About Us

Corinne Krause, Bess Topolsky, Selma Berkman and Allen Berkman in 1988, with the first object donated to the Western Pennsylvania Jewish Archives, now called the Rauh Jewish Archives. SOURCE Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania newsletters

The Jewish Encyclopedia of Western Pennsylvania is a descriptive record of Jewish history in Western Pennsylvania. It tells the story of hundreds of Jewish people, families, organizations, businesses, and events dating back to the 1750s, when the first Jewish traders began arriving in the region on business expeditions. This website primarily uses materials from the Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center but also includes links to materials found in other repositories around the world and online. It aims to be a first stop for conducting historical research into Jewish subjects throughout this region.

The Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center was founded on November 1, 1988. Originally known as the Western Pennsylvania Jewish Archives, it was the culmination of 20 years of work to create a repository for collecting and preserving documentation of the Jewish experience in Western Pennsylvania and to endow an archivist position to ensure that materials are made widely available to the general public. It has been led by six archivists: Faye Lebowitz (1988-1992), Tina Rieger (interim 1989), Judith Ross (1993-1996), Susan Melnick (1996-2015), David Schlitt (2015-2017), and Eric Lidji (2017-present).

One of only a small group of Jewish community archives in North America, the Rauh Jewish Archives now holds more than 1,000 collections documenting a diverse array of Jewish experiences—religious, spiritual, communal, political, cultural, athletic, artistic, economic, educational, and philanthropic. The archive holds the records of some 40 area Jewish congregations representing all the major denominations and more than 25 major Jewish organizations, both large and small, current and inactive. It also holds more than 200 collections representing an array of Jewish Pittsburgh families, each with its own experiences. 

In the 21st century, the Rauh Jewish Archives began undertaking digital humanities projects to make its materials more accessible to the public. The Jewish Encyclopedia of Western Pennsylvania combines two of those earlier projects into a single resource. “A Tradition of Giving” was launched in 2013 through the support of the J. Samuel and Rose Y. Cox Foundation and the Simon Hafner Charitable Foundation, both through the PNC Charitable Trust. It was a survey of Jewish philanthropic organizations in Pittsburgh. “Generation to Generation” was launched in 2016 with support from Richard E. Rauh, Beth Israel Center of Pleasant Hills, B’nai B’rith Warren Roy Laufe Lodge No. 903, the Fine Foundation, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, the Hon. & Mrs. Lawrence W. Kaplan, the PNC Charitable Trust, Temple Hadar Israel of New Castle, and the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation. It initially profiled Jewish families who had donated records to the archive and later expanded to include profiles of small-town Jewish communities throughout the region.

The Jewish Encyclopedia of Western Pennsylvania was launched in late 2021 through the support of Carolyn Slayton and Seth Glick. In addition to showcasing photographs, documents, audio and video, the website has improved mapping, database and citation capabilities. Rauh Jewish Archives staff and volunteers are currently migrating exhibits from the two earlier sites into this one, a process expected to continue into 2024. The work involves reviewing and expanding exhibits to ensure information is as accurate and comprehensive as possible. To get weekly updates about this effort, and to learn about new research tools and other resources as they are released, subscribe to the Rauh Jewish Archive newsletter.