Kehillat Israel History

To Collect, Illustrate, And Preserve The Memories


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Letter from David Epstein

Posted by kehillatisrael on November 9, 2016 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (65)

David M Epstein

P.O. Box 470287

Charlotte, NC 28247-0287


815-642-4632 (fax)


November 15, 2015





Paulette Keifer, Executive Director

Jewish Community Foundation of Central Pennsylvania

3301 Front Street

Harrisburg, PA 17110


Dear Paulette:


Belatedly, I am responding to the Foundation's solicitation of September 3, 2015.


I am originally from Scranton but I now live in Charlotte. My family on my mother's side is all from the Frackville, Shenandoah, and Mahanoy City area. In Kehillat Israel Cemetery in Shenandoah, we have graves for Meyer Lipkin (Section C, Row E, Lot 24, Position L),

Isadore and Mollie Lipkin (Section C, Row C, Lot 16) and Samuel and Marjorie Lipkin (Section

B, Row C, Lot 3).



I was at the cemetery recently and I took a picture of the gravestone of Meyer Lipkin. It is all in Hebrew. I had it translated and on the gravestone are noted Meyer Lipkin's date of birth-May 2, 1907 and his date of death-June 2, 1928. I don't think you have that information in the cemetery records or on line and I would appreciate you making the addition.


As I noted, I was at the Shenandoah cemetery recently. The cemetery is as beautiful and peaceful and fitting as ever. Kudos to the Jewish Community Foundation of Central Pennsylvania for taking up the responsibility for this cemetery. My contribution is enclosed.


Question: Which other cemeteries have become the responsibility of the Foundation?






P.S. The location of the lots referred to above is based on my understanding of how the cemetery is subdivided. It may not be correct.




Bringing Alice Home

Posted by kehillatisrael on October 2, 2010 at 10:41 PM Comments comments (17)

On June 13, 2010 a gathering of family and friends took place on the cemetery. This special event was organized by Dr. Norman Wall and its purpose was the dedication of a marble bench in memory of his sister Alice.


The Kehillat Israel Congregation Cemetery Division wishes to thank Dr. Wall for bringing Alice home in this meaningful way; and for his generous donation to the cemetery fund.

The following article was written by Norman’s son Harry.


Harry D. Wall

June 30, 2010





The passage in the history book, about the devastating Spanish influenza that took the lives of 20 million people early in the last century, was brief, almost cryptic: “Alice Wolowitz,  nurse at [Philadelphia’s] Mount Sinai Hospital, began her shiftin the morning, felt sick, and was dead twelve hours later.” But for my father, reading that sentence from John Barry’s “The Great Influenza”, the worst pandemic in human history, it was like hearing a voice from the grave. Alice was his sister and, until that moment, her death had been a mystery.


Philadelphia was ground zero and the first appearance of this modern-day plague in the US. And it was there that Alice, then only 16, was living and studying in 1918. No one ever knew how or where she died. Barry’s sentence, illustrating the virulence of the flu strain, described just one more death among millions. But it was like finding the Rosetta Stone.  My father was stunned.  That piece of information came not only as a revelation after nearly a century. It was also as a call to action.


My father, Norman, was only four years old when Alice died and so never even knew his sister. But that was beside the point. He had a mission to fulfill and, fortunately, the strength and capabilities to carry it out.


At 96, an age when most of his contemporaries are either dead or incapacitated, he began researching and tracking the remains of Alice. After locating her in an anonymous grave in Philadelphia, he began to organize a memorial service for a sister he never knew. To bring her “home”. Home is a scenic mountaintop cemetery in Schuylkill County, Pa where his parents, brothers and sisters, and other family members are at rest.


