Here is an interesting newspaper clipping from Dec 18, 1969. In the mid 1960s the Catholic Church tried to patch up its relations with world Jewry. Vatican II denounced antisemitism and proclaimed that modern day Jews couldn’t possibly be held responsible for anything that happened 2000 years ago. The official document states “the Church gives glory to God for his enduring faithfulness towards his chosen people, the Jews”. In practical application, Catholic school students would visit synagogues to learn about Judaism. This article in the Signal Item reflects one of those visits.
Category Archives: History
According to the oral history that was passed to me from our Nusi, Stanley Roth, may he rest in peace, our first shul burned in 1934 and our new shul opened in 1937. During the interim years the congregation held services at the Elks Club. But of the fire itself I knew nothing. Recently, at a community event in Carnegie I had opportunity to chat with Carol Dlugos of the Carnegie Historical Society. She told me of the slow but steady renovations to the Husler Bldg on Main St., home to the Historical Society. I mentioned that Carnegie’s first High Holiday services were conducted in the ballroom of the Husler Bldg., which she knew. And she told me that Dr. Husler was Jewish, which I did not know. That means that it wasn’t just a coincidence that the Husler Building opened in February of 1896 and our first holiday services were conducted there that same September. Also, it’s probably not a coincidence that Lincoln Savings Bank would be the ground floor tenant of the Husler Bldg. The president of Lincoln Savings was Saul Lipman, an active member of our shul. But I digress. I asked Carol if she knew anything of our first shul on Broadway St. and the fire that destroyed it in 1934. She promised to look into it.
Today I received an email from Carol with a photocopy of an article from the Bridgeville Signal. Before today, I never heard of this paper. It was a sister newspaper to the Carnegie Signal Item. Both were printed by the Knepper family. The papers shared reporters and many identical articles could be found in each paper. The pages that Carol sent me were from the Thursday, December 20, 1934 edition. The print is not very legible. I have transcribed the article to make it easier to read.
Fire Last Saturday Destroys Carnegie Jewish Synagogue
Firemen Fight Blaze for Three Hours—Holy Scrolls Saved by Members of Congregation—Damage Estimated at $6,500.
Flames last Saturday destroyed the Carnegie Jewish Synagogue of Congregation Ahavath Achim on Broadway near Jane Street. The fire broke out about 12:15 p.m., just 15 minutes after Rabbi Samuel Mallinger had concluded the morning services. An overheated furnace was given as the cause of the fire by fire chief Orian Baux who estimated the damage at $6,500.
The fire was discovered by a little negro lad, who was walking past the building. He hurried in to tell Harry Zemon who owns the building next-door and is a member of the congregation. Mr. Zemon and his brother-in-law Sam Klee of Plum Street, hurried to the fire and made an effort to enter the building through the front door. Smoke and flames made entrance impossible, and they ran to the rear of the building and Sam Klee forced his way into the building by breaking a window. He and Mr. Zemon, with the aid of Sam Bales and Charles Perilman, both members of the congregation, succeeded in saving five holy scrolls. The scrolls were the only contents of the building that were saved.
Fire Chief Baux with the aid of both night and day forces, fought the fire for three hours. The building was of frame construction, and they worked tirelessly to keep the fire from spreading, as there were frame structures on either side of the burning building. Three lines of hose were run into the building in an effort to save the synagogue from complete destruction, but a total loss resulted. Books and other valuables which fed the hungry flames, as well as the lumber of the building, which was erected about 30 years ago. Fire Captain George Ebner was cut on the chin by a piece of falling slate and firemen Milton Shulte was hurt in the foot when he stepped on a nail while entering the building with a line of hose. Both of the injured firemen were treated by Dr. Edward Klee.
Wow, there are certainly a lot of familiar names in this article. I thought perhaps the name Charles Perilman was misspelled because we have a Charles Perlman on our yahrzeit list. However, I noticed in this very same newspaper that the sports writer for the Signal Item was listed as Abe Perilman. So, either there was a Perilman family who are not in our records or this is simply a variation in name spelling which occurred so frequently.
