- Red: Before 1880
- Orange: 1880-1900
- Yellow: 1900-1910
- Green: 1910-1920
- Blue: 1920-1940
- Purple: After 1940
The synagogue is the center of Jewish life. By looking at the history of Jewish congregations in Pittsburgh, we see a rough mirror of the movement pattern of the Jewish population of Western Pennsylvania.
Allegheny City and Downtown (1850-1880)
The earliest Jews to arrive in Western Pennsylvania were predominantly German and settled in Allegheny City (North Side) starting in the 1840s. This area continued to be favored by the more well-to-do and established immigrants, who had businesses there and in nearby Downtown.
“Hill Hebrews” (1880-1940)
Jewish immigrants from Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Rumania, and Austria-Hungary, many impoverished, began to settle in the Hill District. In 1910, 90% of Pittsburgh’s Jewish population lived here. Congregations were formed and joined based on the ethnic identity of the immigrants, the people who shared language, culture, and memories of their old lives. By the 1920s, there were 25 congregations in the Hill District.
As immigrants assimilated, synagogues organized by country of origin disappeared. New synagogues were established to accommodate the Jewish populations of new neighborhoods. By 1901, about 500 Jewish families lived in Oakland, East End, and Squirrel Hill. By the 1930s, Squirrel Hill had become the most popular Jewish neighborhood, and by the late 1940s, the Jewish population of the Hill District had virtually dissolved.
East Enders and Beyond (1940-present)
The East End, including Stanton Heights, Highland Park, and East Liberty, was a popular area for Jews for only about a generation. By the 1960s, many of these residents had moved on to the suburbs or Squirrel Hill, and the synagogues they established in these areas were closed.
Other places in Allegheny County that had large Jewish populations included Homestead, McKeesport, and Tarentum. Outside of Allegheny County there were smaller Jewish communities, including New Castle, Uniontown, New Kensington, Jeannette, and Beaver Falls.