Events Leading to the Second Synagogue, May 1911-June 1913

As we learn from Ignatz Grossman’s speeches, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that after the arson the congregation would build a new shul instead of fixing the first.  “Some wanted to rebuild, but the late Henry Moskovitz” — who wouldn’t even live to see the new shul — “strenuously objected, first on account of the smallness of the lot, and secondly on account of the location.  His wise counsel prevailed, and he was instrumental in the sale of the old fire damaged building, and in the purchase of the present 10th Ave location,” he wrote.

But many questions remain from the scant history Ignatz has left us.  Just how damaged was the building — “partly destroyed,” “almost destroyed,” “almost totally destroyed?” Why did so many years pass between the February 1911 arson and the June 1913 ground breaking?  Was Ignatz right that my great-grandfather delayed the work?  And in the 3.5 years between the arson and September 1914 dedication of the new shul, where did the community worship?  These newspaper articles, which I found more than a year after I found the original articles about the arson and cornerstone-laying & dedication of the second shul, fill in some of the gaps at long last!

(Not included in this list are the numerous social events throughout 1912 which doubled as fundraisers for the new shul.)


5/22/1911: Hebrews Have Twelve Sites

5/22/1911: Hebrews Have Twelve Sites

Hebrews Have Twelve Sites

At the meeting of the Hebrew congregation yesterday afternoon in the church on Ammon street a report was received from the site committee. The congregation some time ago appoint a committee on finance, building and site, so that if they would decide to build in the future they would be in position to select a site on the most prominent street and erect one of the finest temples in this place. The site committee already has 12 sites but no selection was made at the meeting yesterday, as it was decided when the committee was ready to make a full report a meeting of the congregation would be called.

Morris Grinberg is chairman of the general committee and I.S. Grossman is secretary; E. Schwartz, president, and Joseph Freed, vice president. The site committee is composed of B. Hepps, Samuel Mervis, M.D. Weis; finance committee, Morris Frankel, Joseph Lasdusky, I. Samuels and Samuel Margolis.

Some months later, when the High Holidays came ’round, the paper reported on the first day of Rosh Hashana that the previous evening “special services were held in the Jewish synagogue on Ammon street…All day services are also being held today and as the synagogue is not large enough to hold all the Hebrew families in this place Casino hall was engaged” (9/23/1911).  This suggests that they fixed up the burned synagogue enough to be able to continue to use it.


10/24/1911: Hebrews to Erect a New Synagogue

10/24/1911: Hebrews to Erect a New Synagogue

Hebrews to Erect A New Synagogue

At a meeting of the Homestead Hebrew congregation officers were elected for the ensuing year and besides this business plans were considered preliminary to erecting a new tabernacle in Homestead, the one on Ammon street being quite insufficient for the growing congregation.

The officers elected for the ensuing year are as follows: Joseph Lasdusky, president; Morris Grinberg, vice president; Henry Gluck, treasurer; Bernard Hepps, secretary; trustees, Morris Frankel, Samuel Margolis and Morris Mervis.

The financial condition of the congregation is excellent and the committee is now looking for a site for their new synagogue which when built promises to be a credit to the architectural beauties of Homestead. As a coincident Joseph Lasdusky, who was president of the congregation when the present structure was built in 1898 [ed: 1902, actually], is now the president when the new structure is under contemplation.

The next day in an editorial, the paper wrote:  “Homestead is rapidly acquiring public buildings which, from an architectural point of view, are a credit to the town.”  The First Methodist church and the Central school were mentioned.  Then:  “Information is also received that the Hebrews are contemplating erecting a new synagogue, the structure on Ammon street having become too small to accommodate the growing congregation.  From these evidences it is demonstrated Homestead is not going backward, but making continuous strides forward.”  Then the forthcoming Elks club is discussed.


11/8: Hebrews Purchase Lot for Synagogue

11/8: Hebrews Purchase Lot for Synagogue

Hebrews Purchase Lot for Synagogue

The Homestead Hebrew congregation has purchased a site on Tenth avenue for a new synagogue and will build next spring. The site is located next to P.C. Wagner’s residence near McClure street and is 54 by 110 and was formerly owned by Louis Rott, who transferred it to the First National bank sometime ago, from whom the congregation bought it. The purchasing committee is composed of Henry Muskowitz (sic), B Hipps (sic) and Morris Grinberg.

