Summary Information
Title: Records of the Young Men and Women's Hebrew Association
Collection Number: MSS#271
Creator: Young Men and Women's Hebrew Association
Collection Dates: 1913-1990
Collection Dates: 1927-1936
Extent: 2 cubic feet (5 volumes)
The Young Men and Women's Hebrew Association was formed in 1910 when the Young Men's Hebrew Association merged with the Young Women's Hebrew Association. The organization provided cultural, social, and educational opportunities for Jewish youth. In 1974, the association merged with the Irene Kaufmann Center to form the Jewish Community Center. Scrapbooks contain newspaper clippings and photographs documenting the formation, growth, and many functions of the association primarily between 1927 and 1936. One scrapbook relates to the Purim Carnival from 1931. Another scrapbook details the silver anniversary celebration of the "Y."


The material in this collection is in English.


Rauh Jewish Archives
Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania
Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center
1212 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222


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:

Winter, 2001-2002

This guide to the collection was originally prepared by D. Kish and C. Moore on October 14, 1997. Revisions occurred to the finding aid as a part of the encoding process in Winter, 2001-2002.

Encoded by Doug MacGregor on January 9, 2002 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 Young Men & Women's Hebrew Association (1910-1974)

The Young Men and Women's Hebrew Association (YMWHA) evolved from the Young Men's Hebrew Association (YMHA), formed in the vestry rooms of the Tree of Life Synagogue on Craft Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1910 a group of teenage boys, under the leadership of Harry Applestein, started the organization to provide for Jewish youth the cultural, social, and educational opportunities offered by other religious denominations. Supported by Rabbi Rudolph I. Coffee, the organization grew rapidly. Reaching a membership of 100 by the end of the first month, the association moved in 1912 to larger quarters in the Dispatch Building on Fifth Avenue and then to the Elks Temple on Fifth Avenue and Jumonville Street. At this time, the Young Women's Hebrew Association (YWHA) merged with the YMHA to form the YMWHA, familiarly called the "Y."

When membership increased to more than 2,000, the organization officials, with the enthusiastic involvement of Mr. Applestein, embarked on a building campaign which culminated in the 1924 groundbreaking for a new headquarters building. Contributions from several prominent Pittsburghers materialized into the Morris Kaufmann Memorial Auditorium, the Isaac Seder Educational Center, and the Morris Baer Memorial Library. On May 23, 1926, formal dedication of the new "Y" home at 35 South Bellefield Avenue took place.

During its entire existence, the "Y" maintained its original aim to serve beyond the role of a social club. Although primary emphasis remained on the promotion of the ideals and traditions of the Jewish culture, the "Y" imposed no sectarian restrictions on the use of its facilities and thus enriched the cultural life of the entire Pittsburgh community.

The list of services offered spanned all ages and interests. Numerous clubs featured debating societies, literary discussions, and leaders' training seminars. The Educational Center offered low-free adult education courses, taught by instructors from neighboring universities, and held various functions, such as afternoon socials, book reviews, and dances for university students. For persons interested in physical activities, the Health Center, with fully equipped gymnasiums, swimming pool, and ball courts, offered an opportunity for participation in varied sports, including some, like fencing, seldom offered elsewhere.

One of the most widely attended activities of the "Y" was the concert series, which not only featured established musicians but also provided for the debuts of unknown artists, among whom were Nathan Milstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Jose Iturbi, and Gregor Piatiagorsky. The lecture series, started in 1934, also had consistently high attendance. Guest speakers from such diverse fields as politics, art, science, and literature included Carl Sandurg, Clarence Darrow, Will Durant, and Margaret Sanger.

A weekly newspaper, published by a group of volunteers, kept members informed of the many activities of the "Y."

Throughout its existence, the "Y" cooperated with the Irene Kaufmann Settlement (IKS) and later the Irene Kaufmann Center (IKC) in providing for the Jewish community, occasionally with a costly duplication of services. In 1960, therefore, the officials of the organizations, in the interest of financial practicality, combined the two facilities to form the Y-IKC, renamed the Jewish Community Center in 1974.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The collection contains five scrapbooks, periodicals, newspapers, photographs, and other sundry items. The scrapbooks, which represent the major portion of the collection, provide an excellent insight into the formation, growth, and many functions of the organization. One scrapbook, dated 1931-1933, contains newspaper clippings and photographs relating to the 1931 Purim holiday, which, that year, was observed by a community carnival. Another, dated December 1 to December 8, 1935, is devoted to material describing the silver anniversary of the "Y." Along with several newspaper articles about the celebration, schedules of events, and photographs of the "Y" officials, are messages from the Chairman of the Central Board, the Executive Director, and the Chairman of the of the Silver Anniversary Week Celebration. Of particular value in a study of the history of the "Y" is an article titled "Twenty-five Years in Retrospect," which traces the 25-year life of the organization. The remaining scrapbooks, dated 1927-1928, 1929-1935 and 1935-1936, contain abundant information about the many activities and services of the "Y." Newspaper clippings about the education programs, speakers in the lecture series, artists in the concert series, "Y" Playhouse presentations, and various related topics all reflect the extensive involvement of the "Y" in the cultural life of the community.

Of several miscellaneous items that supplement information provided by the scrapbooks, two booklets are particularly enlightening. One details the 1926 "Y" dedication events and gives a verbal picture of the Bellefield Avenue "Y" headquarters. The other describes the 1935 Silver Anniversary celebration. Two copies of the YMWHA Weekly, dated January 2, 1942 and May 3, 1963, offer an insider's perspective on "Y" activities, and three copies of the Jewish Criterion give a broader view of events within the Jewish community. See separations note below.

The YMWHA scrapbooks are housed on open shelves and are arranged chronologically.

Controlled Access Terms
  • Athletics -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Community centers, Jewish -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Jews -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Jews -- Social life and customs -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Jewish religious education of adults -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
Corporate Names
  • Young Men and Women's Hebrew Association (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Jewish Community Center (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Young Men's Hebrew Association (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Young Men's Hebrew Association (Braddock, Pa.)
  • Young Women's Hebrew Association (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
Personal Names
  • Applestein, Harry
Access and Use
Access Restrictions:

This collection is open for research.

Aquisition Information:

These materials were received in seven accessions and combined into one body of records in 1997.

Acc.1938x Unknown (Victory Souvenir).

Acc.#1989.0048 Gift of Maita Levine (Silver Anniversary of the YMWHA and YMWHA Dedication Exercises, YMWHA Weekly).

Acc.#1989.0068 Gift of Corrine A. Krouse (Meeting Announcement).

Acc.#1991.0029 Gift of Bernice Seder Kaufmann (Jewish Criterion).

Acc.#1991.0347 Gift of Seymour Daniels (YMWHA Weekly).

Acc.#1992.0167 Gift of Barton Schachter (Scrapbooks).

Acc.#1992.0276 Gift of Jeanne Glick (Photographs).

Preferred Citation:

Young Men and Women's Hebrew Association, 1913-1990, MSS# 271, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by D. Kish and C. Moore on October 14, 1997.

Revision and rearrangement for the encoded version of the finding aid provided by Doug MacGregor on January 10, 2002.


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.

Contents List

Box 1
volume 1927-1928
volume 1929-1935
volume 1935-1936
volume Purim Carnival 1931-1933
volume Silver Anniversary 1935