Author Archives: Rick

I won’t be in on Monday

If you haven’t been to the Carnegie Stage (aka Off the Wall Theater) you are missing out on a local treat. This intimate 100-seat theater on Main St. hosts some very entertaining and thoughtful programs— some humorous, some serious, some controversial. For 4 years in a row the theater has received the 50/50 Applause Award for having at least half of its productions written by women. Only the HERE Arts Center in New York has won it more times. Many of the productions are unique and will only be seen in Carnegie.

This weekend you will have the opportunity to see well known New York playwright and actor Anne Stockton. It’s the second time she’s come to Carnegie, having previously performed her show The Speed Queen— her adaptation of a Stewart O’nan novel. It’s not surprising that Anne’s plays delve deeply into the psyche of her characters; she’s also a practicing psychiatrist! Her new play premiers in Carnegie Thursday night and runs only through the weekend.

Nikki is being interviewed by a detective in the high level financial firm where she works about the disappearance of two very valuable rings earlier that morning.
A witty look at the ways in which we are swept away by the scenarios we
imagine for our lives.

The Carnegie Stage amazingly fills about 5,000 seats a year and is an asset not only to Western PA theater goers, but to our small businesses that benefit from the extra foot traffic on Main St. And remember, members of the Carnegie Shul get a deeply discounted ticket price. When you show up at the door, make sure you tell Hans you are from the shul.

Click HERE to learn more about the show.

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The great Klan rally in Carnegie

Today is the anniversary of the great Ku Klux Klan rally in Carnegie in 1923.

We have to give the Klan credit for one thing— their message is consistent. Their grievances today are exactly the same as they were 94 years ago. In the attached August 29, 1923 edition of the Imperial Night-Hawk, the Grand Dragon of South Carolina says the mission of the Klan is “to prevent America from becoming the melting pot or dumping ground of the world for the heterogeneous element seeking admission to our shores”. Further, he states, “Paupers, diseased and criminals predominate among those who land upon American soil!” Does that sound familiar? It’s paradoxical that these diseased and criminal immigrants of the early 1900s would survive the Great Depression of the 30s, save the world from Nazis in the 40s, and build the world’s most powerful industrial economy in the 50s. They and their children became what Tom Brokaw described as the Greatest Generation.

While the Klan likes to describe how immigrants are a social and economic burden to America, their real concern is that most of the immigrants aren’t white. The influx of non-whites represents a danger to “white supremacy”, a term which appears in this 1923 issue and is not a recent invention. To have even a basic understanding of white supremacy it is critical that you understand their definition of “white”. It’s one of the things that is today forgotten, and in fact many young people never knew in the first place. The Klan definition of “white” doesn’t just refer to skin color— it includes religion and national origin. We used to use the term WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant) to describe who was white. That term has gone somewhat out of vogue, but is still very much relevant. We must be reminded that if you are a Jew, you are not white. If you are a Catholic, you are not white. If you are Italian, Hungarian, Greek, or Japanese, you are not white. Etc, etc, etc. Some will say that things have changed over the years and that “white” and WASP are no longer synonymous. But in Charlottesville we watched white supremacists marching alongside neo-Nazis. Don’t be fooled into thinking there is a new kinder, more inclusive, less dangerous white supremacy out there. There isn’t. Here in western Pennsylvania, white supremacists represent the biggest threat of terrorism. Don’t take my word for it; ask the FBI.

You should take 15 minutes to read the entire issue of The Imperial Night-Hawk that I’ve attached. It has extensive coverage of the Carnegie rally that it claims drew 25,000 marchers and ended with one Klansman being shot to death. It’s enlightening. Click on the photo.