The congregation will commence early next spring to erect a substantial building that will be in keeping with the beautiful surroundings.

(The sale was not finalized until 2/2/1912.)


1/9: United Hebrew Benefit Ball

1/9: United Hebrew Benefit Ball

United Hebrew Benefit Ball

All of the Hebrew organizations of this place have united for the purpose of holding a ball in Turner hall on January 23 for the benefit of the new synagogue which is to be erected in the spring on the lot recently purchased on Tenth avenue. There are fully a dozen Hebrew organizations here and each one is represented on the arrangement committee for the ball and all are working hard to make it the greatest affair of the kind ever held here. Many tickets have already been sold for the affair both in Homestead and the surrounding towns and the attendance will be large. Many novel features will be introduced at the dance.


1/18: Big Benefit Ball Takes Place

1/18: Big Benefit Ball Takes Place

Big Benefit Ball Takes Place

The Hebrews of Homestead will put forth a united effort [Tuesday] evening to raise money for the new synagogue they are to build in the spring, they having arranged to give a big ball in Turner hall on Fifth avenue. Every Hebrew organization in town participated in the arrangements for the affair and almost the entire Jewish population of the town will turn out, along with a lot of Gentiles and visitors from other places. Many novel features have been arranged to make the affair enjoyable.

The synagogue committee is planing to start work as early as possible on the new synagogue which is to be erected on the lot recently purchased by the congregation on Tenth avenue near McClure street, a few months ago, and hope to boost the building fund considerable (sic) by the affair

The officers of the United organization are: Morris Grinberg, president; Mrs. H. Aarons, vice president; Charles Sloan, treasurer; Joseph Lasdusky, secretary.

The different organizations and the members representing them consist of

Homestead Hebrew congregation Rodef Sholem–Morris Grinberg, Emanual Swartz, Dr. M.H. Moss, I. Grossman, Joseph Lasdusky.

Homestead Lodge Bena (sic) Brith–Charles Sloan, B. Freidlander (sic), Joseph Perlman, Joseph Glick and Joseph Moss.

Homestead Hebrew Ladies Aid Society–Mrs. I.S. Grossman, Mrs. B.J. Swartz, Mrs. I. Grossman, Mrs. D. Reiter and Mrs. H. Arons.

Homestead Lodge Brith Abraham–Max Egerman, Edward Hurtz (sic), J. Miller, A. Sager and Sam Glick.


An Appeal from Homestead, The Jewish Criterion, 1/19/1912

An Appeal from Homestead, The Jewish Criterion, 1/19/1912

An Appeal from Homestead.

The Rodeph Shalom Congregation of Homestead, whose synagogue was recently destroyed by fire, has issued an appeal for assistance to enable it to erect a new house of worship.  The former building was only partially covered by insurance and as the finances of the congregation are at a low ebb at present, the members have arranged to hold a benefit all for the purpose of helping to raise funds.  The ball will be conducted under the auspices of the United Hebrew Organizations of Homestead.

Committees have been appointed by the various Jewish associations of Homestead to assist in arranging the benefit.  These committees are as follows:  Rodeph Shalom Congregation of Homestead, Morris Greenberg, Emanuel Swartz, Dr. M. H. Moss, I. Grossman and Joseph Lasdusky; Homestead B’nai B’rith Lodge, Charles Sloan, B. Friedlander, Joseph Pearlman, Joseph Gluck and Joseph Moss; Hebrew Ladies’ Aid Society, Mesdames I. S. Grossman, B. J. Swartz, I. Grossman, Harry Arons and S. Reiter; Homestead B’rith Abraham Lodge, Max Egeran, Edward Hurtz, A. Sager, Samuel Glick and J. Miller.

The Jewish community of Homestead is an active and progressive one and is deserving of liberal support in their present undertaking  A new synagogue is badly needed in the town and it is hoped that the proceeds of the coming ball will enable the members to make a substantial start towards securing the desired building.  The officers of the Homestead congregation are Morris Greenberg, President; Joseph Lasdusky, Secretary, and Charles Sloan, Treasurer.

(Above emphasis by me.  Very interesting that only in the Jewish paper do they admit their financial status.  To be fair, they only went into debt after buying the land and did not remain there for long.  Both before and after their finances were in good shape.)


