Category Archives: News

Shul blog hacked!

The term “hacking” may be new to you unless you’re a computer geek.  Hacking is the name to given to breaking into someone’s website by using malicious software.  The hacker may just be trying to show how skilled he is at breaking through someone’s passwords or firewalls.  But sometimes he means to do real harm to the website owner.  We can’t be sure what motivated the hacker who trashed the shul website, this blog, on December 26.  It is a lesson for all of us that computers are not completely fool proof and whenever you put something “out there” in cyberspace, it is vulnerable to attack.

My first hint that something was wrong actually came on December 26 when I started to get junk mail from our blog.  Since I have software on the blog that filters filters out junk, I knew that something had stopped working.  But it didn’t seem serious.  I had family matters to attend to last week and decided I would look at it on the weekend.  However, on Shabbos morning at shul, Joel informed me that the shul blog was “down”.  This elevated my concern, and I began an investigation right after we finished Kiddush.  Little did I know that I would be spending the rest of the day, New Year’s Eve, performing website maintenance. Continue reading


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Joe Negri at the Carnegie Carnegie

If you weren’t in Carnegie on Saturday evening, Oct 1, then you missed a really good show.  Each year the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall in Carnegie (aka: the Carnegie Carnegie) holds a major fund raising event.  This year we did a special tribute to Joe Negri, one of Pittsburgh’s musical legends.  It was a great concert with big local names playing in the ensemble.  Joe’s voice has gotten a little raspy over the years, but he can still play that guitar as well as ever. After the show, there was a great party on all three floors of the facility.  The big names weren’t just on stage—  Elsie Hillman was in the audience.  Were you?

Turn up your speakers and watch this to see what you missed.  Special thanks to Bernadette for taking the pictures and putting together the slide show.  A talent in her own right.

Tribute to Joe Negri


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Mosque Mishegas

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything— I’ve been busy!  Debbie made an unexpected visit to the hospital for most of a week.  That, plus her recovery, set us back a bit.  But, the folks at St. Clair were very good to her and she has fully recovered.  Thanks to all of you who sent well wishes.  And my business has picked up after a couple pitiful years.  I’m actually making a living now; hope it lasts!  And finally, I’ve been immersed in all this furor over the fact that Muslims are going to be praying in Carnegie, heaven forbid.  I’ve seen my name in the paper more times in the past two weeks than in the past 20 years.  Today, I got a phone call from New York City.  Yeh, the story is getting around.

former church; future mosque

So, what’s all the fuss about?  Well, last year the Muslim congregation called Attawheed Islamic Center contacted our borough manager and said they were looking to buy a building in Carnegie.  For 10 years they’ve been renting a space on Banksville Road, and now they’ve outgrown it.  As it turned out, the building they had originally picked in Carnegie was not really appropriate for a worship site.  Consequently, they decided that it wouldn’t be worth the trouble and expense of trying to make it fit.  But they really liked Carnegie.  They like Carnegie for the same reasons we all like Carnegie.  It’s easy to get to (their congregation is spread all over the place, just like ours), convenient to the city, and has a nice Main Street business district.  So, they kept looking in Carnegie for the right building.  And they found it— the former First Presbyterian Church at the corner of Washington and Main.

As a member of Borough Council and president of the Carnegie Shul, I was placed square in the middle of this.  What position would I take?  But as controversial as it may sound, there wasn’t any conflict for me and there wasn’t any controversy within Council.  Rightly so.  The Muslim congregation submitted an application for use of the building, which is required for anyone who buys a building in the commercial district.  The application was reviewed by the Planning Commission and they found no fault with the proposal.  Our Code Enforcement Officer reviewed the application and found no fault with it.  I’m sorry, but it’s a “no brainer”.  A religious group buys an old church and wants to use it for worship services and Sunday school.  We could have scrubbed through that application for the the rest of our lives and not found fault with it.  But perhaps more to the point, Council wasn’t looking to invent a reason to shoot it down.  We view this development in a positive light.  For decades people have been bailing out on Carnegie, and now there’s a congregation that wants to come to Carnegie because they think Carnegie is a nice town.  Council welcomes them and I welcome them.  Carnegie is undergoing a bit of a resurgence right now and this development is part of that renewal.  It’s all good.

During this whole controversy, I must say that Police Chief Harbin has been on the right side.  As a fellow Marine, he is not only my colleague in the borough building, but a good friend.  His support of the Carnegie Shul has been steadfast for as long as I’ve known him, and I trust him completely.  His number one mission is the safety of our citizens.  He was on the scene when Baumhammers went on his shooting spree and he is well aware of what dangers lie in our community.  He knows that during the past 15 years the FBI has doubled its presence in Western PA.  Because of Muslims?  No, because of the significant increase in Neo-Nazi and Klan activities in our region.  With his hyper-vigilant demeanor, I am quite certain that he would have alerted me if he was concerned about Muslims moving into a church near the shul.  On the contrary, he has always assured me that this new mosque is no security threat.  So to the resident who spoke at the last council meeting and questioned the patriotism of council members and the Chief, I say, “go crawl back under the rock from whence you came.”  There is no one in Carnegie who is more concerned about our wellbeing than the Chief.

