1902 Synagogue Dedication Speech from Homestead Newspaper

This newspaper article was the only one I found in the archives that had been typed up and saved by the synagogue.  The bulk of the article is the speech by President Joseph Lasdusky, which sheds light on the very early years of the congregation before they had a building.  The conclusion about the regard they felt their fellow townsmen to have for them is especially poignant given that this building would be burned in an act of arson before its ninth birthday.  (A more detailed description of this significant occasion was printed in The News-Messenger.)

The following article taken from Homestead Press March 31, 1902.



A Most Successful Affair Held Incidental to Opening of Church.



The Homestead Hebrew congregation Rodef Sholem, dedicated their new synagogue yesterday afternoon with impressive ceremony. The weather was boisterous in the afternoon but this fact did not deter the people who bore invitations from being present and at 2 o’clock, the hour for opening, the room was full.

The formal opening of the doors of the synagogue, was accompanied by a hymn by Rev. Mendelsohn accompanied by an orchestra and choir and this was followed by the lighting of the perpetual light Rabbi A. M. Ashinsky, of Pittsburgh, delivered the dedicatory address in German, at the conclusion of which the scrolls of the law were brought in by the president and vice president of the congregation in due and ancient form, and after making the circle of the synagogue, they were placed in the ark while the reader chanted Psalms.

Rev. Dr. Fried, of Pittsburgh, then addressed the congregation in English.1

After a hymn rendered by Rev. Mendelsohn and choir, addresses were made by Mr. A. Edliss, of Pittsburgh, Burgess J. Clyde Miller, Hon. John F. Cox, Dr. John Purman, and William L. McConegly, of Homestead and A. C. Stein master of ceremonies. After which Rev. Fried offered a prayer for the President of the United States, and the Assembly.2

Rabbi A. M. Ashinsky then delivered the closing address and benediction.

At the conclusion of this ceremony the congregation adjourned to meet in the Fifth Avenue Opera House where the dedication dinner was served to about two hundred guests. The catering was furnished by a well known Pittsburgh house and at its conclusion President Lasdusky of the congregation addressed the guests as follows:

Joseph Lasdusky, c 1906 (source: Rauh Jewish Archives MSS #107, Box 9, Folder 7)

Joseph Lasdusky, c 1906 (source: Rauh Jewish Archives MSS #107, Box 9, Folder 7)

“As president of this congregation I will confine myself to the object and work accomplished by its members and give you a brief history of our movement. Previous to 1894 when we organized all the Israelites of this town were isolated from one another. They had no social companionship and no organization, but were strangers in a strange land. They had the desire but not the power to rise socially. They were estranged among themselves but not with their God. Previous to 1894 the Jews of Homestead were seemingly asleep but when the new year and day of atonement approached their loyalty to their faith awoke and through the kindness of the Second ward fire company, which placed their rooms at the disposal of the few Jews who wished to congregate they observed for the first time in Homestead, the days that are the most sacred in the Hebrew calendar. Ladies and gentlemen that was the infancy of present matured congregation. It is necessary for all who wish to accomplish any thing to know first what their desires and needs are. We have proof tonight that the Homestead Jews then understood what their desires and needs were but being few in number they had to creep before they could walk. We organized and applied to the Governor of our state for a charter which was granted to us by the aid of our worthy friend Mr. L. L. Davis. The name we chose for our congregation is Rodef Scholem, the definition is “Follow Peace.” At the time of organization we had eighteen members but three years later this number dwindels (sic) to about ten and the finances were in such a condition that there weas no necessity of electing a treasurer. The pleasure which these ten remaining members ought to have tonight in seeing the accomplishment of their object brought out by their faithfulness, in such a glorious manner, is easier to surmise than for me to describe. To them is due the credit for keeping up this congregation. For they it was who made it possible to realize the great work which brought members again to our fold. In the year 1900 we had a membership of twenty and necessity of electing a treasurer for we now had $1,000 in the treasury. We then held services and sent our children to be taught in the Hebrew religion in a small dwelling room, and we started a new with a will and ambition to build a synagogue which should be a comfortable home for our religion, a credit to ourselves and our town as well. Ladies and gentlemen we succeeded and our desire were fulfilled with gratification.

“As president of this congregation I wish to thank the members individually for the noble work which they accomplished, the liberality with which they gave assured us of a successful undertaking and the wiling aid which they extended was a pleasure to behold. I wish to extend the thanks of the congregation to one who never tires of his undertaking one who was always willing to give his time in seeing that the work was progressing and who always proved himself loyal to our cause. He, my friends is the kind of member we have placed as chairman of our building and dedication committee, our worthy vice president Bernard Hepps. As I have already said our membership is 1900 had grown to twenty and the number at this time is forty-two, which includes nearly all the Jewish residents of our town. We also claim members in Duquesne, and found an aid in Braddock in the person of Mrs. Weiser, who has Homestead to heart to such an extent that she spent much of her time in workmanship that will enrich our new synagogue. Our present financial condition shows a net capital of $7,000 and thanks are due to the aid extended us in the year by prominent citizens of Pittsburgh and elsewhere. The Gentile friends of our own town are numerous on our contribution list and their names will always be remembered by our congregation with gratitude.

We now have a Hebrew school in our syangogue which is conducted by our worthy Rev. Mendelsohn for all Jewish children may attend after public school hours. My friends you already know that the proud name of our congregation is Rodef Scholem which means “Follow Peace.” We have also adopted this as our motto “How Good and pleasant it is when brothers congregate with Unity of thought and unity of action for the promotion of Good.” How well we lived under this banner since our organization we can safely leave to the decision of the good citizens of our town and we feel that we can say with pride that their verdict must be such as would make any presiding officer proud of his members. We have proof tonight of the respect and esteem in which the Hebrews of Homestead is held by our Gentile friends and neighbors for looking about us we see the most prominent citizens of our town honoring us with their presence at our table, willing to break bread with us and thereby showing that we have there (sic) well wishes while we celebrate the dedication of our new synagogue.

Addresses were then made by Bernard Hepps, Dr. John Purman, Hon. John F. Cox and others and some vocal selections were rendered by the choir, after which friends and guests left for their homes. The church on Ammon street is now open for services and from now on the Hebrews of Homestead will have a comfortable home in which to worship. The dedication was a great success and the movement which has brought to such a successful conclusion speaks volumes for the energy and enterprise of the small congregation.

  1.  Rev. Mendelsohn was the shul’s rabbi.  Ashinsky and Fried were prominent rabbis from Pittsburgh.  

  2.  These men are all leading citizens of Homestead and Pittsburgh, both Jews and non-Jews (including the burgess, or mayor, of Homestead).  

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