Torath Chaim Congregation was founded in the East End of Pittsburgh in 1927 by supporters of Rabbi Jacob Joseph Hurvitz. The first meeting was the bar mitzvah of Samuel E. Shapiro on September 17, 1927, held in a newly purchased house at 728 N. Negley Ave.Torath Chaim Cong. notice, Jewish Criterion, Sept. 27, 1930 (online). The congregation renovated the building in 1931 and again in 1948. The later renovation expanded the sanctuary to include seating for 700 people on two levels, a mural painted by Samuel Savage, and a dramatic façade featuring a large menorah.
Early in its existence, Torath Chaim established a cemetery in Hampton Township.
Torath Chaim Congregation was an Orthodox congregation following the Sephardic nusach (style of prayer) and requiring separate seating for men and women. The bylaws of the congregation mandated that all minutes be perpetually kept in Yiddish.“Constitution and By-Laws for the Congregation Torath Chaim of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” undated (online).
In its final years, Torath Chaim Congregation increasingly relied upon students from Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh to lead services during the year and especially on the High Holidays. With the decline in the Jewish population of the East End, the congregation became the last formal Jewish institution in the neighborhood, closing in 2004.“Torath Chaim Closes,” Jewish Chronicle, September 23, 2004 (online).
Spiritual leaders of Torath Chaim Congregation include Rabbi Jacob Joseph Hurvitz, Rabbi Mordecai Glatstein, Rabbi Bernard Meth, and Rabbi Irving Grumer. The congregation also regularly hired local and visiting cantors for High Holiday services.