Emanuel Spector (1897-1952) immigrated to the Pittsburgh from Russia as a teenager intending to study medicine. Instead, he pursued a career in business. He started as a peddler. By 1923, he had opened E. Spector & Company, a wholesale house on Fifth Avenue in Uptown.
In 1922, Spector married Mary Dorothy Smith. After Mary Spector died, in 1935, Emanuel Spector divided his energies between raising their young daughter, Marjorie, running his business and volunteering for local philanthropies. Over the years, he served as an officer with many Jewish communal organizations in the city. Spector began his volunteering career as a campaign worker for the United Jewish Fund during its first year in 1936. He served as the UJF campaign chairman in 1945 and 1951 and was its president in 1948, 1949 and 1950, years when the organization raised $7 million for Jewish causes in Pittsburgh, Europe and the newly established State of Israel.
Spector’s long affiliation with the United Jewish Fund earned him the nickname “Mr. UJF,” and his sincerity and industriousness earned him another: “the conscious of the community.” In a 1947 interview, Spector told the Pittsburgh Press, “If a worker ever sees me sitting down, he can sit down, too.” After Spector died, his friends created the Emanuel Spector Award at the United Jewish Federation to recognize individual contributions to local philanthropy. The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh continues to give the annual award. Those honored include Amos Comay, Leon Falk Jr., Herman Fineberg, Samuel and Aaron P. Levinson, Louis J. and Florence Reizenstein, Charles Rosenbloom, Saul Shapira, Karen Shapira, the Shapiro brothers and William Stark.
His daughter Marjorie Spector (1925-2002) grew up in the world of Pittsburgh merchants and the celebrities who occasionally came through it. “I met E. J. Kaufmann and wife, [actor George] Jessel and others at the speakers table,” she wrote in her diary after a Victory Dinner at the William Penn Hotel in late 1941. “Jessel shook hands with me and E. J. asked how old I was (some nerve).”
She graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill and the University of Pittsburgh. A lifelong lover of music and musical theater, she was particularly fond of Gene Kelly. She performed the “Rhythm Tap” in his annual Revue of the Dance in the late 1930s, collected paraphernalia about his Hollywood career in the 1940s and 1950s, and attended an honorary event for him at the University of Pittsburgh in 1987.
An avid photographer, Spector documented the changing landscape of Pittsburgh from the 1930s to the 1980s, including the creation of Point State Park and the Civic Arena, the demolition of Forbes Field and the Penzer building, as well as more day-to-day sights such as snowstorms, street races, parades, parties, vacations, friends and co-workers. For many years she volunteered at Mercy and Magee-Womens hospitals.