On this fast-paced virtual tour, we will visit 12 city neighborhoods. With an eagle eye and help from archival records, we will find Pittsburgh’s Jewish history hidden in the cityscape.
Pittsburgh neighborhoods are often identified by their past and present ethnic identities, but neighborhood life has never been that simple. Even the most seemingly homogenous neighborhoods can have small communities living as minorities among their neighbors.
Today, Squirrel Hill is known as the “Jewish part” of Pittsburgh, but historically, the Hill District was considered a Jewish neighborhood. A century ago, at least a dozen other Pittsburgh neighborhoods were home to Jewish communities. Each enclave supported synagogues, religious schools, Jewish clubs and charities, and Jewish-owned businesses.
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This story was recorded on February 22, 2021.
Eric Lidji is the director of the Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center. He is a child of Squirrel Hill and a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh. He spent 15 years as a journalist before joining the Rauh Jewish Archives–first as a volunteer, then as a researcher and for the past three years as its director. He curates its Jewish history website–the Jewish Encyclopedia of Western Pennsylvania, oversees its Small Towns Jewish History Project, and hosts its podcast The Cornerstone.
He writes and speaks extensively about the Jewish history of Western Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Seventeenth Generation: The Lifework of Rabbi Walter Jacob and a coeditor of the anthologies Her Deeds Sing Her Praises and Bound in the Bond of Life.