Forum allows local groups to discuss COVID-19 responses
Bob Silverman addresses attendees during a 2018 meeting. Photo by David Bachman
David Bachman. Bob Silverman addresses attendees during a 2018 meeting
COVID-19Greater Pittsburgh Jewish Council

Forum allows local groups to discuss COVID-19 responses

Greater Pittsburgh Jewish Council meeting features agency responses during pandemic

Main image by David Bachman. Bob Silverman addresses attendees during a 2018 meeting

Meetings of the Greater Pittsburgh Jewish Council typically happen every six months. But the most recent meeting, on Oct. 15, was a little bit late – and was held online instead of in-person due to the pandemic. The Council, which is assembled by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Community Relations Council, is composed of a variety of organizations, agencies and synagogues representing the Jewish community’s religious, political and socioeconomic diversity.

Laura Cherner, director of the Federation’s CRC, talked about the off-the-record meeting after it was over.

Beginning with a report from Dave Sufrin, Federation’s board chair, on the umbrella organization’s role in providing economic relief, PPE and various disaster loans, and then continuing with remarks from Congregation Beth Shalom Rabbi Seth Adelson on innovations employed to reach constituents when physical distancing has either eradicated or considerably altered in-person religious services, the conversation provided a window into the vast measures each group is safely taking to support its base, said Cherner.

Protesters gather on Grant Street, demonstrating against the killing of George Floyd. Photo by Rabbi Ron Symons

Along these lines, Jewish Association on Aging President and CEO Debbie Winn-Horvitz described the “Herculean efforts” that her organization is taking to ensure the protection of its residents and staff, Cherner said, while Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh CEO Rabbi Yossi Rosenblum talked about the creativity needed for the city’s three Jewish day schools to meet student and family needs.

Each capsule presentation, along with one from Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh President and CEO Brian Schreiber on the institutional difficulties encountered during the pandemic, offered a holistic portrait of COVID-19 responses. The takeaway, said Cherner, is that each group, in its own way, is working to ensure that the health and safety of its members, and that of the larger community, is sustained.

Bob Silverman holds the Sonia and Aaron Levinson Community Relations Award. Screenshot courtesy of Bob Silverman

Larry Lebowitz, CRC chair, administered the 90-minute conference during which Bob Silverman, CRC’s immediate past-chair, was presented with the Sonia and Aaron Levinson Community Relations Award. Under Silverman’s helm, the CRC secured broad communal partnerships in the aftermath of the attack at the Tree of Life building, collaborated with citywide groups to combat COVID-19 and worked hand in hand with various stakeholders and collectives to recognize and eradicate racial injustice.

“I can’t think of a more worthy recipient than Bob,” said Cherner.

For both Cherner and Lebowitz, the Oct. 15 event was their first as CRC staff and lay leader.

“We’re really looking forward to having Larry as chair. Bob left really big shoes to fill, but we’re confident that Larry will fill them,” said Cherner, who officially replaced Josh Sayles as director on Oct. 5.

Cherner added that a follow-up email detailing COVID-19 responses from additional agencies will circulate in the coming days. Those interested in sharing their group’s efforts are encouraged to reach out to Cherner.

Adam Reinherz can be reached at

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