Last week an acquaintance suggested that I should vote for what’s best for my congregation, not what’s best for Carnegie.  I could write an encyclopedia on what’s wrong with that suggestion, but the short answer is that I have never observed a conflict between being a good Jew and being an good American.  Jews have been abused in just about every country in the world, but in America we’ve had a pretty good life.  It’s not an accident or fate; it’s not just a coincidence.  It’s America’s liberal attitude about religion that is enshrined in the Constitution.  The strength of that document, and the conviction of those who would die to defend it, is what has made America a good place for all of us to live.  Two times in my life I have formally sworn a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution.  I will not waiver from that pledge, and I won’t apologize to bigots and racists.

I’ll leave you with the words of President George Washington.  During the early years of our republic, President Washington wanted to reassure the minority Jewish communities that they were safe in America— that our rights to worship as we please would be safeguarded in our Constitution.  He wrote the following to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, RI.  “The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens”.

God bless America.

Trib Story- June 11
Trib Story- June 14
Trib Story- June 25
PG Story- June 14
PG Story- June 16
Signal Item- June 23

(note particularly the bigoted and moronic comments by readers of the Signal Item)


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Postscript on the Main Hotel

The first bites are taken out of The Main as Sgt. Kennedy monitors the situation from Chestnut St.

Last month, with some melancholy, I reported on the imminent demise of The Main Hotel.  Like a neighbor who has been sitting next to a death bed, I can say now that The Main is gone.  It is no more.  And like the amputee who still feels those missing toes, I will still look over to that empty space and see The Main sitting there as it did for 107 years.  Carol Brown at the PG caught notice of my blog and included it in her story about The Main.

I view the destruction of The Main as a collective community failure.  Many old buildings, if structurally sound, are renovated and repurposed.  Certainly it was feasible to save The Main.  But the community will was absent.  The community didn’t view it as something to be saved.  We have a strong sense of private property in America, and that leads us to believe that people can do with their property whatever they please.  Sometimes those private property rights will conflict with the community interests and this is always controversial subject.  Certainly this was the case when the UP church on Washington Ave was purchased and converted into a nightclub.  Likewise, the purchaser of The Main had the right to renovate the building, sell it, raze it, or do nothing at all with it.  And he exercised that right.  And now a community landmark is gone.

My concern over the loss of The Main isn’t just foolish sentimentality.  Our local leaders (including myself) are marketing our borough to potential businesses and residents all over the county.  And a main feature of that marketing effort is emphasizing our “small town” atmosphere and our quaint, old-time feel.  In an article about our Thomas Espy Civil War Veterans Post, the Washington Post said of our town, “Its picture-perfect Main Street looks as though it has been lifted from a model railroad”.

We think they are right and we think that people will come to Carnegie for that.  However, my point is that last week we lost a building from the model railroad set.  What will be next?  The old Post Office, maybe?  If I’m not mistaken, every building on Main Street is privately owned except for Husler Hall, the home of the Carnegie Historical Society.  So, really, what is the future of our model railroad set?  I’d be interested in your thoughts.

More pictures can be found here; click


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Say Goodbye to The Main

A cultural institution in Carnegie will soon disappear.  The Main Hotel is about 110 years old.  It wasn’t the only boarding house in Carnegie, but it is the best known and most remembered.  It really represents another era— one that is foreign to us today.  When you rented a room at The Main, you rented a room, literally.  A bed, dresser, and nightstand.  The bathroom was at the end of the hall and shared by everyone on the floor.  You could rent a room by day, week, or month.  There was a restaurant on the first floor.

We think back to traveling salesman, temp workers, and the occasional relative visiting from out of town— all within walking distance of their business here in Carnegie.  And if the walk was a little too far, the streetcar conveniently stopped right in front of the hotel.  We even utilized it here at the shul.  When guest cantors would come in for High Holidays, they would stay at The Main.  What could be more convenient than a hotel across the street from the shul.

But those days are passed.  In its last decades, The Main was turned into low rent apartments.  But the restaurant continued to flourish and was still a favorite of ours up until about 10 years ago.  It was around that time that new owners came in, and representing the worst trait in business people, sucked the value out of the restaurant and declared bankruptcy.  Then in September of 2004, Hurricane Ivan sealed the fate of The Main.  It would now cost too much to restore the facility.

A couple days ago, CVS Pharmacy signed the real estate agreements and as you can see, fences have been put up around the block to prepare for demolition.  I took this picture from the roof of the shul this morning as the sun was coming up.  Just about everything in view will be torn down.  The store will be located in the background, at the current location of the hotel and the house next to it.  The houses in the foreground will be razed to make the parking lot.  Yes, it will be a large store.

As Carnegie struggles to define its future, we make earnest efforts to save the parts of history that we can, and modernize where we have to.  This will always be a balancing act.



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