Summary Information
Title: Records of the Homestead Hebrew Congregation
Collection Number: MSS#107
Creator: Homestead Hebrew Congregation
Collection Dates: 1901-1991
Extent: 9.0 cubic feet (16 boxes)
Abstract:
The Homestead Hebrew Congregation was organized in 1894 as an Orthodox congregation to serve what was then a small Jewish community in Homestead (Allegheny County), Pennsylvania. These records include financial ledgers, record books, meeting minutes, bills and receipts, correspondence, and other sundry items. These records provide comprehensive information relating to the Congregation's finances and individual congregants through collection, donation, and cemetery records.

Language:

The material in this collection is in English.

Repository:

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

Sponsor:

This finding aid has been encoded as a part of the Historic Pittsburgh project a joint effort of the University of Pittsburgh and the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Funding for this portion of the project has been donated by the Hillman Foundation.
Date Published:

Summer, 2001
Author:

This guide to the collection was originally prepared by Rachel Balliet on February 18, 1994. Revisions occurred to the finding aid as a part of the encoding process in Summer, 2001.
Encoder:

Encoded by Doug MacGregor on August 16, 2001 from an existing finding aid. >Reviewed by Curator on
Revision Description:
July 1, 2006:
Converted from EAD Version 1.0 to EAD Version 2002

History of the Homestead Hebrew Congregation/Rodef Shalom (1894-1992)

The Homestead Hebrew Congregation was organized in 1894 as an Orthodox congregation to serve what was then a small Jewish community in Homestead (Allegheny County), Pennsylvania. Homestead's Jewish population primarily included immigrants from Lithuania and Hungary. Despite the growth in subsequent years of the Jewish community in Homestead, the Homestead Hebrew Congregation remained the only congregation in the area and served as the center of the community's religious and social activities until the early 1950's. During and after the 1950s, the Congregation saw its membership decline as migration away from the declining industrial town drew congregants to suburbs and other new communities. The Congregation eventually disbanded in 1992.

The Homestead Hebrew Congregation started with only 18 chartered members, who in 1896 purchased a plot of land in Homeville (Pa.) to serve as the congregants' cemetery. In 1901 a lot on Ammon Street in Homestead was purchased for the site of the Congregation's first synagogue. Dedicated in 1902, this building served the growing Jewish community of Homestead, Munhall, McKeesport, and other neighboring areas. In this same year the Ladies' Auxiliary was established and in 1906 the first religious school was organized. The Congregation continued to serve newly arriving immigrants and despite dissention in 1907 with the establishment of another synagogue, B'nai Jacob (which only lasted two years), the Homestead Hebrew Congregation remained the only synagogue in the area. In 1911, the synagogue caught fire and burned beyond repair. By this time the Congregation had grown to about 65 families. The loss of the synagogue to fire enabled the Congregation to plan for a larger facility in order to accommodate the growing Jewish community. In March of 1911, a new location on 10th Avenue and McClure Street in Homestead was purchased and construction soon began for a new, larger synagogue which was completed in 1914. The Homestead Hebrew Congregation sponsored several activities and organizations over the next several decades including the B'nai B'rith Lodge #586, youth groups, a United Hebrew Charities, and a Sunday and Hebrew school. The cemetery in Homeville was administered by an active "Chevra Kadisha" (meaning "Holy Friends" or "Sanctified Group", burial society which administrates all aspects of caring for the deceased) which served both members and non-members of the community. The Congregation continued to increase with an estimated membership of 325 families in the 1940's and 1950's. In the late 1950's however, the Congregation's membership declined to 250 families, as many young members began moving out of Homestead and no new families replaced them. Congregants continued to leave Homestead and contiguous areas throughout the 1960's and 1970's, but members often came back to the synagogue for special events and holiday services. By the 1980's, the Congregation had declined significantly and, as a result, daily "minyans" (quorum of ten men) and Saturday services ceased, although Sunday "minyans" continued. By 1992, the Congregation consisted of only a few members and as needed repairs to the synagogue were prohibitively expensive it was decided that the Congregation would disband and the synagogue closed in December. The Beth Shalom Congregation of the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh assumed responsibility for the upkeep of the cemetery and the notification of "yahrzeits" (anniversary of loved one's death). Beth Shalom also received the Congregation's Judaica. In January of 1993, the Community of the Crucified One purchased the synagogue.