The article says the shul was about 30 years old. That makes sense considering the charter of the congregation was signed in 1903. Although the first board meeting of the congregation was in 1898, a legal charter would have been necessary for the congregation to buy property and build a shul. In 2015 I wrote an article about the drafting and signing of the shul charter and you can read it HERE. I will try to get some additional information from our local newspapers about the construction of the first shul, which was located at 204 Broadway St.
On a different note, I am planning to do a story on the Beaver Falls shul which has connections with our shul, from it’s very beginning until even today. If you have knowledge of the Beaver Falls shul and you would like to be a resource, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the past few months I have been troubleshooting a shul email problem, so if you’ve gotten a lot of “test” emails from me I apologize. Or maybe you didn’t get any! Gmail was blocking our email. They aren’t blocking us now, but check your spam folder. I am making progress, and I hope that most of our 150 subscribers receive email notification of new blog postings. While I was working on this email problem I had back-burnered a story about Dorothy and Alfred “Kurlie” Miller. Maybe now is a good time to share it.
In a small town like Carnegie there are paths that cross, and we are treated to the occasional unexpected surprise. This is one of those surprises. My dear friend and fellow councilman Phil Boyd handed me an envelope one day and said, “here, this is for you”. Inside the envelope was a mezuzah. For our non-Jewish readers, a mezuzah is a small decorative container that is affixed to a doorpost in a Jewish home. Inside the case is a lambskin parchment with hand written paragraphs of Hebrew scripture. The writing of mezuzah scrolls is an amazing skill and the scribes go through rigorous training. The scroll at the right is only 2 inches wide. So, imagine writing these scrolls for a living. (you can click on any of these photos to see more detail) I asked Phil where he got this artifact. He said he found it in a box of things that he brought over from his old house. Phil and his wife Cheryl had recently sold their home on Center Ave after having lived there for almost 35 years. As it turns out, they bought the house from Dorothy Miller in 1987. Phil had grown up next door to Kurlie and Dorothy Miller and from his youth was very fond of Kurlie. When Dorothy decided to sell the house, Phil bought it. It is customary to take your mezuzahs with you when you move, unless a Jewish family is moving in behind you. Dorothy took all her mezuzahs, but one got left behind on a basement doorframe.
Kurlie and Dorothy were part of the large Miller family in Carnegie, which included Izzy and Morry of Izzy Miller Furniture fame. Phil credits Kurlie for teaching him how to do math. Kurlie would take the young Phil to the grocery store and they would have a contest. They had to keep track of the total cost of all the goods in the shopping cart, subtracting the value of coupons. And they did this in their heads! When they got to the cashier they would see who was correct. More often than not they would catch an error that the cashier made. I could tell how much the story meant to Phil because he had a smile that covered his whole face while he was telling me.
I never had an opportunity to meet the Millers. Kurlie passed away in 1982 and Dorothy retired out of state after she sold the house in ’87. Here’s a picture of Dorothy, Phil’s Aunt Margaret, and Kurlie. I don’t know where this photo was taken, but it kinda looks like the shul social hall back in the ’70s.
At shul we have some Torah covers that were donated to the shul in Kurlie’s memory. Here is one of them. Above his embroidered English name is his Hebrew name, Abraham Sender Miller. The Yiddish name Sender has a great history and includes the similar names Sander, Sanford, etc. Well known are Michigan Congressman Sander Levin and baseball great Sanford “Sandy” Koufax. These names are derived from the name Alexander, which can be split phoenetically in two: Alek Sander. Jews named their sons Alexander, Sender, or Sander in tribute to Alexander the Great, who treated the Jews in his empire justly and preserved the Temple in Jerusalem when he conquered the Middle East. Two of our shul’s Alexes include Dr. Alexander “Alex” Sax, son of Ike Sax of blessed memory, and Aleksandr Shenderovich, father of the twins.
