A couple months ago I spent a day rifling through the archival photographs of the Carnegie Library of Homestead. There was a ton of fascinating material, but none of it related to our community or its institutions. There were pictures of church gatherings, but none of the synagogue’s; charitable organizations, but not B’nai B’rith; schools, but not the cheder; sports teams, but not the AZA or Troop #2. In the archival records I picked out the names of a few members of our community here and there — a basketball player, a football coach, and a library committee chair — but otherwise I was left with a unfamiliar view of Homestead. After all these months immersing myself in Homestead’s history, how could that be?
The history of communities is written by those who donate it.
It’s not because an archivist failed to do his job that the Carnegie Library of Homestead’s collection of photographs excludes materials related to the Jewish community. It’s because most people don’t think of their private family photographs as being of interest to anyone but themselves (if that). Why are the Homestead synagogue records preserved when no other Mon Valley steel town’s are (yet)? It’s because the last generation of Homestead’s Jews did recognize that their records preserved a valuable part of the history of Western Pennsylvania and American Jewry.
If the mission behind this website is to write history that no one else will, then your part in that mission is to help me ensure that your family assumes it proper place in that history. Perhaps you’ve browsed the pathetically small collection of photographs I’ve amassed so far. Check out the families and businesses for which I have posted pictures. Don’t see yours there? You can fix that.
My request for you is a simple one: Please lend me your family pictures and souvenirs.
To put it another way: I can research until my eyes are wrecked from the strain, but I’m not going to find more photographs than what you see posted today. I’ve already checked all the likely places and, well, you saw what turned up. The missing photographs are hiding in your photo albums, filing cabinets, and shoe boxes. Who cares about that picture of your grandfather? We do, because its puts a face to the name of someone who mattered to our community. Those seemingly boring pictures of family businesses, holiday and lifecycle celebrations, and organizations? All capture the way that our community once lived. The history on this site would come alive if we could all see the people and places I am writing about. Your family’s pictures will make this site so much richer.
Here are areas in which I am particularly interested:
- Family pictures, especially from the late 19th and early 20th centuries
- Business pictures of your family’s business operations and your family members at work in them
- Neighborhood scenes of Homestead
- Celebrations, especially holiday meals and simchas in the shul
- Homestead’s Jewish organizations, both adult- and kid-oriented, and their social gatherings
- Pictures of Homesteaders who served in the military
- Any souvenirs you have from community institutions, such tickets, programs, flyers, receipts, letters, pamphlets… anything!
I don’t want to keep these items; I just want to make copies of them. If you’re in the Pittsburgh area, I’m happy to do the scanning for you and give you the digitized versions. If not, we’ll figure out some other way. But please, please help: this goal I can’t accomplish without you.
P.S. If you are interested in donating your photographs or any other family records outright, I can help you connect to the Rauh Jewish Archives to ensure they are properly preserved in an archive where others can access them.