~ Religious History ~

In 1919, the Jewish community of Washington, PA. was one of the most important and active smaller Jewish communities in Western Pennsylvania. It was essentially an Orthodox community, although though there were a few Reformed Jewish families.

Nathan SAMUELS came to Washington c. 1877 and was the first Jew to make his home in Washington until his death in 1911. In 1907, there were 200 Jews in the Washington Jewish community and by 1919, their numbers increased to over 400. By 1927, the number of Jewish inhabitants increased again, to 575.

In 1919, the officers of the congregation were Joseph KAUFMAN (President), Samuel COHEN (Vice-president), Samuel BERMAN (Treasurer) and the trustees were W. ABEL, Louis GROSSMAN and Harry LEE.

The services were well attended and the congregation played a definite part in the wider religious spirit of the community. There was a Hebrew school and a Sunday school which had an enrollment of 80 children. Special credit was given to Dr. Morris BORIS, who became the head teacher in 1916. His work was of the highest standard and is reflected in the excellent standing of the children. The officers of the school were C. LANDAY (President), Samuel COHEN (Treasurer) and Rabbi GOLDFARB.

During World War I, the community also did it share nobly raising funds for the war relief and for all other patriotic purposes. Over $4.000. dollars was raised in one year for the Jewish war sufferers. Under the direction of such men as Sam SAMOLSKY and C. LANDAY, the community gave a good account of itself in war work.

~ Organizations ~


Zionists were extremely active in Washington and formed an important link in the community. The society was organized in 1905, so it was one of the early Zionist groups to be created amoung nearby communities. In 1919, there were a hundred members of the group and they demonstrated a keen interest in all the work being done nationally, as well as locally. At this time, the officers were M. MARCUS (President), Alex COHEN (Vice-president), C. LANDAY (Treasurer) and I. H. NEWMARK (Secretary).


The women exhibited much interest in the community's religious life and formed the society with a membership of 35. The members demonstrated the liveliest interest in all matters relating to Palestine welfare. In 1919, the officers were Mrs. Ida COHEN (President), Mrs. LANDAY (Vice-president), Mrs. SEGAL (Treasurer) and Mrs. M. MARCUS (Secretary).

B'nai B'rith

One of the oldest Jewish organizations in Washington was the independent order of B'nai B'rith, which was instituted in 1899. In 1919 the membership was 25. The B'nai B'rith devotes its attention to national and international problems and during the war years, it was very active, in conjunction with the Jewish Welfare Board, in promoting the welfare the Jewish soldiers. In 1919, the officers were Robert ABLE (President), A. H. LANDAY (Vice-president), Samuel BERMAN (Treasurer), Rudolph HANAU (Secretary), H. C. GROSSMAN (monitor), L. COHEN (warden) and D. GROSSMAN (guardian). There was an active interest displayed in the Lodge and the meetings were well attended.

Young Men's Hebrew Association (Y.M.H.A)

The Y.M.H.A was established in 1917 and met in the Real Estate Trust building. The first officers were H. LANE (President), B. NEWMARK (Vice-president), J. LANDAY (Secretary) and H. LEWIS (Treasurer). The Y.M.H.A accomplished many noteworthy things for the Jewish community and the community at-large. Among the Jews in this country, there is no more important organization, or an organization greater possibilities, for young Jewish men. In 1919, with a membership of 75, it had the nucleus for rapid progress and to broaden the program of intellectual and religious activities.

War Sufferers Society

During World War I, a special society came into existence known as the War Sufferers Society, which devoted special attention to the problems that resulted from the war. The officers were Mrs. J. KAUFMAN (President), Mrs. GROSSMAN (Treasurer) and Mrs. FRIEDMAN (Secretary).

Ladies Auxiliary

One of the most valued aids in developing the life of the congregation always been the Ladies Auxiliary. Without the work and the influence of women, most congregations would never have achieved such excellent results.

The auxiliary was organized in 1911 by Mrs. I. S. GROSSMAN, its first president. Through their assistance raising funds, the synagogue had many attractive features added to it and its furnishings are in large measure due to the efforts of the women.

in 1919, it had a membership of 45 and the officers of the Ladies Auxiliary were Mrs. J. SEGAL (President), Rose SAMOLSKY and Lillian KAUFMAN (Secretary) aand Lillian GROISSMAN (Treasurer).

Ladies Aid Society

Another woman's organization of merit, and of value, is the Ladies Aid Society, which does all that this name implies. It looks after the needy at home and does not fail to take heed of the less fortunate who come as strangers. The society was organized in 1904 and established a splendid record for service.

In 1919, the officers of the Ladies Aid Society were Mrs. L. S. GROSSMAN (President), Mrs. J. S. SEGAL (Secretary) and Mrs. GESPER (Treasurer). Meetings were held every two months.

Hebrew Free Loan Society

Another society, generally found in larger communities, and quite unusual in a town the size of Washington, is the Hebrew Free Loan Society, organized in 1919. This shows the right spirit and fills a valuable need in any community. Its first president was H. ELINSKY. The purpose of this society was to loan funds to those are unable to secure accommodations through normal bank channels. And if the Washington experiences are like that of other cities, it will prove that is far better to loan to a needy man, sufficient start him or to keep some little business, than to give that same amount for charity. For after all, the question of self-support is more important than merely giving.

~ Summary ~

By 1919, the Washington Jewish community, in relation to its size, was giving a good account of itself in the varied Jewish activities and undertakings as its larger neighboring Jewish communities.

The Washington Jewish community was alive promoting Jewishness as well as Judaism and from all the material available, it is seen that anything that commends itself as worthy, is given instant support. And too much credit cannot be given to the leaders who recognized their obligation to their people and their cause.

Even though Washington, PA may be "Little" Washington in (nick) name, as far as the Jewish community is concerned, it earned the right to be called "Big" Washington, for it surely had been doing things in a big way when we consider the size of the community.