After more than 50 years of providing a spiritual hub for Jews in Jefferson Hills and the greater Mon Valley, Beth Israel Center has put its building up for sale.
The asking price for the 8,280-square-foot building is $300,000, according to LoopNet.com.
Although Beth Israel’s board is silent as to what is in store for the remaining congregants once the building is ultimately sold, it has been working for the last year with the Jewish Community Legacy Project in Atlanta, an organization which provides guidance to small congregations across the nation that are winding down their affairs.
For now, though, Beth Israel is still operating, offering some worship services and other social and educational events, including its annual Chanukah luncheon held just a couple of weeks ago. Future events are being planned as well.
“A mock seder for Passover is already planned, as well as a Havdalah service in the spring,” said one of the congregation’s three presidents, Ron Weiss, in an email.
Beth Israel was formed in 1958 by a small group of local businessmen, professionals, engineers and scientists from the Baldwin, Whitehall, Pleasant Hills and Jefferson Hills areas, according to the congregation’s website. Before its synagogue on Gill Hall Road was built, the fledgling congregation — 56 families — held events at the Pleasant Hills Library, in the basement of the Presbyterian Community Church, in the YMCA, and at the Pleasant Hills Middle School.
Beth Israel Center was incorporated as a nonprofit religious organization and received its charter from the commonwealth in March 1959. Although the congregation identifies as Conservative, its membership includes people with a range of practices, and also includes second- and third-generation families. Rabbi Amy Greenbaum, associate rabbi of Beth El Congregation of the South Hills, serves as the spiritual leader of Beth Israel.
Noah Levine, senior vice president of the JCLP, confirmed that his organization has been working with Beth Israel.
“The first thing we did was explain what planning entails,” Levine said. That planning can include making arrangements to preserve historic documents and artifacts.
“Their board deliberated and decided to work with the JCLP, and they created a legacy committee,” Levine said.
Bob Burack, the chair of that committee, did not respond to requests for comment from The Chronicle.
There are typically two “trigger elements” that signal to a congregation that it is time to consider closing its doors, according to Levine. The first is when there are not enough people for whom to conduct services, and the second is when “no one is stepping up to take over leadership roles.”
Beth Israel, Levine said, is “not running out of money. It’s running out of people.”
Because Beth Israel does not operate its own cemetery, Levine said, any congregational money that remains if the congregation does eventually dissolve can be used to “create legacy endowments for issues that are important to them.”
But for now, the congregation is still operating, Levine stressed.
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.