The Lubavitch Youth Organization was founded in 1955 by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn of New York to provide a range of religious services to Jewish youth. Rabbi Shmarya Katzen came to Pittsburgh in late 1970 or early 1971 under the auspices of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement and oversaw the local Tefillin Campaign, a “succa mobile,” Shabbat dinners, and other initiatives aimed primarily at high school and college students.
The Central Lubavitch Youth Organization formally announced the opening of a Pittsburgh branch in in late 1972 or early 1973 under the name Pittsburgh Friends of Lubavitch Youth Organization. Rabbi Katzen was named the director and ran the operation from his home at 5835 Nicholson St. An associated committee included Rabbi Kehos “Charles” Weiss, Rabbi Ephraim Rosenblum, Rabbi Menachem Rodel, and Myer Cohen.
Some of the initiatives overseen by the local Lubavitch Youth Organization included the “Encounters with Chabad” series, the University Institute of Torah Learning, a “Mitzvah-Mobile,” and regular Sabbath and holiday messages from Rabbi Schneersohn published as advertisements in the local Jewish Chronicle. The Lubavitch Youth Organization evolved over 1973 and 1974 to become the first Chabad House in the region.