Collection Scope and Content Note

These records include financial ledgers, record books, meeting minutes, bills and receipts, correspondence, and other sundry items. These records provide comprehensive information relating to the Congregation's finances and individual congregants through collection, donation, and cemetery records. Various records often overlap or are interfiled both in the early and late periods of the Congregation. Records from the 1940's and 1950's, when the Congregation was at its largest, are separated into specific books and are maintained consistently. The early records have been organized together within the administrative materials and include several early speeches that help document the history of the Congregation. The strengths of this collection are primarily its financial and genealogical records, although the meeting minutes provide a thorough account of the organization and administration of the Congregation over the years. Genealogical information from donation and collection records is primarily limited to the adult male members of each family. Information regarding female congregants can be obtained from cemetery records or materials from the Congregation's Sisterhood. The correspondence primarily includes membership concerns or sympathy notes and provides little information on the operation of the synagogue. The religious school materials are not comprehensive, although some student record cards are included, 1956-1967, with teaching aids and activities used in the classroom. While providing strong primary resources to document the history of the Congregation, these records lack detailed information regarding the Congregation's rabbis or other material documenting Jewish life in Homestead outside of the synagogue.


The Homestead Hebrew Congregation Records are arranged in three series. Series have been designated for administrative materials, cemetery records and materials related to the Congregation's religious school.

The Homestead Hebrew Congregation Records are housed in 16 archival boxes.


Controlled Access Terms
Topics
  • Cemeteries -- Pennsylvania -- Homestead
  • Charities -- Pennsylvania -- Homestead
  • Education -- Pennsylvania -- Homestead
  • Hungarian Americans -- Pennsylvania -- Homestead
  • Jewish families -- Pennsylvania -- Homestead
  • Jewish religious education -- Pennsylvania -- Homestead
  • Jews -- Pennsylvania -- Homestead
  • Jews -- Charities -- Pennsylvania -- Homestead
  • Jews, Hungarian -- Pennsylvania -- Homestead
  • Jews, Lithuanian -- Pennsylvania -- Homestead
  • Lithuanian Americans -- Pennsylvania -- Homestead
  • Religious education -- Pennsylvania -- Homestead
  • Synagogues -- Pennsylvania -- Homestead
  • Zionism -- Pennsylvania -- Homestead
Corporate Names
  • B'nai B'rith (Homestead, Pa.)
  • Chevra Kadisha (Homestead, Pa.)
  • Congregation Poale Zedeck (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Homestead Zionist Association (Homestead, Pa.)
  • Independent Order of B'nai B'rith (Homestead, Pa.)
  • Ladies' Aid Society (Homestead, Pa.)
Personal Names
  • Weiss, Joshua
Locations
  • Homestead (Pa.) -- Genealogy
  • Homestead (Pa.) -- Religion
  • Homestead (Pa.) -- Social life and customs
Access and Use
Access Restrictions:

This collection is open for research.

Aquisition Information:

These materials came in one accession in 1993.

Acc# 1993.0120 Gift of Robert and Clarice Katz.(Records. Mr. and Mrs. Katz were members of the Homestead Hebrew Congregation and donated these records on behalf of the Congregation).

Preferred Citation:

Records of the Homestead Hebrew Congregation, 1901-1991, MSS# 107, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by Rachel Balliet on February 18, 1994.

Revision and rearrangement for the encoded version of the finding aid provided by Doug MacGregor on August 16, 2001.

Copyright:

Property rights reside with the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permissions to reproduce or publish, please contact the curator of the Archives.

Separated Material:
To the Museum Programs Division, several miscellaneous items have been separately cataloged.

To the Oversized Collection, one folder has been separately arranged as MSO#107. This folder contains blank copies of the Congregation's seating charts. The charts do not include any names.

The seating charts from 1932 (formerly housed in box 3, folder 1) and 1964 (formerly housed in box 3, folder 2) have been stored separately in a flat file drawer.


