One of eleven children, Herman Fineberg (1907-1999) was raised in the Hill District by immigrant parents who ran a small grocery store. He helped at the store as he was growing up and also made $5 a week as an usher at the Rialto nickelodeon theater, which was owned by Beth Shalom Congregation president Morris Rosenberg. The job revealed a talent for marketing. Fineberg donned a gorilla costume to publicize a screening of The Gorilla, started a Charleston contest and convinced the nearby Reick Dairy Company to give away free popsicles. By the end of high school, he was managing three movie houses.
As senior class president of Fifth Avenue High School in 1924, Fineberg gave the commencement speech at graduation ceremonies. “The subject was American history,” he recalled in a National Council of Jewish Women oral history. “Every day for seven days I would take the street car to my brother’s home in Duquesne and we would work on my speech, and each day my English teacher would tear it up. Finally, on the seventh day, she grabbed me by the collar and said, ‘Now you’ve got it! Now you’ve got it!’ The night of the commencement at Carnegie Music Hall I scattered my family all over the auditorium — my parents in the front row, my brothers on the sides, and my grandmother in the balcony — so that I should not focus my eyes on only one point during the speech.”
In 1928, with a $3,000 loan from his father-in-law, Fineberg started the Industrial Cloth Company on Liberty Avenue, which, in 1930, he renamed the Iron City Industrial Cleaning Corporation. In 1937, the business moved to larger facilities on Frankstown Avenue, where it remains today as Iron City Workplace Services. Iron City Industrial Cleaning mended and laundered uniforms for mill and mine workers before taking on larger corporate clients such as Equitable Gas Company. In 1957, Fineberg hired Pirates’ third-baseman Frankie Thomas to be a service representative. Altogether, seven of his brothers joined Fineberg at the business. “Each of us learned the hard way, driving a truck, doing production work, etc.,” Fineberg said in his NCJW oral history.
By the early 1940s, Fineberg had become a respected community leader. He was president of the B’nai B’rith Pittsburgh Lodge No. 44 and active in Zionist Organization of America, the Young Men and Women’s Hebrew Association and the United Jewish Fund. He was the campaign chair of the Fund in 1949, when the annual fundraising effort focused on resettling those Holocaust survivors still living in displaced persons camps.
In 1953, while still involved with the United Jewish Fund, Fineberg helped establish the Emanuel Spector Award, in memory of his close friend who had died the previous year. The award, which is still being given, recognizes individual contributions to local philanthropy. Fineberg himself received the award in 1956. He also volunteered with a number of organizations and institutions, including the Jewish Home and Hospital for the Aged, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation and the Anti-Defamation League. He was a founder of the Community College of Allegheny County and Community Day School.
In 1929, Fineberg married Rebecca Rudin. They had two daughters, Florita and Myrna Joy. Rebecca Fineberg was active in many community organizations, including Israel Bonds, Hadassah and the Order of the Eastern Star. Herman and Rebecca Fineberg were members of both Adath Jeshurun in East Liberty and Tree of Life in Squirrel Hill.