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The Advance of Art in Carnegie

Andrea Lepcio and France Hilbert

My friend Phil Salvato is fond of pointing out that a community that has art is a community that thrives in all other aspects— shops, restaurants, business, housing. When we look at the revival of Carnegie over the past few years, it is obvious that the arts are certainly a factor. Although we do have the 3rd Street Gallery and The Clay Place, I would point to music and live theater as major developments. Phil himself, while being mostly known for his painting, has been a tireless promoter of jazz in Carnegie for the past 20 years. The Pour House brings live music to Carnegie every Tues-Sat evenings. But what actually sets the Pour House apart from other taverns is that they also have live music during lunchtime and happy hour. Our Carnegie Library Music Hall (which also is known by its awkward but appropriate nickname, the Carnegie Carnegie) rounds out the musical offerings in the borough with performances ranging from opera to chamber music to choral works appropriate for that grand venue.

Just as significant as the growth of music is the growth of live theater in Carnegie. Our Music Hall hosts two resident theater companies— Pittsburgh Savoyards and Stage 62. These two very different theater companies have loyal followers in the Pittsburgh area and draw a lot of people into town from other communities. More recently, Hans and Virginia Gruenert moved Off the Wall Theater from Washington, PA to Main Street. Newly reorganized as The Carnegie Stage, it hosts the Off The Wall Theater company and the Firewall Dance company. This month The Carnegie Stage is hosting New Works Festival, a month long program of brand new one-act plays. This long running annual festival moved to Carnegie three years ago in another sign of Carnegie’s burgeoning theater scene.

The growth of the music and theater scene has caused a boom in new restaurants and shops in Carnegie. This in turn has caused other businesses, like engineering and software companies to want to locate in Carnegie. This Main Street ‘vibe’ helps them attract and retain employees. The spin off effects are real and observable. How many of you can say that you can walk from your office to have lunch at one of 10 unique non-chain restaurants? And that’s not counting the ice cream shop at Flying Squirrel. Critics of course will say that they can go to many other venues to hear live music and see live theater. That’s true. And they will say that they can drive to any restaurant they want. And that’s true, too. But what they can not say is that all of those things are in walking distance from their home and office. Yes, it’s great that we are bringing guests into town from neighboring communities. But while many communities claim that they are “great places to live, work, and play”, Carnegie is actually doing it.

OK, the original intent of this story was to tell you about two special guests we had at shul for Yom Kippur. But I migrated into talking about how great Carnegie is, and I can’t ever turn that spigot off!

I made several new acquaintances during the Holidays, including Harry Scheyer, Philip Green, and Ed Elikan. But of special interest were two women who are visiting Carnegie on arts related projects. They were surprised to learn that there was a shul in Carnegie, and that they could attend Yom Kippur services here, and it was close enough to walk!

Andrea Lepcio is a playwright who has lived most of her life in Boston. Her play Searching for the Pony debuted here in Carnegie last year, and I know some of you saw it. It is the story of a family dealing with breast cancer. Well, Andrea is back. Her newest play Tunnel Vision will have its world premiere here in Carnegie on October 16. It will run for two weeks at The Carnegie Stage on Main Street before heading to lesser known theater towns like NYC. Andrea will be here in Carnegie for the next month or so, as she helps the cast prepare. She told me that we should expect to see her at the shul during that time. Click HERE for more information about her upcoming production.

Talma statue in production

Talma statue in production

France Hilbert has an easy to remember name. She is France from France. Born and raised in Paris, but spending much of her adult life in NYC, France is a painter and sculptor currently living in Bar Harbor, Maine. In addition to her artwork, she was active in Yiddish life in NYC. She is known for her outdoor permanent exhibits like the statue of Talma, on display at the Theatre of the Valley of L’Yerres, in Brunoy, France. See more of France’s work HERE and HERE.

Samples of France Hilbert works.

Samples of France Hilbert works.

As Carnegie continues to renew itself, we should expect that events such as the visit of Andrea Lepcio and France Hilbert will become more typical and less rare.