The youngest of nine children, Norman  is now the only surviving sibling. His own father had left the Russian pale at the end of the 19th Century, part of the large migration of Jews escaping pogroms and seeking a better life in America. My grandfather’s life is a familiar immigrant’s story: an itinerant young peddler whose journey took him to a small mining town in the Anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania. There he opened a dry goods store, raised a large family, and managed to carveout a decent, hard scrabble life as a somewhat observant and well- respected Jew in a community made up largely of Irish, Polish and Baltic immigrants.


Alice left home as an idealistic teenager to help out in the war effort, the product of a family grateful for what America provided. She died suddenly, without a memorial service, buried along with thousands of others in Philadelphia in the midst of the pandemic. For my grandparents, it must have been a terrible trauma, the death of their beloved daughter in the remote and frightening density of the big city. About 100 miles away, it may has well have been the moon for them. And there she remained, unknown and unvisited for almost a century.


My father has a deep feel for family and hisr oots in small-town America. The only one of his siblings to get a college education, he became a doctor, served his country in World War II, and built a successful and fulfilling career in medicine.  Upon retirement, he often said he had the “best 50 years in medicine”, between the invention of penicillin and the profession’s takeover by technology and HMOs. I wonder now how much impact the catastrophic influenza, and the death of his sister, had on his decision to become a physician. He cared greatly for his community and his extended family. Now, it was time to do the same for Alice.


His intention was to re inter Alice’s remains to lie alongside her family upstate.  But religious restrictions prohibited that. So, he opted for a bench inscribed with Alice’s name on a plaque, honoring her memory and her sacrifice. Fittingly, the bench faced the graves of her parents.


Last month, he and his wife drove from Florida to Pennsylvania, where our family gathered from around the Eastern seaboard for the cemetery service.   We huddled under a canopy during a hard rainfall. A few family members, third generation, made remarks. When it was my father’s turn to speak, the rain conveniently stopped. He sat on the memorial bench for Alice, his white hair tussled in the wind and addressed his closest kin, explaining why we were here.  He had made speeches before audiences throughout his life. None, he said, was as important as this event, to only about 30 people.


At the ceremony, he spoke about a beautiful young girl, struck down by devastating disease, buried alone and left forgotten. He spoke about the importance of family. About values. About  tradition. And memory. We recited the mourner’s Kaddish. And slowly left the cemetery for a family lunch. I watched my father as he looked at the headstones of his other family members.  He looked at ease, as he had completed his task. After 92 years, he brought Alice home.







Jerry Wolman

Posted by kehillatisrael on September 15, 2010 at 2:31 PM Comments comments (108)

Jerry Wolman has had a biography written about him...remember he owned the Philadelphia Eagles for a spell!


Kind Words

Posted by kehillatisrael on September 1, 2010 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (38)


Thank you very much for your commitment to the heritage of family and for what you do for the greater Jewish community.  Your efforts and the efforts of your Jewish community have transcended your physical boundaries and have made connection to all of us possible.  It's the yichas! "Every Jew is responsible for every other Jew," which is what I believe you live up to along with the members of your Jewish community.  I will highlight what you have done with the Hebrew Cemetery at our next board meeting of Heritage Pointe.  It is a benchmark for all of us.  You made connecting so easy with your marvelous website, the very clear pictures of the stones (with a picture date, fantastic idea), and most importantly, the stories.  You made not only the names stand out, the story of the will of the person as well.  I know them from what you have done.

Again, thank you for what you and your colleagues do.

Kol Tuv and Kol HaKavod!

Dave Zarnow

Member, Executive Committee,Director, Heritage PointeChair, Spiritual Life Task Force

Heritage PointeJewish Home for the


David Zarnow 264 Sherwood StreetCosta Mesa, CA 92627

Rabbi Irvin Chin Article

Posted by kehillatisrael on October 6, 2009 at 2:12 PM Comments comments (28)

Rabbi Irvin Chinn

Rabbin Irvin Chinn. a native of Baltimore, studied at Mesivta Torah V'daath andBeth Midrach Elyon. In fact, his derashot regularly contained quotes from hisrebbeim, Rav Kaminetsky, Rav Mendelovitz, as well as, the Klausenberger Rav.


