Rebbetzin Denah Chinn a”h


candle-small4It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Rebbetzin Denah Chinn a”h, wife of Rav Yitzchok Chinn zt”l, who served as rov of the Gemilas Chesed shul in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, for fifty years.

Rebbetzin Chinn and her husband arrived in McKeesport in 1958 to head the city’s oldest shul, founded in 1886 by Hungarian Yidden. Their presence in the Greater Pittsburgh area changed the face of the entire area.

Rav and Rebbetzin Chinn involved themselves in kiruv when kiruv was not fashionable. They became beloved, well-known figures to all within the community, religious and non-religious alike. They forged ahead with innovative programs intended to spark the light and joy of Yiddishkeit in all with whom they came into contact, both young and old. They radiated a love for every Jew that was reciprocated in turn.

Within a few years after their move to McKeesport, the U.S. Steel company sought to expand, thereby forcing the shul and community to move. The Chinns chose the nearby suburb of White Oak to be their new home. In a short time, their shul boasted 300 members.

The Chinns did not limit themselves to being rov and rebbetzin of a thriving shul. They involved themselves in various aspects of the community, including building the area’s thriving Jewish population through a four-day-a-week after-school program, plus a Sunday school. Later, a boys’ mesivta was added in White Oak. In general, over the ensuing years, Rav and Rebbetzin Chinn Chinn offered McKeesport a vision of Jewish education and spiritual growth on all levels – familial, communal, and personal.

The Chinns developed unique programs for families. The Rebbetzin was an integral part of all the kiruv activities held for the community, as she imparted warmth, care and concern for each and every member of the kehillah.

Rebbetzin Chinn was involved in numerous Jewish and civic programs, and served as a teacher in the community girls school. As her husband headed the Vaad Harabbonim of Pittsburgh and engaged in the duties of a communal rov, she dutifully filled her role as an eizer kenegdo to him and as a spiritual mentor to the women of the city.

Rav and Rebbetzin Chinn had periodic offers to leave White Oak, but they never did, a testament to their selflessness and love for the community.

The Chinns had formerly lived in Monsey, NY, where Rav Chinn learned in the kollel of Bais Medrash Elyon until 1952. The Chinns then took their first foray into leadership, as Rav Chinn became the spiritual leader of Kehillat Israel Congregation of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.

It was a beautiful community, with wonderful people. There were over 100 children who attended the Sunday school,” Rav Chinn would recall proudly. Even decades after having moved away from Shenandoah, Rav Chinn received mail from and maintained contact with his first congregants.

The historic move to McKeesport came just six years later.

“We discovered a big shul, with a large range of people – from older Europeans to young Americans,” Rebbetzin Chinn recalled a few years ago. “They were fine, dedicated people, wanting the best Jewish life for their families.”

The Chinns took over the existing Talmud Torah and encouraged the children to broaden their Jewish education. Many children attended day schools in Pittsburgh, and the Chinns popularized the concept of leaving home for a yeshiva education.

“A significant portion of those children became religiously committed,” Rebbetzin Chinn recalled. “Many have gone on to become pillars of support in their own communities.”

The Chinn also established CYS – “Cherish Your Shabbos,” a Shabbaton program for elementary school children. Hundreds of children would come for a Shabbaton – primarily from Pittsburgh and White Oak, but there were attendees from all over the area. The program was intended to interest people in observing Shabbos.

The Rebbetzin had the ability to relate to anyone, without barriers or boundaries – not age, generation or level of religious observance.

The Chinns were witness to many transitions in the McKeesport community, including the move from the shul and mikvah on Third and Market Streets to White Oak and the establishment of Mercaz Hatorah, a post-high school yeshiva, in the Gemilas Chesed building.

“No one is more joyful than we are that the yeshiva came here to McKeesport,” Rebbetzin Chinn recalled a few years ago. “We have a beautiful community, and the yeshiva is an important part in maintaining that community.” The bochurim in the yeshiva actually lived in the same apartment building as the Chinns.

For almost fifty years, Rav and Rebbetzin Chinn Chinn guided the congregation of McKeesport. Along the way, they accompanied its young people to advanced education, sincere religious commitment, and deep communal sensitivity. Through the magnitude of their spiritual heritage, they provided a model for personal and communal growth.

The Chinn children have followed in their parents’ footsteps, choosing to fortify Jewish life and education in the communities where they live. Rabbi and Mrs. David and Nechama Breinda Landesman lived in Israel for 25 years,  then made their home in Los Angeles, where Rabbi Landesman was principal of YULA, the Yeshiva University of Los Angeles, and Mrs. Landesman was principal of Maalot, and have since settled in Ramat Beit Shemesh. Rabbi Reuven Yehudah Chinn, married to Naomi Nadoff of Pittsburgh, teaches in the Yeshiva Gedolah of Toronto and is a mohel. Rabbi Hirsch Michel Chinn, married to Chaya Mund of Montreal, lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he is the director of the ATID Campus Fellowship.

The Rebbetzin leaves behind over two dozen grandchildren and about three dozen great-grandchildren.

The levaya will be held in Sanhedria,Yerushalayim, at 1:30 p.m., and the kevurah will take place on Har Hazeisim.

Yehi zichrah boruch.

{Shmiel Newscenter}


  1. Rebbetzin Chinn was my fourth grade teacher (about 48 years ago) and to this day I am so grateful for the most wonderful teaching that encompassed that year.

  2. I don’t know Rebbetzin Chinn’s family but am sure that there was the same mesirus nefesh combined with simcha in living a Torah life that Rabbi Chinn grew up with.

  3. Rabbi and Rebbitzen Chinn, were two of the biggest influences in my life as well as my grandparents, parents and siblings. As someone who grew up in Whiteoak and attended their pre-school before moving on to yeshiva in Pittsburgh, elsewhere in theUS then inEretz Yisroel, I can honestly say they were two of the most special, caring people I have ever met. Klal Yisroel has again suffered a terrible loss

  4. heartbroken and speechless….
    exceptional people
    amazing people
    good good yidden
    it made you proud to know them and
    proud to be jewish.

    they were exceptional and yet regular down to earth fun simple and still derhoiben!

    we will miss them dearly! may they be melitzei yosher for all of us ,we need every advocate we can get, to help us out in this golus.