60 years of news: Here are some of our top stories of the decades
Six decades of coverage has yielded more than 100,000 pages of award-winning news. Here are a few highlights
News cycles operate in various patterns. For the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, that cycle has largely functioned on a weekly basis. Since the paper’s first printing in 1962, more than 3,000 issues have arrived at readers’ homes.
Layouts, logos and the paper’s name have changed, but the Chronicle’s commitment to covering local and international news affecting the Pittsburgh Jewish community has never waned.
In an effort to highlight this paper’s award-winning coverage, we’ve reviewed more than 100,000 pages of print.
Here’s a sampling of top stories from the past six decades:
March 8, 1962
On this we stand
In its first issue, the Chronicle covered community events, international affairs and provided readers with a recipe for Asparagus a la Russe. The major takeaway of the first issue, though, was a statement of the paper’s policy, titled, “On this we stand.”
“The Jewish Chronicle will be, in every sense of the word, a newspaper. It will not purport to speak for the Jewish community. But it is the policy of the publisher to make of the newspaper a mirror of the community in its local, national and international aspects. Its columns will be open to all responsible voices and organizations. Everything of importance in Jewish life will be within its purview. The editor of the Jewish Chronicle will welcome news and views from organizations and individuals. Coverage will be as comprehensive as timing and mechanical conditions permit.”
Sixty years later, we’re honored to continue that charge.
March 13, 1964
Months prior to this issue, Sam L. Stein, a kosher butcher, suffered a heart attack. Weeks before the issue was printed two surgeons and a cardiologist from Montefiore Hospital implanted a pacemaker inside Stein’s body. The 90-minute procedure was not only a “relatively new operation,” but the “new style electric-pacer” was the first of its kind to be successfully used in Pittsburgh, according to the Chronicle.
Since that issue, the Chronicle has continued reporting on innovative medical practices, regional efforts to promote health and wellness and the community’s relationship to Montefiore Hospital.
In 1990, Montefiore was sold to the University of Pittsburgh for $145M. The Jewish Healthcare Foundation was created with the proceeds of the sale.
April 27, 1972
Solidarity Day involved a nationwide rally, and a locally sponsored event, scheduled for April 30, 1972. The goal, according to organizers, was to demonstrate American support for Soviet Jews and to “urge President Nixon to include the plight of Soviet Jewry in his talks with U.S.S.R. leaders in Moscow.”
Solidarity Day, and the work of the Pittsburgh Conference on Soviet Jewry, represented one of many communal efforts to help Soviet Jews. For more than a decade, and even after the Iron Curtain fell in 1989, the Chronicle reported on local activists committed to the cause as well as those aided by individual and collective undertakings.
April 5, 1973
Riverview II Apartments dedicated
Days before Riverview II Apartments were dedicated, the Chronicle covered the new building and its intended impact on the community. Riverview II Apartments included 136 units, which provided “80 efficiencies and 56 one bedroom apartments,” adjacent to Riverview I on Browns Hill Road.
“The Riverview Apartments, I and II, is a major facility which allows elderly people to maintain independent living with programs of recreational and nutritional services strengthened by inconspicuous protective care,” board president Bernard Goodman said at the time.
The $2.7M facility demonstrated a communal commitment to its elderly residents, as well as one of numerous efforts — through the years — to build, repair and improve the structures of Pittsburgh Jewish life.
August 7, 1975
New population study
As phase one of the United Jewish Federation Greater Pittsburgh Demographic Study wrapped, the Chronicle reported on its multiple findings.
Alvin Rogal, chairman of the committee that conducted the study, told the Chronicle at the time that apart from determining the number of Jewish residents in the area — 52,638 within 17,546 Jewish households — the study proved the community’s stability.
“In other cities the Jewish residents of the central city have drained into outlying communities. But in Pittsburgh there is no such erosion and indeed no shifting of any consequence,” he said.
Figures from the study were contrasted with previous findings conducted in 1963 and 1938.
Rogal added that the information gleaned from the study will provide the Federation and other Jewish agencies insights and ideas about delivering future services.
Years later, the Federation conducted similar demographic studies. Following each study, the Chronicle reported on communal makeup, regional Jewish practices and other findings. The most recent study showed a local Jewish population of nearly 50,000.
December 23, 1982
Recession hits communal life
During the early 1980s, an extreme economic recession impacted Jewish life. Following a Council of Jewish Federation study of 50 key Federations, the Chronicle reported on the recession’s impact within the community.
“Senior adults are worried because of the high cost of living and the threat of Social Security cutbacks. Most middle class management husbands are losing their jobs… As a result of the impact of the economic crisis on Jewish families, Jewish educational institutions anticipate a further decline in enrollment in schools and in summer camps.”
Nearly 40 years after that recession, the Chronicle reported on the recent economic crunch and how families, organizations and communal institutions are responding.
September 2, 1993
Renaissance was a joint effort by the United Jewish Federation and several Jewish organizations to “increase the breadth and quality of services available to the community.”
The late Leonard Rudolph and Donald Robinson co-chaired the $45M campaign.
Rudolph told the Chronicle at the time, “If we are concerned about the continuity of Judaism, then we have to provide the community with quality institutions.”
Renaissance raised funds to support education and services provided by schools and organizations, including Community Day School, Hillel Academy, Yeshiva Schools, the Jewish Community Center and Jewish Family and Children’s Services.
Dec, 17, 2012
Jewish burial becomes litigious
After conducting a religious burial in 2009, Rabbi Daniel Wasserman — then rabbi of Shaare Torah Congregation and a director of the funerary practices of the Vaad HaRabonim of Pittsburgh and its Chevra Kadisha — was accused of breaking state law and investigated by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation for “practicing as a funeral director without a license.”
In December 2012, Wasserman announced a Memorandum of Understanding with the Commonwealth’s Board of Funeral Directors, Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation of the Department of State and Board of Professional and Occupational Affairs in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The Memorandum clarified Pennsylvania law, and guaranteed “that individuals engaged in performing the ceremonies, customs, religious rites or practices of any denomination or sect are excluded from the definition of ‘funeral director’ in Pennsylvania law, as has always been the case. This includes churches, meetings, mosques, synagogues, temples or other congregations of religious believers engaged in handling, transporting, preparing and disposing of deceased human bodies.”
Wasserman retired from Shaare Torah last summer. Gesher HaChaim, an organizational outgrowth of Wasserman’s efforts, continues providing Jewish burial.
November 2, 2018
Oct. 27 and its aftermath
Days after 11 Jews were murdered during Shabbat morning services inside the Tree of Life building, the Chronicle printed its first issue regarding the massacre. That paper included coverage regarding the attack, the funerals and community response.
Since that issue went to print, the Chronicle has continued covering the aftermath of the antisemitic attack. In doing so, and by providing informative, responsible and award-winning news, the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle proudly upholds the aim of its founders: to be “in every sense of the word, a newspaper” — a publication that mirrors the community, and to provide coverage that is as “comprehensive as timing and mechanical conditions permit.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at [email protected].