Note: it’s important to clarify that the above photo of Andrea and France in the sanctuary was not taken during the Yomtov; I took it after the Wednesday Maariv service following the conclusion of Yom Kippur. —Rick

 

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Founders Day

Falk Kantor

Falk Kantor

Each year on Shabbos Zachor we take a moment to remember Markus Sherman, the man who founded our congregation. His yahrzeit is just two days before Purim. The Sherman family was one of the first Jewish families to move to Carnegie and by the Spring of 1896 there were enough families to form a small congregation. Initially they met in the Sherman home. But Carnegie was in a dramatic growth mode and soon the congregation outgrew the Sherman house. The congregation had its first board meeting in May of 1898 and just a few more years after that board decided that the congregation had grown big enough to require its own building. In 1903 the board filed incorporation papers with the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. The charter stated, “The purpose of this corporation shall be the worshiping of the Almighty God according to the faith, doctrines, discipline and usages of the Orthodox Jewish Church”. If you find the term Jewish Church odd, I will tell you that in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania all religious institutions are referred to as churches. This terminology has an interesting history, on which I will elaborate at another time.

There were 15 signers on the original charter. Some were names that are well known to us even today: Sherman, Klee, York, Miller, Speizer. Others we have lost track of. One of those names was Falk Kanterowitz; he is listed as one of the first officers of the congregation. To me, he was just a name on a piece of paper until in 2009 a man named Abraham Goldberg contacted me from Jerusalem. He asked if we had information on Falk Kantor, the first president of the Carnegie shul. Wow! Who would expect such an email? He was doing research on the Silverstone family, a well known rabbinic family in Liverpool, England. Well, I dug up for him what I could, which wasn’t much. Together, Abraham and I pieced together information by combining what he had from family records and what we could find in the Criterion, the old Pittsburgh Jewish paper.

Beaver Falls shulWhat a fascinating story unfolded! Falk Kanterowitz came from a family of “shul builders”, if I may use that term for people who were the community organizers within the Jewish community. Falk Kantor (yes, he came to Carnegie as Falk Kanterowitz) built the first shul in Carnegie and was our first president. The shul was located on Broadway St. at the site of the current Family Dollar store. And it turns out that Falk also built the Beaver Falls shul. It was a regular family affair. Samuel Rabinowitz, we believe to be a nephew of Falk, was the founding president of the Beaver Falls shul. Another nephew, Rabbi G. Silverstone, was the rabbi of a shul in Washington DC. Please see the article from the Criterion on the right. At first blush it looks like a simple story of a shul opening, but the story takes on a different flavor when you realize that Kantor, Rabinowitz, and Silverstone were close family members.

You might think this story of historical detective work would have ended after we concluded our findings. Then one day out of the blue, one of our members, Joe Hoffman, said to me at shul, “I met a woman named Francis Bebo at the Steubenville shul, and she says her great grandfather built the Carnegie shul.” Really? I contacted her, and her and husband John paid me a visit. Yes, she is a descendent of Falk and Ada Kantor. Falk’s daughter Rose married Joe Bales, and then moved to Washington, PA. Florence is a descendent of the marriage. She has family pictures, one of which is the photo of Falk that you see above.

It turns out that another descendent, a Dr. Falk Arnheim from Mt. Lebanon is a grandson. As well, there are three brothers who carry the Kantor family name and are great grandsons. One of the brothers carries the name Falk Kantor and lives not far from the Tiphereth Israel Cemetery in Shaler where Falk and his wife Ada are buried. This coming Shabbos we will honor Falk and Ada Kantor with a special Kiddush at shul. Members of the Kantor family will be in attendance. I hope you will join us for this very special Founders Day.

 

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Carnegie’s new Lincoln Gallery

Abraham_LincolnThe new Lincoln Gallery will open on President’s Day, next Monday, at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie. This gallery features 100 photographs of Abraham Lincoln. This presentation was done once before, about 5 years ago. But now through a generous donation, the photos have been acquired by ACFL&MH. The 2nd floor hall that was until now known as the Reception Hall, will be renamed the Lincoln Gallery. There is a full day of events, concluding with a concert presentation of Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait. If you are a fan of Lincoln, ACFL&MH, or all the great happenings in Carnegie, you don’t want to miss this. For more information and tickets, go to CarnegieCarnegie.org

See the article in the Tribune Review.

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