1/22: Big Benefit Ball Tuesday

1/22: Big Benefit Ball Tuesday

Big Benefit Ball Tuesday

The United Hebrew organizations of this place will give their big benefit ball and reception tomorrow evening in Turner hall, the money raised at the same to go into the building fund of the Hebrew organization. There are six organizations working for the success of the ball and a record breaking crowd is looked for. The Hebrews expect to erect a new synagogue next summer.


1/23: The Hebrews Hold Their Ball Tonight

1/23: The Hebrews Hold Their Ball Tonight

The Hebrews Hold Their Ball Tonight

This is the night the united Hebrew organizations of Homestead have set for their ball to raise money for the new synagogue to be erected on Tenth avenue next summer. Many tickets have been sold in advance for the affair and large delegations will attend from out of town. There will be many features, but dancing will be the chief diversion.

The following are the organizations and their representatives taking part in the affair:

Homestead Hebrew congregation Rodef Sholem–Morris Grinberg, Dr. M.H. Moss, Emanuel Swartz, I. Grossman, Joseph Lasdusky.

Homestead Lodge Bena (sic) Brith–Charles Sloan, B. Friedlander, Joseph Perlman, Joseph Glick and Joseph Moss.

Homestead Hebrew Ladies Aid Society–Mrs. I.S. Grossman, Mrs. B.J. Swartz, Mrs. I. Grossman, Mrs. D. Reiter and Mrs. H. Arons.

Homestead Lodge Brith Abraham–Max Egerman, Edward Hurtz (sic), J. Miller, A. Sager and Sam Glick.

The officers of the United organization are: Morris Grinberg, president; Mrs. H. Aarons, vice president; Charles Sloan, treasurer; Joseph Lasdusky, secretary.


1/24: Hebrew Ball Proved a Big Success

1/24: Hebrew Ball Proved a Big Success

Hebrew Ball Proved a Big Success

The Hebrew ball held last night in Turner hall on Fifth avenue was the largest social function of its kind ever held there, over 500 guests from almost every section of the county being in attendance. The event was for the benefit of the building fund of the new synagogue which the Jewish people will erect the coming spring on a site recently purchased on Tenth avenue and was under the auspices of United Hebrew organizations of Homestead.

The dancing was from 8 o’clock until 2 and during its continuance refreshments were served in the large dining hall. The crowd was so great that the cloak room was not sufficient to accommodate its patrons and another room had to be opened out.

Many of the customes (sic) were elaborate and beautiful and it was altogether a brilliant assemblage. There were many guests present from Pittsburg, McKeesport, Duquesne, Braddock and McKees Rocks.

The committee of arrangements made special efforts to make the affair a success and to them much of the credit is due. A large sum was realized for the building fund. Frye’s orchestra, of Pittsburg, furnished the music for the dance.


3/6: To go Ahead

3/6: To go Ahead

To go Ahead

The Homestead Hebrew congregation met last night and decided to go ahead with the erection of their proposed new synagogue at once and the committee on plans and specifications given full power to act. This committee is composed of R. Hipps (sic), chairman, Morris Frankel, Dr. Moss, I.S. Grossmon (sic), Joseph Katz, Sam Mervis, and Joseph Freed.

The congregation is very enthusiastic over the matter and all are working hard to raise money and are determined to erect a building that will be a credit to themselves and to the town.


4/23/1912: Selected the Architect

4/23: Selected the Architect

Selected the Architect

At a meeting of the building committee of the Hebrew congregation held last night Adam Wickerham, of the Homestead Lumber company, was chosen as the architect to prepare plans for the new synagogue which will be erected on the lot recently purchased on Tenth avenue near McClure street. Mr. Wickerham was instructed to complete the plans as rapidly as possible and as soon as this is done and they are approved ground will be broken for the new structure.

The building committee is composed of Barney Hepps, Morris Frankel, Samuel Mervis, Dr. M.H. Moss, Joseph Katz, I.S. Grossman and Joseph Freed.

(When the High Holy Day came ’round in early September: “The synagogue on Ammon street is too small to accommodate all the Jews of this vicinity and Turner hall has been engaged for services Wednesday evening and Thursday and Friday morning.  The Thursday and Friday evening services will, however, be held in the synagogue.”  Likewise Yom Kippur:  9/19:  “The Homestead congregation will worship in Turner hall as their synagogue is not large enough to accommodate all.”)


