Young Judaea was born in 1909 out of Zionist clubs across the country.
The earliest mention of the group in connection with Homestead was in a 6/29/1917 Jewish Criterion article about Homestead’s I.O.B.B. collection for Jewish War Sufferers, which included a $10.00 donation from “Young Judean (sic) Club.” Whether or not this club persisted is unclear.
Then there are a few mentions from late 1922 and early 1923 of another attempt:
- 12/29/1922: “On Thursday, December Twenty-first, a largely attended meeting was held in the Vestry Rooms of the Synagogue. It was unanimously decided to name this club recently organized as ‘Balfour Young Judaea of Homestead, Pa.’ It was also passed that a meeting be held every second and fourth Tuesday of the month…Mr. Joseph Wintner, the organizer of the local Balfour Young Judaea, who is, by the way, the superintendent of the Hebrew Religious School, was present at the meeting and promised to do his best to establish and to organize clubs of the Young Judaea in nearby towns and surrounding territories.”
- 1/5/1923: “A regular meeting of the ‘Balfour Young Judaea’ was held in the Vestry Rooms of the Synagogue, on Thursday, December Twenty-eighth. Eight new members were enrolled, which makes a total of 68 members. Many contestants entered their names for the two essays on ‘Why Are the Jews Entitled to Palestine?’ and ‘Why Am I a Member of the Young Judaea?’ The prizes will be awarded to the one who will be judged winner by five prominent men of the town.”
- 1/26/1923: “The Balfour Young Judaea Club held a very well-attended meeting Thursday evening, January Eleventh, at the Vestry Rooms of the Synagogue…The two winners of the contest on the two essays were declared.”
After that there is a very long gap until May 1948, just before the State of Israel was proclaimed on May 14.
YOUNG LIONS YOUNG JUDAEA CLUB , Homestead—Movies and Entertainment: In the auditorium of the Rodef Shalom Synagogue in Homestead, May 26, 8 p.m. Florence Mermelstein is chairman of the event. Proceeds will go to fund-raising projects supported by Young Judaea, the Palestine Scouts (Tsofim) and the Jewish National Fund. Yetta Weiss is club leader.
— 5/7/1948, 5/14/1948, American Jewish Outlook
YOUNG LIONS CLUB OF HOMESTEAD—Movies and Entertainment: At the Rodef Shalom Synagogue, 10th Avenue, Homestead, May 26, 8 p.m.
— 5/21/1948, The Jewish Criterion
Leader Sails for Israel
Yetta Weiss, leader of the Young Lions Club of Young Judaea in Munhall for the past year, is departing for Israel this week. Miss Weiss, daughter of Rabbi and Mrs. Joshua Weiss, is a member of Hechalutz, under whose auspices she is embarking to work in the new state. Leadership of the group has been taken over by Miss Weiss’ brother, David Weiss, a student in the Pitt Law School.
— 12/10/1948, The Jewish Criterion
The Pittsburgh Press reported that she had gone to Israel to be “a social worker for the government, aiding the thousands of immigrants. Miss Weiss worked with the Dept. of Public Assistance here.” 1
Of special interest to Pittsburghers was the recent Lutsky-Krotinger marriage, which was solemnized on March 7 in Tel Aviv. Many Pittsburghers now in Israel attended the wedding, among them, Mr. and Mrs. H. Ruskell, Miss Yetta Weiss, daughter of Rabbi Weiss of Homestead, Al Twersky, and Zvi Spiro, former Hebrew teacher at the Hebrew Institute. (Mr. Ruskell is a former member of our symphony orchestra, and now plays in the Israel Symphony).
— 3/11/1949, American Jewish Outlook
WEISS—Yetta Weiss, age 25, died on May 26 after a brief illness in Tel Aviv, Israel. She went to Israel in December, 1948. She is survived by her parents, Rabbi and Mrs. Joshua S. Weiss of Munhall; two brothers, M. David Weiss of Munhall and Rudolph Weiss of New York, and three sisters, Mrs. Hermina Riemer of Pittsburgh Mrs. Laura Adams of Boston and Mrs. Regina Wermeil of Paris, France.
— 6/3/1949, American Jewish Outlook
The cause of death was typhus.
In June of 1949 the congregation put up a yahrzeit plaque in her memory. 2 And shortly thereafter, the religious Zionist group in which her parents were active found an appropriate way to remember her:
Mizrachi To Plant Garden In Memory Of Yetta Weiss
At the last Board Meeting of the Pittsburgh District Mizrachi Organization, sympathies were expressed to Rabbi and Mrs. Joseph Weiss of Homestead, Pa., upon the passing their beloved daughter, Yetta. It was also resolved to plant in memory of Miss Yetta Weiss a garden of 100 trees in the Rabbi Ashinsky Forest.
Miss Weiss went to Israel half a year ago as a chalutzah, from where the news of her sudden death was received. The many friends of her parents were grieved at the tragic news. Miss Weiss was employed by the Criterion three years ago.
The parents of the departed Yetta Weiss are very active for the cause of religious Zionism. Rabbi Weiss is a vice-president of the
Pittsburgh District Mizrachi Organization and its JNF chairman. Mrs. Weiss is the president of the Pittsburgh Mizrachi Women’s Organization, Pearl Ashinsky Chapter.
— 7/22/1949, The Jewish Criterion
נפ׳ כ״ז אייר תש״ט
ת נ צ ב״ ה
Here lies Ita Chanita daughter of R. Yehoshua Weiss. She died on 27 Iyar 5709. May her soul be bound up in the bond of life. 3
The final two Young Judaea mentions are from the late 50s. On 10/31/1958, the Y-JCC newspaper reported that a Homestead Young Judaea group was “about to begin meeting with the next week” with advisor Judy Strauss. It’s unclear if that happened; on 11/20/1959 the American Jewish Outlook reported that “Plans are also beng made for the formation of a [Young Judaea] group in Stanton Heights and one in Homestead.”
(For context, here’s the history of the adult Zionist efforts.)
1940-1950 Meeting Minutes, p. 410 ↩
Couple notes: Chanita means sword and was also the name of an important kibbutz at the time. Israel suggests that she adopted this name later — perhaps her strong, Zionist name to replace her old-fashioned, Yiddish-y name. He thought the rhyme was like something out of Ephraim Kishon. Also, one would have expected the honorific “rav” (rabbi) in front of her father’s name — a small, but telling detail that stone might not have been handled by her family in Pittsburgh. Travel wasn’t like it is now, Israel pointed out to me. ↩