July 1, 2020
Contact: Barry Rudel, 412-215-9157
The Jewish Cemetery and Burial Association of Greater Pittsburgh (JCBA) announced a major reorganization to expand its capacity to meet demand for cemetery management in the Western Pennsylvania Jewish community. The new structure will enable the JCBA to become the community’s cemetery management entity of choice, serving more cemeteries overall, incluing those that are stable as well as those at increasing risk of abandonment.
Shifts in patterns of religious affiliation and the demographics of the Jewish population over the last several decades have left many Jewish cemeteries without a plan for long-term management. With Pittsburgh-area Jews moving away from some historically Jewish neighborhoods and small towns, the cemeteries left behind are at risk of abandonment. Additionally, even thriving congregations are seeking support in maintaining their cemeteries. The JCBA’s charge is to oversee these cemeteries in perpetuity, ensuring the preservation of the region’s Jewish past. The cemeteries – well over 50 in the region – remain as sacred ground for the region’s 50,000 Jews.
Gregory Engel, President of JCBA, comments, “Now is the time for us to assist the many communities and congregations in the region that have either closed or see the need to transition their cemetery management and operations to another entity. We are professional, compassionate and understanding in our approach, with a goal to meet the needs of the region’s Jewish community.”
The JCBA has served the region for over twenty-five years, providing maintenance and oversight to 14 cemeteries, as well as free burial. Demand for such services is rising as more synagogues close and some thriving congregations look to a professional agency to take care of their cemeteries.
Recognizing this demand, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh partnered with the JCBA to expand its capacity to serve more, and more diverse, cemeteries. The Federation’s Jewish Community Foundation granted the JCBA $450,000 – one of the largest grants in the Foundation’s history – to support this expansion, including hiring the JCBA’s first full-time Executive Director, Barry Rudel, this March.
Jewish Federation President and CEO Jeffrey Finkelstein comments on the expanded vision, “We are taught that the very first thing a new Jewish community establishes is a cemetery. Now, as a well-established Jewish community in Pittsburgh, it is our responsibility to ensure that these cemeteries are maintained in perpetuity. We will best able to do so through this expanded JCBA and look forward to working with them in partnership to honor our mothers and fathers.”
Under Rudel’s leadership, the JCBA has made great strides despite the difficulties imposed by COVID-19. The JCBA recently acquired the Anshe Lubovitz cemetery in Shaler Township, and joins with the Federation and the Foundation in their involvement with the New Castle cemeteries. The JCBA’s Board of Directors also recently approved pursuing management of two small abandoned cemeteries: one on Rippel Road in White Oak, and one in Port Vue.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh began working with the JCBA over four years ago to expand its capacity to meet the increasing demand. The effort started with a task force comprised of JCBA board members and staff as well as interested members of the community. The task force led to a comprehensive study of the region’s cemeteries, the development of a business plan, funding from the Federation’s Jewish Community Foundation and the hiring of Rudel.
The plan outlines how to best preserve and maintain the region’s cemeteries as well as build the JCBA’s capacity to take on more over time. The Federation’s Jewish Community Foundation’s commitment of significant funding has reconfirmed its support for the important mission and work of the JCBA. Key to the JCBA’s long-term success is building an endowment to support organizational operations and maintenance for cemeteries that do not have sufficient funds of their own, and addressing capital needs.
Joining Engel and Rudel in leadership is Louis Kushner, chair of the Federation’s Cemeteries Transition Committee, which was created to guide the implementation of the business plan, Federation’s Assistant Planning Director, Shelly Parver, and Jonathan Schachter, JCBA Administrator.
For more information about the JCBA and its operations,
email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 412-553-6469.
JCBA’s expanded vision is made possible by a grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Jewish Community Foundation