His rabbinate may have been in Pennsylvania, but his influence resonatedthroughout the entire tri-state area. Rabbi Chinn was the voice ofuncompromising Orthodoxy and most compassionate Judaism.


When I first began my career, there was a family more traditional than therest, hailing from Shenandoah, PA. What made them so committed? The answer,"a young rabbi in Shenandoah; Rabbi Chinn, and there were more likeus." From Shenandoah to MCkeesport, he became there a pillar of faith forthe community. A young man who grew up in Mckeesport told me that everyoneloved him and that he treated everyone with respect and love.


For over fifty years, the rabbi led his congregation and community even indifficult economic times for the region. When he moved his synagogue acrosstown, he was concerned about a mikveh, so he built one in a garage adjacent tothis home. When the community began to decline, he brought in a day school, ayeshiva and a kollel to his synagogue building and reversed the trend.


His most treasured possession was a letter from the Hafetz Chaim given to hisgrandfather, thanking him and his family for their help in raising funds forhis Yeshiva.


Rabbi Irvin Chinn – a most treasured possession!


Article about the sale of the Harris Bakery

Posted by kehillatisrael on October 6, 2009 at 2:07 PM Comments comments (35)

Grand Opening of a Tradition

While the headline is a contradiction in terms, it's still the truth.

The ribbon cutting is at Harris Bakery, Shenandoah, a landmark

in the community for 74 years, which just changed ownership.

On hand for the ceremony are, from left, Sam Schutawie, SCIDA;

Tom Gallagher, Manager Main Street Program; Mayor Connie

Reese, Jerry and Theresa Alshefski, new owners; Ethel and

Mendel Harris, former owners; Jean Sherako, president Merchants

Association; Henry Zale, secretary Chamber of Commerce.

The Harris Bakery business did not happen overnight.

It took years of hard work and patience beginning in 1916

when Sam Harris, Mr. Harris' father, of New York City,

set up a tiny shop at the rear of South Market Street.

Within that period, the bakery's reputation grew as it

did, and the need to expand became evident.

Two years later in 1918, Mr. and Mrs. Sam Harris

purchased a building at 222 W. Centre St., from Thomas

Manley and converted it to a substantial sized bakery.

Within another two years, the business continued to

grow rapidly, necessitating the purchase of a

six-family dwelling from Mrs. Theresa Macrees. An

annex structure, 30x75 feet, was erected, affording Sam

Harris his long awaited adequate space.

Finally, on April 12, 1937, the dream was complete-a

new, modern bakery constructed of steel and brick, with

fireproof walls of tile that could be kept meticulously


The business continued to grow after World War II

when Sam Harris' son Emmanuel, known by many to this

day as Mendel, came home from the service, working

closely with his father in the business.

Baked bread, baked goods, the fanciest of wedding

cakes and the start of making a variety of donuts, in-

cluding the notorious pretzel donut, a long-time favorite

in the community, which still remains today.

The pretzel donut, the brain-child of Sam Harris, who

wanted to expand the line and automate the famous

donut, but because of the consistency of raised dough as

opposed to pretzel dough, each and every one of the

tasty-twists of fluffy sweet treats are made by hand.

It was the final dream of Sam Harris to expand again

and the decision to move to its present, .........

location at 11 W. Coal St. was made.

Yes, Sam Harris' dream came true, but he never lived

to see it materialize on West Coal Street.

At the present location for 26(?) years, the enterprising

roots of Sam harris reached out to the community

before, continuing to grow through integrity and

ambitions of his son, Mendel.

As`Mrs. Harris pondered the change of hands, she

confidently said. "The baton has been passed to a

wonderful family - the Alshefskis."

So how do the new owners feel about "their" dream

coming true and good fortune? "Very excited." said

Mrs. Alshefski.