Contents List
Series I Administrative Materials (1901-1978)
Scope and Content Notes:

These materials include ledgers, record books, financial statements, receipts and invoices, correspondence, and published material. Congregant materials primarily consist of ledgers of individual accounts (1909-1943) and are arranged by name entry. Most accounts record seat payments, donations, high holiday ticket purchases and membership dues. Included in these records are also notes on expulsion or suspension of members due to delinquent accounts. Miscellaneous Materials (c1937) include mailing lists for congregants and for members of the Ladies' Aid Society. The correspondence is limited and subject matter primarily concerns membership resignation, donation or payment and sympathy notes. Letters are separated by incoming to the Congregation officers and copies of the officers' outgoing letters. Included are letters from Rabbi Joshua Weiss (1944) and from Rabbi A.M. Pincus (1946).

The style of record keeping by the Congregation changed over the years and this change is reflected in these records. Early general ledgers (1901-1945) were kept in both Yiddish and English and often, books were started from back to front and only later, beginning from the front of the book. Most of the records are first recorded in Yiddish and in later years recorded in English, the majority of records being in English. The ledger for 1901-1913 includes many of the early speeches that incorporate the history of the congregation. These speeches are also included as handwritten copies in an independent file. The ledger of 1901-1919 includes the By-laws and Constitution of the Congregation, handwritten in Yiddish, a list of congregant soldiers in World War I, and a chronology of acting officers in the congregation (1901-1933). The Ledger of 1914-1939 includes early records of the "Chevra Kadisha" (the burial society), headstone inscriptions with name of deceased including Hebrew name, and birth and death dates. Also included are general financial records and committee election records. The Ledger of 1929-1945 includes several records and a history of the Congregation in Yiddish, several speeches for various synagogue anniversaries, and annual reports of the "Chevra Kadisha" (1934-1944). These ledgers served as early financial, membership, and cemetery record books. They also were used as general notebooks for writing speeches, histories, and other information concerning the Congregation. While these records are not as well organized as later records, they serve as a good source for interpreting the Congregation's early history.

The financial records for 1902-1945 are contained in volumes while later records, 1947-1971, are organized in file folders according to date. These later records are not as comprehensive and consistent as earlier ones, but often include membership collection records and can serve as a means of identifying members for those dates. Meeting minutes include minutes from the meetings of the board of directors, regular quarterly meetings and the school board. Included in the meeting agenda are cemetery updates, charity, financial standing, and election proceedings. Agenda cards outline the order of events for each meeting and include lists of all committee officers (1933-1943). The miscellaneous materials contain a list of officers from 1894-1944 which may help in dating some documents. Published items include literature from the Independent Order of B'nai B'rith including a general law book and that organization's Constitution and By-laws (1913) and an I.O.B.B. newsletter (c1920). Also included is the "Constitution and By-laws of the Austro-Hungarian Congregation" (1919). These materials also contain various printed programs, including a program from the 1902 synagogue dedication. Materials relating to the Homestead Zionist Association consist of that organization's constitution and general law books.

The Administrative Materials are housed in ten archival boxes and arranged in alphabetical order by folder title.

Congregants
Ledger of Individual Accounts

Box 1
volume October 1909-Sept. 1914
volume October 1914-Sept. 1921
volume October 1921-Sept. 1928

Box 2
volume October 1928-Sept. 1934
volume October 1934-Sept. 1943
volume Seat Book 1901-1914
Seating Charts

Box 3
folder 1 1932-1939
folder 2 1941-1962
folder 3 Deeds of Seat Sales 1914-1945
folder 4 Miscellaneous c1937
Correspondence
folder 5 Incoming 1901-1946
folder 6 Outgoing 1936-1942
Early Records
folder 7 By-Laws and Constitution c1902-1934
folder 8 Deeds 1901-1934
General Ledgers
folder 9 1901-1913

Box 4
folder 1 1902-1919
folder 2 1914-1939
folder 3 1929-1945
folder 4 Speeches and Histories 1901-1934
Financial Materials
Cash Books
volume 1902-October 1, 1916

Box 5
volume June 18, 1916-1931
Collection Records
volume 1918-1924
volume 1939-1945
folder 1 Contracts 1939-1948
Expenses and Collection
Records
folder 2 1959

Box 6
folder 1 1960-1962
folder 2 1963-1965
folder 3 1966-1968
folder 4 1969-1971
Financial Statements
folder 5 1935--July 18, 1939
folder 6 July 19, 1939-1944
folder 7 1945

Box 7
folder 1 United Jewish Appeal 1942-1944
folder 2 Insurance 1935-1947
folder 3 Invoices 1914-1947
folder 4 Miscellaneous Material 1904-1942
folder 5 Returned Checks 1945-1947
Stubs (checks)
volume 1944-1946
volume 1958-1967
Meeting Minutes
volume 1920-January 4, 1931

