Research in Pittsburgh #general

Rae M. Barent <RaeBarent@...>

I must take exception to a recent post.. I currently live in
Pittsburgh and have visited the Pennsylvania room of the Carnegie
Library many times. While it is a valuable resource for obituaries
and Pittsburgh census information, is is virtually useless for
cemetery records for two reasons: virtually none of the cities Jewish
cemeteries have been catalogued in print and the books that do exist
are very old. Bear in mind, too, that the Pennsylvania Room is
staffed and was compiled by the Western PA Genealogical Society which
focusses on non-Jewish genealogy. I'm sure that if my grandparents
had belonged to Rodef Shalom in the mid 1800's I might be able to
find references in the books in the Pennsylvania Room, but mine were
part of the mass immigration >from Eastern Europe and neither the
Russian cemetery, Beth Abraham, nor the Romanian one, New Light ever
found their way into a book.

On the other hand, the Rauh Jewish Archives of the John Heinz History
Center has become for Pittsburghers and former Pittsburghers, the
resource center of choice. It is the repository for , among others, the
records of Bnai Israel Congregation, the Irene Kaufmann Settlement,
the YM&WHA, Dor Hodosh Congregation . As for Rodef Shalom records, they
are found in their own excellent archives and include a comprehensive
set of Jewish Criterions.
As for the Rauh Archive cemetery project, it will be when completed, a
complete listing of every grave in every Jewish cemetery in Western PA
done not >from error-prone records but >from actual observation. Nine of
these have been included in JOWBR; more will be in the future.
I would argue that while the "bulk of the world's published information"
may have been in books and libraries ten or twenty years ago, this is no
longer true.

Rae Melnick Barent
Pittsburgh, PA

Susan M. Melnick <smmelnick@...>

As the archivist for the Rauh Jewish Archives at the Historical Society of
Western Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh, I want to describe the Western
Pennsylvania Jewish Cemetery Project which was begun in 1998. Resulting
from the work of a number of devoted volunteers (Rae Melnick Barent among
them), we have compiled a searchable database of over 25,000 records from
more than 60 regional cemeteries. The project is designed to preserve
burial information and to make it accessible.

The volunteers begin with extant cemetery records and maps and then visit
each cemetery to confirm the data and collect additional inscriptions. I
have been transfering the data (slowly, to be sure) to the JOWBR where it
will be generally accessible. We make no attempt to collect the data from
large active synagogues who maintain their own complete records. Our focus
is primarily on cemeteries for which the records may be incomplete or for
those cases in which the schuls that maintained them are closed. This is
the case in many of the small towns in western Pennsylvania in which once
thriving Jewish communities exist no longer. If anyone is looking for a
burial, please email me. As Arnold Sarasky mentions, the data base is by
no means complete. This is an ongoing project.

The Rauh Jewish Archives collects photographs, family papers, synagogue,
business, institutional, and organization records related the Jewish
experience in Western Pennsylvania. We are supported by an endowment at
the United Jewish Federation, by the Historical Society, and by many
generous donors. The Library and Archives are open to researchers
Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 5pm.

This year our annual program is entitled "Out of the Kitchen and Into
History: Food, Immigration, and the Jewish Experience." The featured
speaker is Hasia Diner, the Paul S. and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of
American Jewish History in the Skirball Deparment of Hebrew and Judaic
Studies at NYU. She is the author of "Hungering for America: Italian,
Irish and Jewish Foodways in the Age of Migration." The program is on
Sunday, November 16, for 2pm to 4pm. Reservation are requested.

Susan M. Melnick
Rauh Jewish Archives
Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania
1212 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
phone: 412.454.6406
fax: 412.454.6028