Frozen margaritas and chilled beer with limes sat next to nachos and salsa; a buffet which featured various types of Mexican food lined a back walk; men and women mingled, discussing work, family and the latest series they’ve binged on Netflix; an indie pop-folk duo checked their sound and instruments before taking the stage.
Happy hour at the latest night spot downtown? A concert venue in the South Side or on the North Shore? The newest restaurant opening on Butler Street? You’d be excused for believing the scene above was at any of those locations. Instead, a crowd of under-40 young adults were at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh in Mt. Lebanon on Wednesday, Aug. 7, for a private concert by the band We Are the Northern Lights featuring Sheldon Low and Hadar Orshalimy.
The musical performance and get-together was created and sponsored by South Hills Jewish Pittsburgh. Rob Goodman, director of SHJP explained, “In our previous five years we had not tried to program to the young adult community. This event came out of many, many months of conversations about what they are interested in and looking for. We thought this would be a good test to say, ‘Can we program to the young adult community with something that isn’t necessarily happy hour in a bar?’ We felt if we gave them enough time to find a babysitter and rearrange their schedules, this would be a good litmus test because of our relationship with Sheldon Low and We Are the Northern Lights.”
SHJP and its community partners have numerous events and activities each year for families, empty nesters and older adults. This concert was unique because, for the first time, young adult participation wasn’t coincidental.
“There aren’t a lot of adult-only evening programs, things for young Jewish adults to meet outside of seeing each other while picking up their kids at ECDC or at the JCC or Temple Emanuel, Beth El or Chabad, or Purim, Chanukah and the other South Hills holiday events,” Goodman said. “If we can help be that conduit to get young, single, young married and young married with children community members together, it can help spur several events a year they might be interested in. The idea will be quality programs and events, rather than quantity.”
We Are the Northern Lights typically performs private concerts at homes in various cities. The homeowners are responsible for promoting the performance, providing food and beverages, and covering the cost of the experience by passing around a hat around, donating money and buying CDs. Goodman didn’t want to use that model.
SHJP provided drinks and catering, paid for the performance and worked with its partners, including Temple Emanuel of South Hills, Beth El Congregation of the South Hills, South Hills JCC and PJ Library, to recruit attendees.
The result? A robust and energetic crowd of young adults from the South Hills were bolstered by attendees from Squirrel Hill and Oakmont who had heard about the private party from friends. The group featured young parents, new transplants to the South Hills, newlyweds, young adults who knew each other from a recent trip to Israel, fans interested in hearing the familiar Sheldon Low and his wife, Hadar, in new musical territory and those simply looking to meet other South Hills Jewish men and women from across the various communities and institutions.
Kate Louik attended with her husband. “Max and I were excited to be a part of this new way of getting young adults together in community in the South Hills,” she said. “Much of the programming targeting our demographic is family-centered — which is great for us as the parents of two young children — but it was wonderful to have the opportunity for the two of us to to get and see some familiar faces in a new context.”
Rebecca Lasus agreed. “The concert at The Artsmiths was a very enjoyable evening,” she said. “It was great to have South Hills Jewish Pittsburgh create this wonderful opportunity for fellow South Hills Jews to get together for an adult concert.”
Looking to the future, Goodman said, “We want to continue to use our relationships to engage young adults with intentional programs.” These may not be traditional young adult programs such as happy hours and networking events. Rather, Goodman said, “we may find that young adults in the South Hills want something like a social action program at one location while their children do a similar program at another location. That would allow them to ‘adult’ while providing childcare.”
“The young adults that are in the South Hills are here for a reason,” he added. “We have phenomenal school districts, affordable housing and great community partners. We want to engage them and their friends living in the city. We want to be strong advocates for the South Hills and the suburbs in general.” PJC
David Rullo can be reached at drullo@