Chabad of South Hills finds a new home
Final destinationBower Hill location will allow for South Hills growth

Chabad of South Hills finds a new home

“I see it as an amazing opportunity,” Rosenblum said.

Chabad of South Hills new location at the former Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. (Photo by David Rullo)
Chabad of South Hills new location at the former Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. (Photo by David Rullo)

The refrain of children’s laughter mixed with the replicated sights, sounds, tastes and scents of the shuk — the popular Israeli marketplace — along with the traditional Megillah reading, celebrating Purim.

What makes this particular celebration different from the thousands taking place in the Jewish world is its location. Chabad of the South Hills is hosting its annual Purim festival this year at its new home, the former Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.

Rabbi Mendy Rosenblum, the director of Chabad of the South Hills, said he wasn’t necessarily seeking out a new space when he passed the former church on the corner of Bower Hill Road and Kane Boulevard in Scott Township.

“One day, I was driving, and I saw the ‘For Sale’ sign, and I couldn’t believe it because I had this dream and approached them in 2005,” he explained. “By the time we came to them, a developer had tied it up. So, I said, ‘OK, it was not meant to be.’”

The deal with the developer fell through, though. Rosenblum said the church then decided not to deal with developers, leaving open a possibility for the Jewish organization to acquire the site.

“It was an elderly congregation,” Rosenblum said. “They wanted to close out, and they wanted to leave it in good hands who would be proper stewards.”

Eventually, the two parties settled on a sale price of less than $500,000.

“I see it as an amazing opportunity,” Rosenblum said.

Ironically, sitting in the shadow of the new building is one of Chabad of the South Hills’ early homes, a nondescript structure now part of the Bower Hill Swim Club.

Chabad of the South Hills has come a long way over the last 25 years, building popular programs and events including sold-out adult education courses and its annual Jewish Comedy Night.

Light from the stained glass windows shine on Rabbi Mendy Rosenblum as he reads the Megillah. (Photo by David Rullo)

Rosenblum said the new location — at the confluence of Scott Township and Mt. Lebanon Township, and just a stone’s throw away from neighborhoods like Dormont and Bridgeville — is a convenient spot for community members in the South Hills. It is also closer to many of the Jewish institutions in the southern suburbs, including the Jewish Community Center of the South Hills, which sits about a block away.

Rosenblum said he foresees a gradual move from the organization’s McFarland Road location, which will occur in three phases.

The first, which Rosenblum said has already begun, consists of making small repairs needed in the building — things like fixing small leaks, as well as upgrading the security, something that will be aided by a state security grant.

Programming gradually will move to the new building during this stage, including the Purim Festival that occurred on March 24.

Chabad of the South Hills is ready to celebrate Purim in the shuk at its new location on Bower Hill Road. (Photo by David Rullo)

Rosenblum said that during this initial phase, the building will be used “as is.” Visitors will find a functional building without a lot of Jewish character or modern updates.

In fact, as one makes their way through the new location, they’ll find a church that hasn’t been updated in decades and one with a few idiosyncrasies — stained glass windows in the formerly Christian sanctuary, for instance, that represent decidedly non-Jewish scenes. Those will be updated to eliminate the non-Jewish themes.

Phase 2 will include larger improvements — perhaps changing carpets and other cosmetic alterations — and moving all programs, except for religious services, to the new building.

The final stage will take place when Rosenblum and his family find new homes within walking distance of the new center. Shabbat and holiday services will then be held there as well.

This timeframe also allows others who prefer to be close enough to the center to walk to services to make any required changes, Rosenblum said.
This final step will be a reimagined Jewish building that will include a mikvah, something Rosenblum has wanted to do for some time.

He’d also like to upgrade the kitchen, which is fully functional but a bit outdated.

Of course, those projects will require additional money and fundraising.

In the short term, Rosenblum is excited about some of the opportunities Chabad will be able to offer, like summer camp, which hasn’t occurred in the last few years but will start again this June.

“At the end of the day the (old) building didn’t lend itself to it, or to growth,” he said. “It wasn’t the ideal place to hold it.”

If the last quarter-century has reflected the Jewish journey in the desert for Chabad of the South Hills — pausing at different locations for a few years at a time — Rosenblum said this new site will most likely be the organization’s permanent home.

“I would say that if I was driving and another property showed up, I don’t think I would consider it,” Rosenblum said. “I feel like this has the potential to have everything we need here. There’s nothing holding us back.” PJC

David Rullo can be reached at

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