By Marissa Herzig
When considering Judaism in Pittsburgh, the automatic place one associates with it is Squirrel Hill. A welcoming and fascinating neighborhood, Squirrel Hill is home to all types of Jews from Reform to Orthodox, old to young, and immigrants to natives. Pinsker’s Books and Judaica, which includes a Judaica bookstore and a restaurant called Café Eighteen, is truly a gem of Squirrel Hill and the wider Pittsburgh Jewish community. There is a diverse selection of books, from the more traditional religious texts such as the printed version of the Torah in the chumashim (Torah book), and prayers in the siddurim (prayer book), but also more modern books, such as The Secret of Jewish Femininity and GPS For a Happier Marriage. Also, there are a plethora of items used for holidays and rituals throughout the year such as mezuzot (holy symbols on doors), kippot (skullcaps), and currently menorahs and dreidels for Chanukah. This store is not just for adults, as it contains books and toys for children such as colorful dreidels and sports menorahs. Baila Cohen, a co-owner of Pinsker’s Books and Judaica who I had the pleasure of interviewing, explained that the purchasing of these objects do more than give money to the store, but often are used to fundraise for just causes. For example, the pink Chanukah candles called, “Chanukah for a Cause,” give money to fight breast cancer.
Through the physical materials present, the multi-faceted nature of this store is particularly fascinating because it demonstrates activism in the Jewish community and traditional Jewish rituals. It also illustrates the breadth of cultural and historical roots of the Jewish community in Pittsburgh, as these objects have represented Judaism for thousands of years and yet still survive to this day. The diversity of thought and items inherent in this shop demonstrate that the store does not merely serve the Orthodox couple who own the store, but rather the Jewish community as a whole.
Burstin, Barbara S. Steel City Jews: A History of Pittsburgh and its Jewish Community 1840-1915. 2008.
Reinherz, Adam. “Still Same Name, Pinkser’s welcomes fourth owners.” Times of Israel, 3 Jan. 2019. Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, jewishchronicle.timesofisrael.com/still-same-name-pinskers-welcomes-fourth-owners/.
Shiloh, Ailon, and The Pittsburgh Section National Council of Jewish Women, compilers. By Myself I’m A Book! An Oral History of the Immigrant Jewish Experience in Pittsburgh. Waltham, Massachusetts, 1972.
How to Cite
MLA: Herzig, Marissa. “Pinsker’s Books and Judaica” ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh. University of Pittsburgh, 17 January 2020, https://religyinz.pitt.edu/pinskers-books-and-judaica/.
APA: Herzig, Marissa. (2020, January 17). Pinsker’s Books and Judaica. ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh. University of Pittsburgh. https://religyinz.pitt.edu/pinskers-books-and-judaica/.
Chicago: Herzig, Marissa. “Pinsker’s Books and Judaica.” ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh. University of Pittsburgh, 17 January 2020. https://religyinz.pitt.edu/pinskers-books-and-judaica/.