Pittsburgh is a city of neighborhoods, always has been. The immigrants who found their way here from Ellis Island often chose areas of the city and lived with people whose ways and speech and religious beliefs were similar to their own.
Pittsburgh also is a city of bridges. Had to be, what with its location at the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers.
The Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee has been dedicated since its inception to "strengthening understanding and communicating across religious lines in Pittsburgh," which has contributed to a cooperation and mutual respect among people of all faiths.
In other words, in its own way, the PAJC builds bridges all over Pittsburgh.
With its annual Community Impact Award, the PAJC recognizes a Pittsburgh resident who exemplifies this same attitude of inclusion. According to its website, "The PAJC Community Impact Award is presented annually to individuals who have distinguished themselves in the areas of human rights and human relations," and on June 8 the 2010 version was presented to Steelers President Art Rooney II.
"It was an honor to receive the recognition by the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee, and to be able to raise funds for the important work that they do was also an honor," said Rooney. "It was a great night."
The banquet, held at Heinz Field, also honored Shaler High School student Amelia Hackimer as the winner of the Caplan-Lieber Human Relations Award. Hackimer helped develop events for two organizations: Peer Bridges, which addresses issues of diversity and pluralism; and M-Powerment, a young women's group concerned with equity, self-esteem and body image.
In naming Art Rooney II the winner of its 2010 Community Impact Award, the PAJC recognized him as someone who "translates his ideals into action through his work with a wide assortment of the city's institutions and philanthropic organizations." To the PAJC, these qualities exemplify the meaning of the award.
On hand to present the award to Rooney was Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris.
"I think the main mission of the PAJC is to, let's say, build bridges between the faiths, to create a dialogue in places where there could be divisions," said Rooney. "They've done a lot of work through the years building dialogue between the Catholic and Jewish faiths, and they now are trying to create a dialogue between members of the Jewish faith and the Muslim faith. In the long run, that's the answer, and so it is important work. I'm happy that by honoring me, they may have raised some money for the cause."