The warehouse and distributorship will be retained,

along with the guarantee that Harris baked goods will

remain the same, with the anticipation of expanding

with some additional specialty items in the future.

They will sell regular coffee and decaffinated, hot

chocolate in the winter, tea, including herbal, to take out

and they will even offer a line of potato chips and


The Alshefski's children are quite familiar with the.

business Mrs. Alshefski said. "After school they all had

chores" in helping with the distributorship.

The Alshefski's have five children, Jerry Jr. .....

Joseph, who work closely with their father; .....

Gabriel, who operates the House of Bargains store in

Hazleton. Linda Kurczewski and Loretta, who look

over the office duties at the Alshefski Enterprises

warehouse. Last but not least, there are three grand-

children. Also pitching in a helping hand with the

business are Jerry Jr.'s wife, Barbara Anne and

Joseph's wife Barbara Grace.

Mrs. Alshefski, in reference to the town of Shenandoah

and its people said, "We both like Shenandoah - wa...

the people and feel safe."

The Harris bakery crew will also remain the same.

Those responsible over the years in keeping ...

the business operating are: Joseph Cooney, Helen D....

Phillip Dubiansky, Al Endrick,Judy Heffner, R...

Karahuta, Jane Katotick(?), Marlin Keiter, Joseph K....

Christine Koncaler, Mary Krivitsky, Ed mack, Do...

Miller, Sam Natalo, Gale Nicholas, Benjamin Og....

Ronald Ogonek, Ed Perlinsky, Charles Rakum (?), ...

Sadusky, Allan Salter, Isabelle Schlitzer, Camill...

cavage and Carmella Toborowski.

A warm and friendly invitation on behalf of the Harris

and Alshefski families is extended to everyone to participate

in the grand opening celebration planned for October 2..




Torah Cover from Kehillat Israel

Posted by kehillatisrael on September 8, 2009 at 8:26 PM Comments comments (49)



My home town in Shenandoah Pennsylvania is located in the lower part of the anthracite coal regions between Pottsville and Hazleton.  From its boom during the Civil War years as the mines developed, to its growth due to European immigration including many Jews, the population in 1920 was nearly 30,000 residents.  Since then the population has dwindled down to 5,624 at the 2000 census, with only four Jews remaining. 


But during those years, a thriving Jewish community grew.  Its beautiful synagogue, Kehillat Israel, with its gorgeous stain-glass windows, served Shenandoah’s Jewish community for decades.  The shul was located next door to the home of my brother Reubin Sorin of blessed memory.  In its early days, their home even provided the rest room facilities for the congregants, because the shul facilities were primitive and in the basement!


But throughout the years, this community produced generations of dedicated, committed Jews – who prayed together through the Depression and the Holocaust, in good times and bad, finding solace, support and hope in their religion andas a community.  They gained strength reading from the Torah, which was their link to the Jewish world – the world of their parents, the world of their children, and the world of our people.  Their synagogue has since been taken apart, their siddurim, windows and pews donated or sold to other congregations.  There is not much left of the Jewish community, except the Jewish cemetery, which is maintained by a strong committee of children and grandchildren living near and far.  As they were able, most of the Jews had moved on to better lives in communities around the world – including in Israel.


It was through a connection in Israel to the Aronoff family originally of Shenandoah, that we discovered this beautiful Torah cover in 2005.  It is white, so it was obviously used duringthe High Holydays, and is embroidered with the names of my beloved parents, Mr. and Mrs. Menachem Mendel Sorin of blessed memory, who donated it to cover a Sefer Torah donated by the Aronoff family.


The story of the Torahis representative of the wanderings of the Jewish people over the last 100 years.


The Aronoff family had been an active family in the Shenandoah Jewish community and synagogue and had bought several Sifreh Torah over the years to give to the shul in Shenandoah.  When the shul was closing because most of theJews had left the town or had passed away, the Aronoff family was interested in buying back a Torah.  It was not clear what Torahs were kosher and in fixable condition, so they sent a relative and a sofer stam to check them out. They chose one Torah and this white Torah cover.


