The construction of the Israel Heritage Room (IHR) marked the revival and continuation of the Nationality Rooms project. The IHR was the first room to be built in thirty years, the first to be housed on the third floor, and the first under the supervision of Nationality Rooms Director E. Maxine Bruhns. The twentieth classroom for the Cathedral of Learning, the IHR was in the planning stages for 21 years, and was on the mind of the Pittsburgh Jewish community since 1948 when Israel became a country and qualified by Nationality Rooms Program rules to join the Nationality Council and have their own classroom. Charles Rosenbloom, a prominent member of the Pittsburgh Jewish community and philanthropist, formed the Israel Heritage Room committee in Pittsburgh and its brother committee in Israel. After a hiatus due to the Israeli war with Egypt in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Rosenbloom was joined by Joseph Katz, the new chairman of the committee, and moved into the design, fundraising, and construction stage of the project. Several years of design issues followed. Other notable original committee members included the room’s architect, Martin Chetlin; the art consultant and collector, Michael Berger; and Franklin Toker, Professor of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh.
After a handful of false starts, New York designer Alexander Kaufman was brought in to complete the room design with Martin Chetlin. A first century Israeli stone dwelling was chosen to highlight both the shared heritage of all Jews and the rabbinic tradition of learning and study which would lend itself well to a classroom.
The construction was completed in 1987 and dedicated on November 1, 1987.
The IHR, in accordance with the mission statement for the Nationality and Heritage Room Committees, promotes and represents its culture and traditions through events, performances, lectures, films, and exhibits. They also host scholarships for summer study in Israel for sophomore, junior, and graduate students from the University of Pittsburgh. The IHR is still an active committee and regularly meets to host and promote Jewish events and study abroad for the Pittsburgh community.,
For more information on the history of the room and committee, please visit: Guide to the Israel Heritage Room Committee Collection, 1929-2013 UA.40.13 | Documenting Pitt.
The Committee seeks new members and leadership. Among its other activities, the committee: - Produces an annual newsletter; - Oversees and enhances its operating and endowment funds; - Interviews potential scholarship recipients; - Plans and interfaces programming with other University departments and local Jewish organizations such as Hillel Jewish Community Center.