The Kollel Jewish Learning Center is an educational institute in Squirrel Hill dedicated to full-time, advanced study of traditional Jewish texts. The “Pittsburgh Kollel” is part of a larger international movement with ancient roots. The modern Kollel movement began in Kovno, Lithuania in the late 19th century. It migrated to North America in the 20th century, with “Kollelim” opening in most cities with sizable Orthodox populations.
The idea for a Pittsburgh Kollel emerged in the mid-1970s. In an open letter published in the Jewish Chronicle in April 1976, a group of local Orthodox rabbis and lay leaders called for the creation of a center “to enable men in the professions and in business to systematically and conscientiously set aside specific times for Torah learning.” The Kollel Bais Yitzchok Institute for Advanced Torah Studies was founded in late 1977 under the leadership of Rabbi Shaul Kagan and Rabbi Abraham Pessin. Rabbi Kagan soon became the rosh kollel (head of Kollel/dean) and held the position until his death in 1997. He was succeeded by his son Rabbi Aharon Kagan and then by Rabbi Levi Langer.
Kollel Bais Yitzchok initially operated out of the annex of Shaaray Tefillah Congregation at 5741 Bartlett St. in Squirrel Hill. After the Shaaray Tefillah synagogue building was sold to accommodate the new Weinberg Terrace, the Kollel temporarily relocated to 2263 Shady Ave. in 1994. The Kollel dedicated a building at 5808 Beacon St. in 2000.