9/18/1912: Old Officers Re-elected

9/18/1912: Old Officers Re-elected

Old Officers Re-elected

The Homestead Hebrew congregation has elected all its old officers for another year, the members of the congregation insisting that they serve for another term on account of their having started the movement for a new synagogue. It is proposed to complete the synagogue within the next year and as all the old officers are familiar with the details of the plans made it is thought they are better qualified to carry them out. The officers are:

President–Joseph Lasdusky.
Vice President–Morris Grinberg.
Secretary–Bernard Hepps.
Treasurer–Henry Glick.
Trustees–Morris Frankel and Nathan Eskowitz.

This architect mentioned above is the one they went with in the end (unlike the first synagogue).  Alas, the newspaper reports no further progress on the new shul in 1912, though some of the Jewish organizations continued to raise money for its construction.  At that time conditions in Homestead were quite prosperous, the best for many years, so it seems less likely that financial constraints would have been the issue.

Although they said they wanted to build the synagogue in the coming year, they did not sign the contract with the builder until June 19, 1913, nine months later, despite this news item from a few months before that:

  • 3/3/1913:  “The contract for the new Hebrew synagogue will be let this week. The new house of worship will be erected on their property on Tenth avenue near McClure street and the new St. Matthew’s church in the same locality will be completed early this spring.”

3/24/1913: Young People Working For Good Cause

3/24/1913: Young People Working For Good Cause

Young People Working For Good Cause

The young people of the Homestead Hebrew congregation are trying to do their share toward raising funds with which to build a new synagogue and with that end in view will give an entertainment tomorrow evening in Carnegie Music hall that promises to be out of the ordinary. The entertainment will consist of the three comedies, “Per the Telephone,” Mr. Bob,” and “The Real Thing.”

A different cast will perform in each play and there is a great deal of rivalry as to which will perform the best, and all are striving hard to reach perfection, and that they are succeeding was shown at the dress rehearsal at the Library last night. between the above plays the children of the congregation are going to give something of their own, and something that is going to be well worth seeing, being wel worth the price of admission alone. It is a little playlet called “Click Little,” which was dramatized especially for them. The case for this production follows:

Chicken Little…Francis Friedlander
Hen Pen…Bessie Arkin
Cockey Lockey…Harry Ernstein
Duck Luck…Anna Margolis
Drake Lake…Herbert Hepps
Goose Loose…Martin Hepps
Gander Lander…Margaret Gross
Turkey Lurkey…Leonard Arons
Feeder…Alex Widom
Fox…Harry Lasdusky


3/25/1913 Play Tonight

3/25/1913 Play Tonight

Play Tonight

The Homestead Hebrew Dramatic society will give three short plays tonight in Carnegie Music hall, and an enjoyable evening is promised. The event is being held under the auspices of the Hebrew congregation and the money will go into the building fund. Interspersed with the funny lines and situations of the play will be a number of songs by members of the cast, while will (sic) be a feature and a the children of the congregation will give a little playlet of their own between the acts. The cast for the three plays follow:

MR. BOB.

Phillip Royson…Harry Markowitz
Robert Brown, clerk of Benson & Benson…Dave Israel
Jenkins, Miss Rebecca’s butler…Arthur Grossman
Rebecca Luke, a maiden lady…Mollie Markowitz
Katherine Rodgers, her niece…Fannie Schwartz
Marion Bryan, Katerine’s friend…Anna Goldman
Patty, Miss Rebecca’s maid…Olga Hepps

PER TELEPHONE.

Guy Hailing…Morris Goldman
Ned Austin…Louis Lasdusky
Uan Cuzzin…Ruth Grossman
Mary Halcome…Emeline Siegel
Nora, a servant…Regina Haupt

THE REAL THING.

McGinnis…Charles Mervis
Bell, an office boy…William Glick
Mrs. Perkins…Jennie Lebovitz
Bridget…Regina Haupt
Mrs. Pell…Regina Heilbron
Mrs. Hawkins…Rose Gross
Mrs. Brown…Elizabeth Markowitz

President–Miss Isabella Lebovitz.
Directory–Nathan Jacobs.
Secretary and Treasurer–Miss Fannie Schwartz.