Because a grandson was about to be bar mitzvah in Israel,the Aronoffs  transferred the Torah to Israel to be repaired and to prepare a new Torah cover. The Torah would be dedicated in ashul in Lapid, Israel, across the road from Maccabim where my daughter Karen Goldberg and her family live.


When the Torah arrived, they noticed that the writing on the cover was a dedication given by Mr. and Mrs. Max Sorin - my beloved parents, Max and Rebecca.  A notification was put out and THE TIMING WAS PERFECT.


I was in Israel just atthat time and gathered all the Shenandoah relatives together for the dedication of this now-kosher Torah scroll and new cover to the shul in Lapid. They offered me this white Torah cover and the Sorin family came away with an heirloom.


On the base of the Sefer Torah was printed that it was dedicated in Shenandoah in the year 1912: Tav Ayin Reish Bet  תער'ב.  The actual Hebrew year was Tav Reish Ayin Bet תרע'ב  , but the letters were changed around to avoid having theyear be listed as "in famine," which is the English translation of theword Ra’av רעב ,spelled Reish Ayin Bet.


When the Torah was checked, the sofer stam said that he had recognized the writing, as he had seen this writing from other Sifreh Torah and that the Torah was probably written around 1900 in Russia and then brought to the US and dedicated in Shenandoah.


There is no date on the Torah cover, but it is clear that the Torah and the cover were together in the Aron Kodesh for many years, whether or not they shared each other, they shared the Aron Kodesh.


It gave the Aronoff family and me a sense of closure to be part of the dedication of this Torah scroll in Israel after the Torah had made its way from Russia, which is where my family roots are, through Shenandoah, which is where I grew up, and over to Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people. 


It was in Israel that two families from a small Pennsylvania mining town, and who live so close together today, gathered to be part of this mitzvah.  I was blessed to be there withmy two daughters and their children, along with other relatives of my extended family who were in Israel at the time.


On the cover is embroidered the saying from the siddur: "Eitz chaim hee la'mach-zikim bah, v'tomcheh’ha, meh’u’shar."....."It is the tree of life for those who take hold of it, and happy are those who support it."


I’m so proud to be ableto contribute this historic Torah cover to Kesher Israel, my beloved congregation, to maintain the Jewish connection from Russia to Shenandoah to Israel to Harrisburg.   


In all its travels, it has been a pure white symbol of continuity and Jewish life in the four corners of the world.  May it serve as a reminder to this community of that everlasting connection among Jews everywhere that has kept our faith and our heritage alive. Shabbat Shalom.


Lewitan (Levine) Family of Shenandoah, Pa

Posted by kehillatisrael on October 29, 2008 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (55)

Kurenets is not shown on this map, but it is located between Narach in the north and Vilyeyka in the south.  Narach was once called Kobylnik, which is where the Lewitan family is from.  The Lewitans were related to the Yankel Alperovich family and when Martin Alpert came to the US in 1903, he lived with the Lewitans (who changed their name to Levine) in Shenandoah, PA.  Most of them later moved to Norfolk, VA.

The whole story comes from one mans journey to Lithuania - his pictures and story can be found at :

Passing of Dr. Abeloff

Posted by kehillatisrael on December 21, 2007 at 4:43 PM Comments comments (50)
I am sad to announce the passing of a true, coal region hero, Dr; Martin Abeloff; Marty was born & raised in Shenandoah and went on to make a tremendous difference in our world; Rest in Peace, Marty; (below from today's Washington Post, edited to fit this website):

Martin D; Abeloff, 65, an international authority on the treatment of breast cancer and chief oncologist and director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University for the past 15 years, died of leukemia Sept; 14 at the center in Baltimore;

