After seven years of dwelling under the same roof, Congregation Dor Hadash will be parting ways with Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Congregation and moving into Congregation Beth Shalom.
Dor Hadash, a Reconstructionist congregation, has been located at several different locations throughout its 54-year history, including Community Day School, Rodef Shalom Congregation and the Hebrew Institute, according to its president, Ellen Surloff.
This move comes at a time when its current landlord, TOL*OLS, is in the midst of several changes, including the installation of a new spiritual leader, Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers, and the addition of New Light Congregation and NA’AMAT Pittsburgh as tenants.
“The landscape of the Pittsburgh Jewish community is changing so much,” Surloff said, explaining that the idea to investigate other potential locations arose after a conversation last year that was convened by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and led by Larry Rubin, in which seven local congregations shared thoughts about the best use of community resources and facilities.
Following that meeting, Surloff said, Dor Hadash decided to take a look at its Squirrel Hill neighbor, Beth Shalom, a Conservative congregation with just under 600 members.
“Beth Shalom impressed us with its vibrant, active, forward-looking community,” she said.
Surloff hopes that by sharing space with Beth Shalom, the two congregations can create a “synergy” and collaborate in areas such as adult education and social action work. Religious services will remain separate, with Dor Hadash, a 145-member congregation, utilizing Beth Shalom’s Helfant Chapel for Shabbat services on Saturday morning and its Homestand Chapel on Friday nights.
Dor Hadash does not have a spiritual leader and instead is member-led.
“We want to maintain our status as a member-led, progressive, egalitarian, inclusive congregation with a strong sense of community,” said Surloff. “The question was where did we see the most potential to secure that future. We concluded we could do that and more at Beth Shalom, even though we have some differences due to our different movements.
“But we share the same core values and vision. This is an opportunity for Dor Hadash to become part of a center for Jewish life and learning in the community.”
Beth Shalom’s rabbi, Seth Adelson, also impressed the members of Dor Hadash, according to Surloff, who noted that through the rabbi’s blogs it was evident that “he recognizes the challenges ahead” for Jewish communal institutions.
Dor Hadash will remain at TOL*OLS through the High Holidays this year and anticipates moving to Beth Shalom sometime in late fall.
Michael Eisenberg, president of TOL*OLS expressed disappointment in the decision of Dor Hadash to move, but is confident that his congregation will still be thriving with the addition of its new tenants. While Eisenberg had hoped that three congregations would be housed in his congregation’s building—thereby creating a “metropolitan” congregational model—he anticipates the building at Wilkins and Shady avenues to be infused with new energy with the addition of New Light.
“There was the potential for a really nice community of vibrancy and activity—and we will have all of that with New Light—but it would have been even better with Dor Hadash there,” Eisenberg said.
In addition to New Light and NA’AMAT, TOL*OLS will also be housing Weight Watchers and AARP and is in the process of investigating daytime space-sharing compatibility with various departments at Chatham University, Eisenberg said.
“We are delighted to welcome Congregation Dor Hadash into our building,” said Debbie Firestone, president of Beth Shalom. “We look forward to many years of a happy relationship with our new neighbor.” PJC
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at