
  • Ashinsky, Aaron Mordechai, Rabbi
  • Savage, Arthur, Rabbi
Corporate Names
  • B’nai Israel Congregation (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Beth Hamedrash Hagodol (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Beth Jacob (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Washington Street Schul (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
Topics
  • Jews--Pennsylvania--Pittsburgh
  • Synagogues--Pennsylvania--Pittsburgh
  • Orthodox Judaism--Pennsylvania--Pittsburgh
Access and Use
Access Restrictions:

No Restrictions.

Aquisition Information:

These materials came in 4 accessions and were combined into one collection in October 2006.

Acc# 1993.0122- Gift of Beth Hamedrash Hagodol-Beth Jacob Congregation.

Acc# 1994.0177 Gift of Beth Hamedrash Hagodol-Beth Jacob Congregation.

Acc# 1997.0058 Gift of Beth Hamedrash Hagodol-Beth Jacob Congregation

Acc# 1999.0007 Gift of Morris Naimark

Preferred Citation:

Beth Hamedrash Hagodol-Beth Jacob Congregation Records, 1880-2005, MSS#438, Rauh Jewish Archives, Senator John Heinz History Center

Processing Information:

October 2006; This collection was processed by Susan M. Melnick.

Copyright:

Property rights reside with the Senator John Heinz History Center. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the Library and Archives of the Senator John Heinz History Center.

Separated Material:
To the photographic collection: three folders of photographs arranged as MSQ# 438. To the oversized collection: one folder of materials arranged as MSO# 438.


Contents List
Administration

Box 1
Series Beth Jacob—miscellaneous 1887-1964
Building
Colwell Street
Architect
Folder 2 RFP 1963
Folder 3 Specifications 1963
Folder 4 Construction 1963-1967
Folder 5 Landscaping 1964-1981
Folder 6 Washington Street 1905-1954
Folder 7 By-laws 1914
Folder 8 Cantor employment 1923-1953
Folder 9 Chevre Misnayoth 1928-1946
Folder 10 Choir 1933-1937
Folder 11 Consolidation 1964
Folder 12 Events 1924, 1942, 1965
Meeting minutes including financial information
Volume 1 1900-1928
Volume 2 1902-1957 Beth Jacob
Volume 3 1912-1946
Folder 13 1925-1928
Folder 14 1946-1963
Rabbis

Box 2
Folder 1 Ashinsky 1926, 1934
Folder 1 Savage 1986
Folder 2 Sermons n.d.
Seats
Folder 3 1893-1957
Volume 4 n.d.
Volume 5 1893-1916
Volume 6 1912-1914 (and ledger)
Volume 7 1925-1926
Volume 8 1926-1927
Volume 9 1926-1927
Volume 10 1930-1933
Volume 11 1931
Volume 12 1933-1936
Volume 13 1934-1937
Volume 14 1938
Volume 15 1942-1945
Volume 16 1946-1949
Volume 17 1950-1953
Volume 18 1954-1956
Volume 19 1958-1959
Folder 4 Service announcements 1944-1945
Folder 5 Stationary n.d.
Folder 6 World War II materials 1942-1944
Cemetery
Burial costs
Folder 7 1909-1927
Folder 8 1931-1945
Folder 9 1946-1981
Folder 10 Burial permits 1918-1985
Folder 11 Burial ritual 1932-1951
Folder 12 Maintenance 1915-1957
Folder 13 Property 1918-1990
Folder 14 Visitations 1940-1957
Beth Jacob
Folder 15 1936
Volume 20 1968-1975
Correspondence
Folder 16 1931-1981
Folder 17 Between members and congregation 1903, 1928-1953
Folder 18 Kochin, Rabbi Eliyahu 1937
Financial
Contributions by members to congregation
Volume 21 1890’s-1900’s

Box 3
Folder 1 1920-1945
Volume 22 1922-1924
Volume 23 1922-1926
Volume 24 1927
Volume 25 Chevra Mishnayos 1927-1936
Volume 26 1930-1951
Volume 27 1945-1956
Folder 2 1946-1949
Folder 3 1950-1957
Volume 28 1952-1955
Folder 4 1963-1981
Folder 5 Browarsky estate 1931-1958
Contributions to other organizations
Folder 6 1914-1939
Folder 7 1940-1944

Box 4
Folder 1 1945-1949
Folder 2 1950-1953
Folder 3 Correspondence 1914-1948
Folder 4 Expenses 1915-1929
Folder 5 Expenses 1930-1939
Folder 6 Expenses 1940-1953
Ledgers--Receipts and expenses
Volume 29 1903-1906
Volume 30 1906-1911
Volume 31 1911-1918
Volume 32 1914
Volume 33 1916-1921
Volume 34 1921-1928
Volume 35 1924-1942
Volume 36 1928-1930
Volume 37 1930
Volume 38 1930-1933
Volume 39 1936-1940
Volume 40 1937-1950
Volume 41 1938-1953
Volume 42 1940-1951
Volume 43 1940-1942
Volume 44 1942-1946
Volume 45 1945-1949
Volume 46 1947-1960
Volume 47 1949-1952
Volume 48 1951-1967
Volume 49 1955-1958
Volume 50 1957
Volume 51 1964-1970
Volume 52 1970-1977
Volume 53 1977-1982
Volume 54 1981-1986
Folder 7 1987-1990
Folder 8 Miscellaneous 1944
Folder 9 Mortgage burning 1921
Folder 10 Reports—annual 1905-1956
Histories
Folder 11 1880-2005
Folder 12 Anniversaries 1973-1998
Jewish community
Folder 13 Soviet Jewry 1972-1980

Box 5
Folder 1 Studies 1938-1939, 1950
Membership
Volume 59 n.d.
Volume 60 1904-1913
Volume 61 membership, cemetery, seats, synagogue expenses 1904-1913
Volume 62 1914-1916
Volume 63 1914-1917
Volume 64 1917-1923
Volume 65 1924-1929
Volume 66 1925-1930
Volume 67 1926-1930
Volume 68 1927
Volume 69 1928-1934
Volume 70 1935-1956
Volume 71 1937-1939
Volume 72 1956-1980
Volume 73 1958-1964
Folder 2 Correspondence 1942-1953
Deaths
Volume 55 1908-1924
Volume 56 1915-1951
Yahrzeits
Folder 4 Yahrzeits/memorials n.d.
Volume 4 1880’s-early 1900’s
Yiskor
Volume 58 Yiskor payment 1913-1928
Volume 59 Yiskor service book undated
Folder 5 Dues 1905-1966
Folder 6 Honor Roll Plaque 1945
Folder 7 Lists c1920-1956
Folder 8 Officers 1926, 1942-1949