Box 8
volume February 1931-June 9, 1940
volume September 1940-1950
volume shelf February 1963-Feb. 1976
Unbound Minutes

Box 9
folder 1 1938-1939
folder 2 1940-1942
folder 3 1963-1978
folder 4 Agenda Cards 1933-1943
folder 5 Election Materials 1938-1950
folder 6 Miscellaneous Materials 1936-1942
folder 7 Published Materials 1902-1958
Sisterhood
volume Cash Book 1956-1961
volume Meeting Materials 1945-1956

Box 10
folder 1 Zionist Information c1940
Series II Cemetery Records (1915-1991)
Scope and Content Notes:

These records provide the most comprehensive information on individual congregants including English and Hebrew names, date of birth, date of death, and occasionally headstone inscription. Financial material include cemetery records which document expenses of individual funerals and occasionally include by whom payment was made. For cemetery records prior to 1915 refer to early records housed with Series I. The Cemetery Ledger of 1923-1935 includes some Yiddish, but records are primarily in English and consist of deposits on headstones, relief fund employment, charity fund, and names of buried children. The Ledger of 1945-1959 primarily consists of financial records and expenses for individual funerals with some Yiddish. The "Chevra Kadisha" Record Books provide a detailed account of the responsibilities and events of this group. The Record Book of 1915-1934 is primarily in Yiddish and outlines the process by which the "Chevra Kadisha" must care for the dead. Also included is a separate list of male and female participants of the Chevra Kadisha (1918). This book also includes meeting minutes and financial records. Other "Chevra Kadisha" Record Books primarily consist of listings of the deceased in alphabetical order, providing English and Hebrew names, dates of birth and death, and any headstone inscription. These records provide an excellent source for identifying Jewish residents of Homestead and contiguous communities. Also included are three memorial books that alphabetically list deceased congregants and in some cases, provide names of other deceased relatives. The miscellaneous materials primarily consist of invoices and receipts, a list of congregants who died in World War II, and other loose records of burials (1930-1947).

The Cemetery Records are housed in six archival boxes and are arranged in alphabetical order by folder title.

Cemetery Committee Cash Receipt Books
volume 1964-July 30, 1969
volume August 31, 1969-September 16, 1973

Box 11
volume September 17, 1973-September 17, 1978
volume August 31, 1980-August 15, 1983
volume August 21, 1985-September 8, 1991
Cemetery Committee Check Receipt Books
volume 1961-February 15, 1967

Box 12
volume February 27, 1967-October 20, 1974
volume November 14, 1974-1985
folder 1 Cemetery Financial Statements 1936-1945
Cemetery Ledgers
volume 1923-1935

Box 13
volume 1945-1958
folder 1 Cemetery Plot Outline 1927
Chevra Kadisha Record Books
folder 2 1915-1934
folder 3 1935-1969
folder 4 n.d.

Box 14
folder 1 Cash Book 1923-1946
folder 2 Gravestone Sketch n.d.
Memorial Book
volume 1942
volume n.d.

Box 15
folder 1 Miscelleanous 1930-1947
folder 2 Returned Checks 1937-1947
Series III Religious School (1930-1968)
Scope and Content Notes:

These materials primarily consist of items relating to class curricula and include some student records. Birth certificates are included (1946-1967) and provide date of birth and Hebrew name. The collection records provide a good source for identifying enrolled students. Miscellaneous items include correspondence, some meeting minutes of the School Board, and some financial information (1938-1938). The published materials include some teaching aids and pamphlets, programs for various holiday services and some confirmation programs (1942-1948).

The Religious School materials are arranged in two archival boxes and are arranged in alphabetical order by folder title.

folder 3 Birth Certificates 1946-1967
Collection Records
folder 4 1934-1938
folder 5 1940-1941
Games, Quizzas and Plays
folder 6 c1930-1960
folder 7 Activities in Life of Early Hebrews 1936

Box 16
folder 1 Miscellaneous Materials 1938-1939
Published Materials
folder 2 1942-1968
folder 3 c1930-1960
folder 4 Record Cards 1956-1967
folder 5 Songs c1940-1960
folder 6 Student Workbooks c1940-1960
folder 7 Teaching Aids c1940-1960