May 14, 2019
“Gene Kelly and the Jewish Community of Squirrel Hill”
Speaker: Eric Lidji, Director of the Rauh Jewish Archives, Senator John Heinz History Center
Before he revolutionized the movie musical with films such as “An American in Paris” and “Singin’ in the Rain,” Gene Kelly was a young entertainer who was willing to take any job he could get in order to help support his family. His first break came in September 1931, when Beth Shalom Congregation hired him to teach Sunday dance classes for children and oversee the production of its annual springtime Kirmess. The job began a seven-year partnership between the Kelly family and the Jewish community of Squirrel Hill, forging friendships that would last more than half a century. Using rarely seen newspaper clippings and archival records, Eric Lidji will show how this intersection between a rising star and a growing community changed both forever and for better.
About the Speaker:
Eric Lidji is the director of the Rauh Jewish History Program & Archives at the Heinz History Center. He was raised in Squirrel Hill and graduated from Yeshiva Schools and the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of two books on Pittsburgh history and culture, including “The Seventeenth Generation: The Lifework of Rabbi Walter Jacob.” He is the co-editor of “Her Deeds Sing Her Praises: Profiles of Pittsburgh Jewish Women.”