Dr; Abeloff specialized in solid-tumor research, treatment of lung and breast cancer, and the transfer of research findings from the laboratory to the clinic;

In April, he appeared on Charlie Rose's PBS show during a series on science and urged colleagues not to overlook prevention as a way that medical science can address cancer; His work in screening for breast cancer risks transformed prevention efforts, colleagues said;

"Marty was that iconic Hopkins physician, scientist, educator, leader and good citizen rolled into one," said Edward D; Miller, dean and chief executive of Johns Hopkins Medicine;

"The man was a tremendous practicing humanitarian; Every interaction he mediated, his humanity rang through;"

Dr; Abeloff was born in Shenandoah, Pa;, and grew up working in his father's drugstore;

His leukemia, a form that is sometimes slow to grow, was diagnosed a year ago, and his condition worsened this past spring; He lived in Baltimore;

He was past president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, past chairman of the Oncology Drugs Advisory Committee of the Food and Drug Administration and past chairman of the Board of Scientific Counselors to the National Cancer Institute's intramural division of clinical sciences; He was the lead editor of a comprehensive textbook, Clinical Oncology, now in its third edition;

Survivors include his wife, Diane Abeloff of Baltimore; two daughters, Elisa Abeloff of Philadelphia and Jennifer Abeloff of St; Louis; a sister; and three grandchildren;
September 15, 2007 09:07:58 - Shenandoah/Lake Wynonah

Nice Article I found Online

Posted by kehillatisrael on December 19, 2007 at 9:16 AM Comments comments (136)

Monroe Township, New Jersey � The Chabad Jewish Center of Monroe will mark an important milestone Sunday with the acquisition of an ark, the sacred structure used to house the Torah. But it's more than a new beginning � it also marks an end.

The ark will come from the 159-year-old Kehillat Israel temple in Shenandoah, Pa., which is no longer in use. The empty synagogue was once the center of a thriving Jewish community in the coal-mining town.

�We had over 100 Jewish families when I was growing up. Now there's barely 11 Jews in Shenandoah,� said Herb Siswein, 80, who said he was an active member of the congregation. His grandfather attended services at Kehillat in 1892, he said.

�It's very heartbreaking,� said Ethel Harris, 79, who was president of the sisterhood there. �It was really a very beautiful old synagogue.�

Her husband, Mendel Harris, 84, was the last president and treasurer of the congregation. He plans to say Kaddish, the Jewish mourning prayer, for the temple.

�It's like the death of a loved individual,� he said.

But the transfer of the ark will also keep a part of Kehillat alive, the Harrises said. �It stood in that temple for decades and it represented God and the Torah in that community, and was part of the celebration of new life, of new marriages, (and) of life-cycle events in that community,� said Rabbi Eliezer Zaklikovsky of the Monroe temple. �And now, instead of that ark being destroyed, it is moving on where it can have new life in a new environment.

�It will be a source of inspiration for anybody who will see it and will come to celebrate life in its new home."

Proceeds from the sale of the ark will also help celebrate the lives of Kehillat congregants who have passed on. The money will go into a trust fund used to pay for the maintenance of Kehillat Israel Cemetery, Mendel Harris said.

Zaklikovsky said the Chabad Jewish Center is still in the process of negotiating the price of the ark.

The rabbi and 10 volunteers will head out Sunday morning for a drive to Shenandoah, Pa., to retrieve the ark. It will be a complex and careful process, he said, because the ark was built into the temple wall in accordance with Jewish tradition.

It will be placed in a new building that is under construction. The building is expected to be completed and dedicated within six months, the rabbi said.

The acquisition of the ark coincides this week with the Yartzeit, or anniversary of death, of Rebbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, who was the leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, Zaklikovsky said. The Chabad Jewish Center of Monroe will honor his memory with the new addition, the rabbi said, and will also mark his 1994 passing by visiting his grave in Queens, N.Y., on Thursday