A familiar face is assuming new responsibilities at the Kollel Jewish Learning Center. Rabbi Chananel Shapiro, a scholar at the Kollel, was tapped to become “Menahel,” or executive director, of the organization. He will succeed outgoing Associate Rosh Kollel Rabbi Doniel Schon.
Shapiro, who came to Pittsburgh in 2018 after post-secondary yeshiva study in Lakewood, New Jersey, said he is honored to adopt the senior position and looks forward to working alongside Rosh Kollel Rabbi Levi Langer, other scholars and the community.
“This is an organization that is out there for people for any spiritual or physical need they may have. We are open, we are here for them and we are free,” Shapiro, 32, said.
The Kollel, which is on Beacon Street in Squirrel Hill, was established in 1977 by the late Rabbi Shaul Kagan as a center for Torah study. Along with hosting daily and Shabbat prayer services, the Kollel supports several full-time yungeleit (scholars) dedicated to studying and teaching biblical and rabbinic literature.
Community members, regardless of age or background, are encouraged to visit the center, meet with others and enjoy various learning initiatives, Shapiro said.
“We close at night for security reasons, but we are there most of the day. People can come in and study on their own, or we can set you up with someone to study with. We are here to help everybody,” he said.
Shapiro said his time as a scholar was marked by several meaningful accomplishments.
Along with receiving Yoreh Yoreh semicha — a level of rabbinic ordination signaling one’s ability to determine daily halachic matters, such as those concerning kashrut — in 2022, Shapiro pointed to the relationships he developed.
“I have enjoyed connecting to the community and giving over ideas both in Torah learning and when people would ask me questions or for support,” he said.
As Menahel, Shapiro is excited to continue those engagements while adopting new responsibilities.
“I’ll be taking care of everything from finances to operations, including programming, events, building operations, which is all in complement to Rabbi Langer’s role of taking care of all Torah study and things occurring in the beis medrash (study hall),” he said.
Mordechai Milch, a fifth-generation Pittsburgher and longtime supporter of the Kollel, said that given its current leadership — and past efforts — the organization’s future is bright.
“The Kollel has never been more financially sound thanks to the backing it has from a number of individuals who have helped it grow,” Milch said. “Rabbi Schon is leaving it in good hands and in a good place. Alongside Rabbi Langer, Rabbi Shapiro will help the Kollel do what it does.”
Its mission was described to the Chronicle in 1976 by the Kollel’s founders: “It is our prayerful hope that we will cut across denominational lines to fashion a viable program of in-depth Jewish learning, to which everyone will be able to relate to according to his level of Jewish knowledge and observance.”
Milch said he’s excited to see Shapiro, and the organization, work alongside others to foster greater spiritual and intellectual enrichment.
Shapiro, a Squirrel Hill resident who is married and has three children, said the new role is a wonderful vehicle for him and his family to further ingrain themselves in the community.
“We love living in Pittsburgh,” he said. “It is a very open and welcoming community, and we have enjoyed every moment to date.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at email@example.com.