Shaare Shamayim Congregation (Gates of Heaven) was the first Jewish congregation in Western Pennsylvania. It emerged in the late-1840s, as Pittsburgh was beginning to attract a small but stable group of Jewish settlers. The future founders of the congregation began meeting for prayer as early as 1846. They established the congregation as early as 1848, using rented space at Penn Avenue and Sixth Street, in downtown Pittsburgh. Shaare Shamayim dedicated a synagogue in early August 1849 at the Vigilant Fire Engine House at 78 Third Ave. The congregation applied for a charter in late August 1849, but it is unclear whether the application was approved, rejected, or withdrawn.
Shaare Shamayim Congregation originally included members from present-day Germany, as well as a smaller group of “Poseners” from present-day Poland and Lithuania. This second group broke away from Shaare Shamayim in 1852 to form Beth Israel Congregation. The split originated in a debate over the ownership of the Bes Almon Cemetery, which was held independently of the congregation. Shaare Shamayim and Beth Israel reunited in 1853, and Shaare Shamayim started the Hebrew Burial Association that same year. Sometime before 1856, the Posner members of Shaare Shamayim placed an advertisement in the Occident newspaper, seeking a new spiritual leader. In protest, most of the German members left Shaare Shamayim along with its current spiritual leader, Rev. William Armhold, to form Rodef Shalom Congregation. The two congregations reunited around 1860 as Rodef Shalom, which had obtained a charter.
Spiritual leaders of Shaare Shamayim Congregation include Rev. Bernard Mannheim (1848-1849), Rev. Moses Sulzbach (1849-1853), Rev. Emanuel Marcusson (1853), Rev. William Armhold (1854), Rev. H. Solomon (c1855), and Rev. Rosenthal (1859-1860).