Corinne Azen Krause, a scholarly force behind several Pittsburgh Jewish communal institutions and undertakings, died on Sunday, Feb. 11 at her Oakland home. Krause was 90.
Born to Louis and Martha Azen on March 3, 1927, Krause’s early years provided a model for her future activity in the community. Her paternal grandfather, Max Azen, was a successful furrier who helped found B’nai Israel Congregation after moving to Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood in 1920.
“It didn’t take me long to realize that there was something that is very essential to the life of a Jewish community lacking. I wondered time and again, how it was possible that in a section where so many well-to-do, and God-loving Jewish families resided, there should be no house of worship, no House of God,” Max Azen wrote in the May 25, 1923, edition of The Jewish Criterion. “After meeting most of my new neighbors, I came to the conclusion that we were all equally sincere in our desire to have a House of Worship of our own, that we all sensed our great need, and that we were all willing to do our utmost toward that end.”
Years after B’nai Israel’s completed construction, and shortly before Max Azen’s passing in 1943, he and four of his sons created the Max Azen Foundation, which the Rauh Jewish History Program & Archives at the Heinz History Center describes as “a nonsectarian charity for individuals and for educational, charitable and religious organizations.”
“That was her background,” said Barbara Krause, Corinne Krause’s daughter, of her late mother. “Judaism was just an important part of the person that she was.”
After graduating from Taylor Allderdice High School in 1944, Corinne Krause went to the University of Michigan, where she was instrumental in starting Sigma Delta Tau. Decades later, both her daughter Barbara and granddaughter Molly would also join the historically Jewish sorority.
After college, Corinne married Seymoure Krause, a cardiologist whose contributions to medicine were feted within the field.
The couple, married for 67 years, raised four children and actively supported Rodef Shalom Congregation.
“She was brought up to be educated, but not necessarily to have a career,” said her daughter.
Nevertheless, a thirst for knowledge drove Krause back to class. After receiving a bachelor’s degree with honors in economics from the University of Michigan, she earned a master’s degree in history from Carnegie Mellon University and later a Ph.D. in history from the University of Pittsburgh.
Along with serving as a research associate in the history department at the University of Pittsburgh, teaching oral history at the University Graduate School of Library and Information Science and being a Commonwealth Speaker for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, Krause had students of virtually “every age,” said granddaughter Molly Krause. “She taught elementary school to high school — she just wanted to educate people.”
Krause’s literary contributions included a book on the refractory industry and a cookbook for people with potassium deficiencies. She also completed an oral history project of three generations of American women of Italian, Jewish and Slavic descent that resulted in a nationally distributed report, multiple scholarly articles and a 1991 book entitled “Grandmothers, Mothers, and Daughters.” Her other publications included “Isaac W. Frank: Engineer and Civic Leader” (1980) and “Los Judios en México” (1987), a social history of Jews in independent Mexico.
But of all of Krause’s academic endeavors, a 1982 exhibition titled “Roots and Branches,” most hit home. Although previous efforts had been made by others to tell Pittsburgh’s Jewish story, “it was really the first time, as far as I know, that anyone had brought the entire history of our community together in one place for the public to enjoy,” said Rauh program director Eric Lidji.
Housed at 407 S. Craig Street in Oakland, “Roots and Branches” included more than 300 photographs, documents, artifacts and ritual objects depicting “the story of immigrant families, neighborhoods, religious and communal life” dating back to 1847, a report in the News Record From North Hills said at the time.
Credit for the exhibit’s success rested on its director, wrote the Pittsburgh Press. “Dr. Krause’s enthusiasm for the project coaxed old family portraits, heirlooms and almost-forgotten recollections out of strings of generations.”
Representatives from the Rauh program echoed that praise by explaining that Krause’s papers provided an early foundation for the group. “It was the first place to look for answers to reference questions about local Jewish history, and it provided a framework for understanding the relevance of other materials that were donated to the archives over the years.”
Krause would later become the Rauh advisory committee’s first chair and serve four terms between 1988 and 1992.
But Krause’s contributions to the Jewish community went far beyond her significant academic accomplishments, according to those who knew her.
Decades ago, after discovering that the Pittsburgh Jewish community lacked the requisite services to appropriately aid those with mental illness, she helped establish Jewish Residential Services. Nearly 25 years after the organization’s inception, construction is currently underway on the Seymoure and Corinne Krause Commons, a multistory Squirrel Hill site that will house the Sally and Howard Levin Clubhouse, JRS’ administrative and supportive living program offices and more than 30 apartment units, half of which will be designated specifically for people living with disabilities.
Being the “driving force” behind JRS was “among her proudest accomplishments,” said Barbara Krause.
“Her presence had such a magnificent force in my life,” echoed Molly Krause. “She was just this worldly, cultured, humble, generous woman.”
Corinne Azen Krause is survived by her children, Barbara Krause (Larry King), Dr. Norman (Ann Goodwin) Krause, Kathy Krause and Dr. Diane Krause (Liz Hellwig); sister Felice (late Sidney) Brody; sister-in-law Elaine Lampl; grandchildren Spencer, Molly and Mason Krause; and multiple nieces and nephews. PJC
This story has been update to correct the spelling of Corinne Krause throughout the piece. The Chronicle regrets this error.
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.