Lawrenceville was established along the south bank of the Allegheny River in 1814, incorporated as a borough in 1834, and annexed into the city of Pittsburgh in 1868. The industrial roots of the neighborhood include the Allegheny Arsenal, Andrew Carnegie’s early operations, and an Alcoa predecessor called the Pittsburgh Reduction Company.
Starting in the late 19th century, Lawrenceville became home to working class immigrants from Germany, followed by Poles, Croatians, Slovenes, and Slovaks who worked in local industries.“An atlas of the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh 1977,” University of Pittsburgh Archives & Special Collections (online—Historic Pittsburgh). A small number of Jewish immigrants also settled in Lawrenceville around this time, starting retail establishments along Butler Street.
Some of the earliest documentation of Jewish communal life in Lawrenceville includes donation notices published in the local Jewish press. Bani Rogalsky of Butler Street took a collection for the House of Shelter during Yom Kippur services in 1906 and took collection for the Jewish Home for the Aged during a brit milah (ritual circumcision ceremony) in 1907. Sometime in the first decade of the 20th century, the Jewish population of Lawrenceville formed the Butler Street Congregation and established a synagogue in a small outbuilding behind 5157 Butler Street. The Butler Street Congregation never legally incorporated but was a member of the Agudath Kehillath.“Agudath Kehillath,” Pittsburgh Jewish Community Book (1921) (online—Historic Pittsburgh).
The Butler Street Congregation used the outbuilding at 5157 Butler St. throughout its existence, but it often rented larger spaces throughout the neighborhood to accommodate larger crowds during the High Holidays. Spaces include a hall at 44th and Butler streets, Fetzer’s Auditorium at Butler and Main streets, and the Arsenal Bank Building at 43rd and Butler streets. The Butler Street Congregation formed a committee in late 1919 to raise $15,000 toward the construction of a synagogue but never completed the project.Butler Street Congregation real estate notice, Pittsburgh Daily Post, Oct. 24, 1919 (online—Newspapers.com).
Jewish children in the Lawrenceville commuted to religious school in other neighborhoods until late 1911, when the National Council of Jewish Women established a religious school in the neighborhood through its Southwestern District of Pennsylvania Jewish Religious Schools program under the supervision of the Jewish Mother’s Club of Lawrenceville. The school met at the synagogue and at rented halls at 3059 Penn Ave. and 4124 Butler St. The Jewish community of Lawrenceville formed a Boy Scouts troop in early 1922.“The Trail of the Boy Scouts,” Pittsburgh Press, May 27, 1922 (online—Newspapers.com).
According to population surveys conducted by the Hebrew Institute, the Jewish population of Lawrenceville peaked in the mid-1920s and declined rapidly starting in the early 1930s as Jewish families relocated to the East End and Squirrel Hill. For example, two leading members of the Lawrenceville community, Bani Rogalsky and Max Weisberger, left for Squirrel Hill in the early 1920s to become early leaders at Congregation Beth Shalom. Even so, enough Jewish families remained in Lawrenceville for the Butler Street Congregation to continue meeting into the 1940s.
Names associated with the Jewish community of Lawrenceville include: A. Abrams, Abramovitz, Adelman, Mr. and Mrs. A. Adler, S. Arnowitz, Harry Azinsky, Mr. Barbalatt/Barbalat, H. Barenkoff, Edith Barmen, Edward Barmen, L. Barmen, S. Barmen, Mr. Barmen, Mr. Benjamin, Aaron Bernstein, Ethel Bernstein, S. Blatt, Bella Blatt, Braun, H. Chernoff, Jacob Churnoff, Mr. and Mrs. B. H. Cohen, R. R. Cohen, Annette Crantz, David M. Crantz, Frank Crantz, Jacob Crantz, P. Crantz, L. Cransfield, Max Cransfield, Mr. Davis, P. Denmark, Mr. Edelstein, S. Edlis, Harry Epstein, Mr. Escovitz, H. A. Faberman, J. Faberman, Mr. Fineman, Cecil Fingert, Sam Fingert, Mr. Fingerhut, H. Frank, L. Frank, Mr. Freedman, Mr. Freeman, Adah Freeman, M. E. Frohman, D. S. Garber, Rev. Ginsburg, Nathan Goldberg, G. Goldstein, R. L. Goldstein, Mr. Goodman, Harry Gordon, Mr. Graff, J. Grossman, S. Gusky, Isaac Harrison, Sarah Harrison, Mrs. Harris, Mr. Hecker, Elizabeth Heckert, Sam Heckert, Mr. Herrin, Horovitz, A. Horvitz, Mr. Katz, Mrs. Kaufmann, J. Kawalsky, Myer Kelsky, E. Klein, Mr. Klein, Bella Kramer, Mr. Kraingold/Kreingold, Kawolsky, Alex Kritberg, J. Kritberg, David B. Kritberg, Bertha Lapidus, J. Lapidus, Philip Lapidus, Jacob Lazer, Zolen Lazer, Mrs. Leiberman, Edith Lieberman, I. M. Lichtenstein, David Litman, Sam Littman, W. Littman, A. L. Loevner, A. I. Marx, R. Middler, Mr. Miden, J. Nathan, Mr. Osofsky, Mr. Paul, Perlman, Aaron Rickler, Bani Rogalsky, Essie Rogalsky, Ida Rogalsky, A. Roth, N. Rothman, R. Ruben, M. Rudick, Sam Rodick/Rudick, Mr. Sakol, M. Schlanger, Ida Schlanger, Mr. Schmeiser, Dorothy Scott, Mildred Scott, E. Shulgold, N. Schwartz, S. Schwartz, Mrs. B. Shall, R. Shapera, R. Shapiro, J. Sheffler, Mr. Shoren, Jacob and Lena Shriber, B. Shulgold, W. Silk, Mr. Silk, Esther Silk, Mr. Silverberg, Mr. Silverstein, Mr. Simon, Mr. Smith, William Smith, Max Snyder, Sam Snyder, A. Soltz, J. A. Stein, A. M. Stutz, J. Weinberg, Anna Weinstein, H. Wise, Leah Weiss, Harry Weisberger, Max Weisberger, Louis Wittenstein, Julius Wittenstein, B. Wolk, and D. Zimmer.
|↑1||“An atlas of the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh 1977,” University of Pittsburgh Archives & Special Collections (online—Historic Pittsburgh).|
|↑2||“Agudath Kehillath,” Pittsburgh Jewish Community Book (1921) (online—Historic Pittsburgh).|
|↑3||Butler Street Congregation real estate notice, Pittsburgh Daily Post, Oct. 24, 1919 (online—Newspapers.com).|
|↑4||“The Trail of the Boy Scouts,” Pittsburgh Press, May 27, 1922 (online—Newspapers.com).|