The History of B’nai Israel

Statement about historical preservation:

Historic preservation is a conversation with our past about our future. It provides us with opportunities to ask, “What is important in our history?” and “What parts of our past can we preserve for the future?” 

Historic preservation involves celebrating events, people, places, and ideas that we are proud of. Old buildings are reminders of a city’s culture and complexity. By seeing historic buildings, both tourists and longtime residents are able to witness the aesthetic and cultural history of an area. The Rotunda is being re-imagined with the active participation and guidance of historic preservation experts.

B’nai Israel Congregation was chartered as the first congregation in the neighborhood in 1911. By 1920, money was raised to purchase property and build a new synagogue at 327 Negley Avenue, opening in 1924. The new B’nai Israel synagogue was designed by noted architect Henry Hornbostel.

The Jewish population in Pittsburgh’s East End continued to grow throughout the 1930s and 1940s, with its peak after World War II, at which time the congregation was at its largest. Faced with declining membership, in 1995, the members of B’nai Israel voted to merge with Congregation Beth Jacob of New Kensington and founded Adat Shalom Congregation, relocating to Fox Chapel. A closing ceremony was held at the B’nai Israel synagogue the weekend of June 30, 1996. The sanctuary of the building has remained vacant ever since.

Inclusive, creative communities start with you.

Conversations about the design and operation of the Collaborative are ongoing. Interested in learning more and possibly being a part of the conversation? We’d love to hear from you!

Alyson Bonavoglia & Sara Stock Mayo, Rotunda Community Engagement

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