Oral History Articles 1993-4

As the Jewish Archives of the Historical proceeded with the oral history project, they sent out a few press releases, all of which made it into The Jewish Chronicle.  (All three press releases are in the donor file for the Homestead Hebrew records. )

The Jewish Chronicle, 4/15/1993, p. 12

The Jewish Chronicle, 4/15/1993, p. 12

Jewish Archives plans Homestead oral history

(From a press release sent out in early April.)

Homestead Hebrew Congregation Rodef Shalom recently closed its doors, but it will not pass silently away. In the latest of a series of actions taken to preserve the synagogue’s history, the Congregation has donated seed money to the Western Pennsylvania Jewish Archives of the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania to initiate an oral history project.

Anne Sheckter Powell, who grew up in West Homestead, has been engaged by the Historical Society to conduct the project.

“It will be a labor of live,” said Powell. “I have deeply affectionate memories of the places and experiences of my childhood, and the Homestead shul, where I went five times a week — four times for Hebrew school, plus Sunday school — was an important part of my past.

“I think that it’s quite a loss that so many synagogue have vanished leaving their histories confined to the private memories and photo albums of only the congregants. So I am particularly please to be able to participated in preserving the history of one that I have a special attachment to.”

Judith Ross, Archivist for the Jewish Archives, says that the plans for 20 to 25 interview in the initial phase of the project have already generated interest and enthusiasm.

“We have had responses from former Homesteaders from as far away as Florida as a result of a two-part series that The Jewish Chronicle featured in February,” said Ross.

Dr. Thomas Carroll, folklorist and oral history specialist for the Historical Society, will train and advise Powell as the project progresses.

Anyone with information to share about the Homestead Hebrew Congregation is invited to call Ann Sheckter Powell, 681-4480, or write to her, 5436 Plainfield St., Pittsburgh, PA 15217.


The Jewish Chronicle, 7/15/1993, p. 12

The Jewish Chronicle, 7/15/1993, p. 12

Jewish Archives gets Homestead Hebrew aid

(From a press release sent 6/28/1993.)

Two members of the Homestead Hebrew Congregation Rodef Shalom have donated funds to the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania’s Jewish Archives to organize and preserve the Congregation’s archives, which were donated to the Historical Society in February.

The donations of Robert Mandell and Jay Keizler, cousin and members of one of the Congregation’s founding families, will be used to process the 14 linear feet of documents. The Homestead project started in April when the Congregation donated seed money to the Society’s Jewish Archives for taking oral histories of former members. The preservation of the collection has generated interest from as far away as Florida.

The records document the Congregation from its inception and include handwritten histories, cemetery plot records, and minutes from Congregation meetings.

“The Jewish communities that grew up in mill towns along the river represent a unique chapter in Jewish American history,” says Judith B. Ross, archivist for the Jewish Archives at the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, “because Jewish people were not usually employed in the mills. This is a significant, rich part of our region’s history,” For information about the collection, call Judith Ross at 681-5533.


The Jewish Chronicle, 2/3/1994, p. 6

The Jewish Chronicle, 2/3/1994, p. 6

Archives chronicles Homestead Hebrew

(From a press release faxed 1/27/1994.)

The Jewish Archives of the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania has conducted 26 taped interview with former members of the recently-closed Homestead Hebrew Congregation/Rodef Shalom Congregation.

Archivist Ann Powell began the project last summer with a donation from members of the Congregation. In cooperation with the Center for Northern Appalachian Studies Oral History Program at St. Vincent’s College, students in this program will transcribe the tapes as part of their course work and then bind them into a volume that will be available for sale. 1

Richard D. Wissolik and Judith B. Ross, director of the Center and archivist for the Jewish Collection at the Historical Society, feel that this is an opportunity for the students to utilize primary source material, in addition to making the information from the tapes more accessible to researchers and family members.

The Jewish Archives hired Rachel Baillet as project archivist to catalog the 13 feet of the Homestead Hebrew Congregation archival collection. The hiring of the project archivist is made possible by Robert Mandell and the estate of Jay Keizler. Rachel, who grew up in Squirrel Hill, is working toward her M.A. in history and certificate in the Archives, museum, and editing program at Duquesne University. This collection is one of the most complete the Jewish Archives has received to date from a community outside the city of Pittsburgh. The Jewish communities in the milltowns of Western Pennsylvania, representing a unique chapter in American Jewish History, will be the focus on the Annual Program Meeting of the Jewish Archives on Sunday, April 17, 1994 at the Shaare Torah Congregation in Squirrel Hill.

The Jewish Archives recently elected its new officers and Advisory Committee members. The new officers for 1994 are Julian Falk, chairman and Dr. Alexander Orbach, vice chairman. New Committee members are Florence Heidovitz from Homestead/Munhall, Arnold W. Hirsch from Donora and Joan Marcus, currently from Pittsburgh, formerly from Rankin. 2

For information, contact Judith Ross at 681-5533.


  1. For cost reasons, the students were unable to finish their transcriptions, so the book was never published.  

  2. In the press release but not in the final article is the full list of committee records.  

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