And here is the program for the evening!


5/31/1913: A Mass Meeting

5/31/1913: A Mass Meeting

A Mass Meeting

There will be a big mass meeting of the Hebrews of Homestead and vicinity at 2 o’clock tomorrow afternoon in the synagogue on Ammon street in the interest of the new synagogue which it is proposed to erect on Ninth avenue (sic). Rabbi A.M. Ashinsky, who is noted all over Western Pennsylvania as a speaker and Hon. A.C. Stein will be present and make addresses and there will be other features and all the Hebrews are urged to attend.

 


6/19/1913: Ready to Break Ground

6/19/1913: Ready to Break Ground

Ready to Break Ground

Hebrew Congregation Award Contract for Their Synogogue (sic)

TO RUSH WORK

At a congregational meeting of the Hebrew people of Homestead last night, the contract for the new synagogue was let to the Homestead Lumber company, the lowest bidder, the contract price being in the neighborhood of $20,000 exclusive of furnishings and fixtures. The new building will be erected on their lot on 10th avenue near McClure street which was purchased sometime ago. It will be a handsome structure and an adornment to that section of the town.

There was unusual interest in the competition between the members for the privilege of breaking ground for the new structure, Meyer Grinberg at last being the successful competitor. He will be presented with the shovel that cuts (?) the first shovelful of earth when the excavation is made.

The old synagogue building on Ammon street, adjoining the Second ward school building has been sold but the purchaser and the price was not disclosed. It is understood, however, that the price was a good one.

The following are the official board in charge of the business: Joseph Lasdusky, president; Morris Grinberg, vice-president; Bernard Hepps, secretary; Henry Glick , treasurer; Nathan Iskovitz and Morris Frankel trustees of the congregation. Building committee Bernard Hepps, chairman; Dr. M.H. Moss, secretary; Joseph Lasdusky, Morris Grinberg, Nathan Iskovitz, Morris Frankel, Henry Glick, Samuel Mervis, Joseph Freed, R. Shermer, Joseph M. Katz, I.S. Grossman, and Emanual Swartz.

Now that things were finally happening, groups outside of the shul took an interest in getting involved.

  • 6/20:  “The United Hebrew association of Homestead held a meeting last night in their club rooms to help on the erection of the new synagogue on Tenth avenue.” (This is the same organization that put on the plays in March.)

6/24/1913: Broke Ground

6/24/1913: Broke Ground

Broke Ground

The ground was broken this morning for the Jewish synagogue on Tenth avenue, with a nice little ceremony. A large number of the members of the congregation gathered on the site at the hour for the workmen to start to work and Rev. Widom made a short but impressive address, being followed by Joseph Lasdusky, president of the board who handed the space over to Meyer Grinberg, who had purchased the honor of breaking the ground. Mr. Grinberg in turn gave the spade to his aged father Mr. S. Grinberg, who turned over the first shovel full of dirt after which the workmen started in, and began to make things fly.

The Homestead Lumber company has the contract and will rush the work to an early completion.

With this spade "Myer Grinberg" broke ground for the new synagogue "Rodef Sholem" at Homestead Penna. 19th Sivan 5673 - June 24-1913

With this spade “Myer Grinberg” broke ground for the new synagogue “Rodef Sholem” at Homestead Penna.
19th Sivan 5673 – June 24-1913

Click here to see the contract!


From a 7/8/1913 article about school board business, an unfortunate side effect of delaying building the new synagogue after purchasing the lot:

The Hebrew congregation of Homestead have their present synagogue on Ammon street and have purchased property on Tenth avenue, where they expect to build a new one. Petitions to council and the school board were presented last night to have the taxes exonerated as to the new site. The question being a legal one, was in both instances referred to the respective solicitors.

(To explain: At that time people owing taxes paid separate sums to the town and to its school board.)


What happened next? Well, the cornerstone-laying!

  1 comment for “Events Leading to the Second Synagogue, May 1911-June 1913

  1. Iris Stein Nahemow
    September 6, 2016 at 10:02 am

    We are so fortunate to have the wonderful efforts of Tammy! Thank you! And early good wishes to all for a happy, healthy and sweet new year.

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