So, back to the beginning of the story. The mezuzah is not in very good shape. The case could be cleaned up, but the parchment is in poor condition. The case is not waterproof and the parchment has some water damage. It’s probably not kosher. I don’t know if buying a new parchment is an option because it is unusually small. And without a parchment, the case is just a decoration. I suggest that it would make a nice keepsake if someone in the Miller family wants to claim it. Just drop me a line. It’s sitting on my office desk.
Feel free to share some memories of Dorothy and Kurlie, and did I forget any Sandies?
Be well everyone. Rick
From time to time I come across some hidden treasures in the shul library. Typically, they are things long forgotten. But they offer a glimpse into the past, not just of the individuals involved, but of shul life and Carnegie life.
I am sharing two items that you will appreciate. First is a Hebrew bible issued to Bernie Roth during WWII. Long timers at the shul remember Bernie as a good man who was dedicated to his family and the shul. The house at 416 Anthony still stands, and can be easily seen when standing in front of the shul.
The second item is a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird”. You may know one or more of the names on the library loan card. And as a bonus, there was an Easter egg (can I say that on a Jewish blog?) inside the book. Buried in the middle pages was a little gift left by a budding artist for us to find decades later; a small scrap of paper that looks like it was torn from the bottom of a newspaper. It’s a little over 2 inches long and features a mockingbird being pierced by daggers. It would be easy to dismiss this but I as I looked closer I was immediately impressed by the artwork. No simple stick figure, the bird is shaded to provide contour. And I was especially struck by the stylizing of the word “kill”. It plays with the shape of the letters and at the same time invokes the chaos of daggers coming from all directions. Some of the letters in “mockingbird” are triangular in shape and out of alignment to continue the theme. My goodness, quite impressive for a doodle on a piece of scrap paper! I hope this young person, who appears to be “DB” or “LB”, went on to develop their natural gift for art.
(all photos can be enlarged by clicking)
Susan Stein lives on the upper West Side of Manhattan, but she’s not home often. She travels the country and the world performing her play “Etty” about the life of Etty Hillesom. Etty was a Dutch Jew who was murdered at Auschwitz when she was 29. She left behind diaries that give a glimpse of the last few years of her life. Susan gave 4 performances of her play at Carnegie Stage, one of two live theaters we have in Carnegie. And while in town she also managed to conduct the play for over 300 school students. And come to shul on Saturday morning! We were delighted to have her. She participated in services and stayed afterward for Kiddush. If you missed her performance, you can take 30 minutes and watch this interview she gave to Lynn Cullen.
At the end of services a young man came into the shul just looking around (he didn’t appear dangerous). I introduced myself and he said he was Joe Klee. He was in town on business and his father had advised him to visit the Carnegie Shul while in Pittsburgh. Well, as Dr. Block would say, “there are no coincidences”. Just 10 minutes earlier, while announcing yahrzeits, I mentioned that on Tuesday we would remember Dr. Harry A. Klee who was the main benefactor for the construction of our shul. His name appears on the cornerstone of our building. Joe stayed for Kiddush and afterwards I showed him the plaques for the Klee family on our yahrzeit tablets. The Klee family was numerous and one of Joe’s forefathers, Selig Klee, was a charter member of the congregation 120 years ago. The following day, I spoke with Joe’s father on the phone, Harvey Klee. Harvey explained that his parents were Joseph Klee and Rose Nadel. His grandparents were Hyman Klee and Lena Wilk. I was not aware of the Wilk connection, and will be looking forward to comments from the Wilk family.
As a complete aside, I saw Ethel Sherman McCarthy at the Pour House on Saturday night. She was there celebrating the birthday and retirement of her best friend, Cheryl Riley. As some of you know, Jim and Cheryl have sold the Pour House and are retiring to Florida. Of course I told Ethel that we would like to see her more frequently at shul. Her grandfather Markus Sherman was the founder of our congregation. The minyan met in his house from 1896 until 1903 when they built the first shul on Broadway St.