Defunct synagogue continues to give back | Local News

The Temple Hadar Israel Board of Trustees is located within the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.…

The Hadar Israel temple is no more.

But he is not dead either, says its former president.

The synagogue – the last in New Castle – closed on December 31, 2017, but before that it established what Sam Bernstine calls a living legacy. This took the form of an endowment fund which, for the fourth year in a row, made four donations of $ 5,000 to nonprofit organizations in the area.

The endowment fund is administered by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, which receives recommendations from a local council. Bernstine is chairman of this board.

“Legacy sounds like people are dead and it’s all over,” Bernstine said. “But I call it a living legacy because what we’re trying to do is model the right behavior, not just for Judaism, but for society.

“The young people going up and practicing their faith in a different way and not necessarily seeing it as going towards a structure with brick and mortar, we try to model the appropriate behavior for the young people to see that and understand that.” and, from a humanistic point of view, they pick up those behaviors, then they present those behaviors in life and it continues from generation to generation.

This year’s recipients are Arise (formerly Crisis Shelter of Lawrence County), the Jewish Cemetery and Burial Association of Greater Pittsburgh, the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation, and the Jewish Community Legacy Project.

Overall, the Temple Hadar Israel endowment fund has donated $ 80,000 since the synagogue closed.

“I think we are blessed,” Bernstine said. “We had those intentions in mind, but we never really considered clearly how much impact we could make and how many people we could end up helping.

“The other thing is, if you look across the board, we are helping people locally, regionally, nationally and even globally with the reach of whom we are donating funds. It’s special in my mind because we really want to remember where we’re from and take care of people locally, but we also want to help regionally, nationally and globally. So far we have been able to do it.

Another goal this year, said Bernstine, was to use the donations to touch the lives of several generations: children, middle-aged adults and the elderly.

“Over the past 18-20 months, everyone has been affected in so many different ways,” he said. “I was looking at that and I was like, ‘How can we try to have a positive impact on all these different generations? “

“I wanted this year’s funds – whatever organizations they went to – to cross those three generations.

Here’s a quick look at each of the 2021 recipients.


In her request to the endowment fund, Executive Director Deborah Hennon cited Arise’s efforts to “improve our services designed to help identify, provide assistance and stop violence in our community through outreach and therapy services aimed at children, especially of school age “.

“Today we are working on a way to provide our young people with quality, technology-proven games and information that will highlight what we are teaching days, months and even years after our passage,” Hennon wrote. “Repetition is essential to make our messages stand out. “

It hit Bernstine and the fund’s board of directors.

“Our funds will be intended to help students in school systems,” Bernstine said. “It’s something that we haven’t really focused on in the past. So I thought it was a great fit.

“Now obviously if you do this for the students it will impact the whole family and other generations as well. “



The association assumes the upkeep of Jewish cemeteries unrelated to a synagogue or operating organization, and no funds to pay for this upkeep. In his funding request, he mentions that he incurs annual expenses of $ 2,760 to maintain four of these cemeteries.

He was also seeking funds to help pay for a stone to mark the currently unmarked graves of 40 children in Beth Abraham Cemetery in Pittsburgh.

New Castle has two Jewish cemeteries, and a separate endowment fund keeps them under local management for the time being.

“We just want to keep and maintain that personal touch and responsibility towards these cemeteries,” said Bernstine, 65. “In time none of us will be here and frankly that day comes sooner than later given our age. So we want to work closely with this organization, and they have already agreed to take it over and assume all the responsibilities.



The federation is also part of the vision of the endowment council to help several generations. Among its services, the federation offers two institutions for the elderly – Heritage Manor and Levy Gardens – and an early learning center.

“This funding,” said Nicholas Bush, director of development and community relations, “will ensure that toddlers continue to learn to swim and develop their skills in ELC, which older adults will continue to have access to. to a free meal program and that seniors will achieve better health outcomes at Levy Gardens and Heritage Manor.

Bernstine noted that many former members of the Hadar Israel Temple now worship in one of Youngstown’s two synagogues, and that the federation provides “a support system … from the young to the elderly and families in between.”



The project “provides planning assistance to small congregations across the country,” its funding request says, noting that most of these congregations are “in the upper age bracket, 50 and over.”

“What we’re trying to do there is do the same thing we did in New Castle, where we’ve helped synagogues that aren’t necessarily closing, but are in different phases of their lives.” said Bernstine, who is on the project committee. “We help them with planning and support so that it helps them maintain their current synagogue and plan for the future. “

It is Bernstine’s hope that when the synagogues reach the end of their life, they will follow in the footsteps of the living legacy of Temple Hadar Israel.

“As I work with this Jewish Community Legacy Project and Board of Trustees, we believe the model here in New Castle is a model that other synagogues and other temples and other organizations should. think when they close, if they’re lucky enough to have a lot of funds left, ”he said.

“A lot of times the money goes all at once to a person or an organization, and that’s great, it’s a personal choice. But we think it’s more impactful and that in the long run it serves more people in society. “

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