Retirement prompts new chapters for Cantor Henry Shapiro and Parkway Jewish Center
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Retirement prompts new chapters for Cantor Henry Shapiro and Parkway Jewish Center

Eastern suburban synagogue names Cantor Laura Berman new spiritual head

Parkway Jewish Center sold its longtime building and moved to a new location. (Photo by David Rullo)
Parkway Jewish Center sold its longtime building and moved to a new location. (Photo by David Rullo)

After shepherding Parkway Jewish Center through a decade of monumental events, Cantor Henry Shapiro is retiring from the eastern suburban synagogue on Dec. 31.

Whether it was keeping the Conservative congregation together during the pandemic or Parkway’s move last year, the congregation’s spiritual leader ensured “we all stayed connected,” Lynda Heyman, a member of Parkway’s executive committee, said.

Cantor Henry Shapiro. (Photo courtesy of Cantor Henry Shapiro)

Shapiro checked in on congregants and helped create an environment where everyone felt recognized, Heyman added. It’s just one reason why he was feted on Dec. 17.

Along with celebrating Shapiro, the event was a chance to welcome Shapiro’s successor, Cantor Laura Berman, Heyman said.

Berman is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary and previously served Temple Sinai. She begins her Parkway tenure on Jan. 1.

Heyman announced Berman’s selection on Dec. 16 to members, a group she called both committed and “heimish.”

Parkway has an affiliation of about 50 families who participate both in person and online.

“There are the people who live in Churchill, Monroeville, Plum, Vandergrift and Wilkins. We also have people who are in Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Maryland and North Carolina,” Heyman said.

Maintaining a digital option allows some members to enjoy the synagogue’s Shabbat and holiday services and occasional classes from the comfort of home when either the distance or time of day precludes in-person attendance, she added.

Shapiro described Parkway’s congregants as “very dedicated” and said it’s been a pleasure serving them since July 2013.

Cantor Laura Berman
Cantor Laura Berman. (File photo)

One of the biggest changes to occur during that span, he said, was Parkway’s move to Penn Center in Wilkins Township.

After 67 years in its building, Parkway sold it about a year ago to Sri Venkateswara Temple, a nearby Hindu temple.

“People think that we sold and closed. We did not close. We are in a smaller space that we can reconfigure to work for us,” Heyman said. The Penn Center site has a “conference center that we used for the High Holidays, and we could use for the cantor’s retirement party.”

Shapiro said he’s looking forward to retirement and the time it will free up for him to return to various artistic pursuits.

“Before I became a cantor, I was a musician for many years — the Prez of Klez and the King of Swing in Pittsburgh — so to some degree I plan to reinvigorate my performing career, hopefully,” he said.

Shapiro is already anticipating composing original musical pieces, but said he’s also eager to explore his passion for landscape painting.

And, like many retirees, he’s excited to travel.

“I haven’t had the chance to really get out and socialize a bit since COVID,” he said.

As for what people can expect from him in the months to come, Shapiro gave some indication.

“You can say this is Henry Shapiro V-three: The first one was musician. The second one was cantoring, spiritual leader of Parkway Jewish Center. The third one is the previous, even more and better, more creative and more fun, hopefully.” PJC

Adam Reinherz can be reached at areinherz@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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