University of Pittsburgh
September 24, 2009

New University of Pittsburgh Web Site Tells the Story of Early Pittsburgh Through the Lens of the Jewish Community

Collaboration between Pitt's Library System and National Council of Jewish Women is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind Participants to be recognized at a Sept. 29 luncheon on Pitt campus
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-The University of Pittsburgh Library System (ULS) and Pittsburgh section of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) are announcing the launch of the NCJW's online oral history project-"Pittsburgh and Beyond: The Experience of the Jewish Community."

The Web site,, allows users to listen online to more than 500 audio interviews of members of the local Jewish community compiled by a small group of volunteers over a 32-year period. The site also includes detailed abstracts of each interview.

Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg is hosting a by-invitation-only luncheon at noon Sept. 29 at the University Club, 123 University Pl., Oakland, at which time the project will be outlined and the participants recognized. The interviewees included former Pittsburgh mayor Sophie Masloff, who will be in attendance; late musician Lincoln Maazel, father of Grammy Award-winning conductor and Pitt alumnus Lorin Maazel; the late William Block, publisher of the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette;" pioneering breast cancer researcher Bernard Fisher, Distinguished Service Professor in Pitt's Department of Surgery; and Pitt Distinguished Service Professor Julius Youngner, senior scientist of the Pitt polio vaccine team.

In 1968, Pittsburgh's NCJW embarked on a project to document the experiences of members of the local Jewish community to preserve their stories for future generations. Trained volunteers interviewed Jewish men and women who came to America from Eastern Europe between 1890 and 1924.

In 1973, NCJW launched a second phase of the project-compiling the oral histories of Pittsburgh's Jewish men and women who made contributions locally, nationally, and internationally. Overall, 516 individuals were interviewed between 1968 and 2001, producing 1,200 hours of material on 1,100 audiocassettes-one of the largest oral history projects of its kind.

"The result of the partnership between Pitt's Library System and NCJW is a gift to the world," said Rush Miller, Hillman librarian and director of the ULS. "These interviews illustrate an entire century of a community through the eyes of its residents, including the fight to overcome political corruption, the struggle for women's rights, and the journeys of immigrants. It is a reminder of the strength and fortitude of those who came before us. It is a valuable tool for anyone studying the historical changes that occurred during the 20th century."

"It is amazing to hear the history of the Pittsburgh Jewish community in the actual words and voices of the people that lived it," added Marcia Frumerman, oral history project leader for NCJW. "One can learn not only what has transpired here in our area, but also the journeys that brought these people to our community and the corresponding impact that they had in shaping what Pittsburgh is today."

The collection, held by the ULS Archives Service Center, has now been digitized and mounted online for broad dissemination. Visitors to the site can search for the name of an interviewee or retrieve an abstract of the interview by using keywords. The collection can also be browsed by personal name, geographic region, or subject.