Did You Know About West Rogers Park?

Friends and Neighbors,

We have shared in the past some details about our collaboration with other neighborhood partners. The regular meetings we participate in (see the attached photo from this past Sunday) have led to major progress for West Rogers Park – including our library, parks, safety, economic development, etc. Our community is fascinating to so many people we meet with outside Chicago too, as they recognize the amazing nature of its diversity.

But… do you know just how diverse West Rogers Park is? Our general population is about 72,000, of which 37% are foreign born. The Jewish population is 24,000 which makes up a large number of the City of Chicago’s total number of 89,000.

In recent years, there has been new investment of tens of millions of dollars into the Jewish day-schools, education centers, synagogues, Jewish Federation agencies and other organizations. We are committed to working with these institutions to be a part of our coalition building to maximize outcomes in working with our neighbors. TOGETHER we can continue to ensure a strong West Rogers Park for decades to come.

Shabbat Shalom.

Shalom Klein

on behalf of the Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park

Jewish Community Leaders Say Devon Avenue is 'Dormant', Not 'Dead'

“We’re committed to a beautiful West Rogers Park, meaning it doesn’t need to be a beautiful Jewish neighborhood,” said Shalom Klein, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park. (Nicole Cardos/MEDILL)

By Nicole Cardos

Business owner Avrom Fox said his religious bookstore Rosenblums World of Judaica is a social gathering spot.

“We have everything that one needs to celebrate the entire Jewish life cycle, from birth to death and all the holidays in between,” Fox said, adding that there are also books for those interested in the religion from a historical and cultural point of view.

The making of a Jewish monument from Nicole Cardos on Vimeo.

Now in its sixth year of residence in Skokie, Illinois, Rosenblums was previously located on Devon Avenue in West Ridge in Chicago. Fox said he purchased the store from its previous owner in 1990 at its Devon Avenue location, when the Jewish community was reflected in the storefronts on the now-majority South Asian shopping street.

For years now, businesses, like Rosenblums, that catered to the surrounding West Ridge Jewish community have been moving out—so much so, that the Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park has named “the rebirth of Devon Avenue between California and Kedzie as a unique urban destination serving Jews throughout the city and suburbs” as one of the organization’s goals on its website.

Fox said he moved Rosenblums to follow the Jewish community that was migrating toward the suburbs, and because he considers Devon Avenue “dead” as a shopping district.

“Devon is no longer commercially viable,” he said.

But it’s not only Jewish-owned businesses that are closing or relocating. The CVS store and pharmacy at 2825 W. Devon Ave. announced its springtime closing late February. The decision was made in part of the company’s plan to shut down dozens of its storefronts.

“Everybody is dormant—we’re dormant now too,” said Irv Loundy, senior vice president of Banking Services and Community Relations at Devon Bank.

Loundy, an employee at Devon Bank since 1958, said he has seen tremendous change in the area. Loundy remembers Devon Avenue as a home to high-end ladies fashion and kosher delicatessens and grocery stores in the 1970s and 1980s. But as the community changed to include an Indian-Pakistani population, and nearby young Jewish families started relocating to surrounding suburbs, Jewish businesses followed suit.

What also pushed storeowners to move away from the area was the lack of parking space, said Loundy, who’s active in the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce.

“We need to create the presence and make it attractive for people to want to come here,” he said.

One of the ways to revitalize the area is to work on collaboration among the existing community groups, said Shalom Klein, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park.

The goal of JCCWRP is to advocate for and improve the lives of residents and businesses in West Ridge, commonly referred to as West Rogers Park.

Although the Jewish community has a longstanding history in the area, the organization isn’t only catering to that group of people, Klein said.

“We’re committed to a beautiful West Rogers Park, meaning it doesn’t need to be a beautiful Jewish neighborhood,” he said. “We want it to be a beautiful neighborhood which happens to be home to the Jewish community, and living and working together with many other cultures.”

After having conversations with West Ridge residents, Klein acknowledged that there was a need for an updated or new library in the area. The Northtown Branch of the Chicago Public Library located at 6435 N. California Ave. currently serves the community, but Klein said it’s outdated.

“The library is not equipped,” he said. “It doesn’t have the meeting space, the technology for kids to do their homework.”

So Klein and other JCCWRP organizers, along with members of other ethnic communities in West Ridge, recently launched a petition called LEARN—Library Enhancement And Renovation. After having earned thousands of signatures, LEARN has been approved to open a new library in West Ridge.

“So those are the types of things that by coming together, by organizing, we’re able to make a difference,” he said.

JCCWRP Annual Meeting – July 17, 2017

The Annual Meeting of the Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park will take place on:

 

Monday, July 17, 2017

          7:30 PM at the Bernard Horwich JCC

          3003 W Touhy Ave

          Chicago, IL 60645

 

We have invited Alderman Debra Silverstein to report to us on her priorities for the coming year.  We also will be hearing a report from Edin Seferovic, the Executive Director of the West Ridge Chamber of Commerce on the Chamber’s economic development agenda in our neighborhood.

Finally we will hear a report from our Nominating Committee on recommendations for Board membership and officers for the coming year as well as reports from our Executive Director, Shalom Klein and myself.

 

An annual report is always an occasion for stock-taking.  A look back to the previous year and an articulation of plans for the future.

 

We should feel satisfaction at last year’s accomplishments.  A new park that is under construction at Devon & McCormick that will transform a once squalid site into a new gem for our community.

 

Implementation plans for a new facility for the Northtown Library scheduled to open in December, 2018.

 

The Magenta Sister Stores prospering at the corner of Pratt & Kedzie.

 

We had a positive role in all of those steps forward.

 

Nevertheless, the key to success is not to dwell unnecessarily on past achievements but, rather to envision what comes next and to establish new goals for the future.

 

I believe that our agenda going forward must include a redoubled effort to fill additional empty storefronts and to improve existing businesses.  With the proven Magenta model, we should attempt to find other home-based businesses whose owners might see the wisdom of following in their footsteps.  Working with Alderman Silverstein and the Chamber we can address zoning code violations, thus making the neighborhood more attractive to new businesses.

 

Finally, while most of us are personally invested in WRP, maintaining our residences, shuls and communal agencies, we need to come together as a community to better utilize the public spaces that are available to us.  Lerner Park’s new playground that the Alderman advocated for and has brought to fruition is a magnet for families with children, but the rest of the park is empty most of the time.  There are not even enough comfortable benches for people to gather.  What about programming and improvements comparable to what exists at other parks?  One look at Indian Boundary Park, Peterson Park and others will make it clear what Lerner Park lacks.  A fully developed park is a magnet for community building.  Lerner Park can and should be that magnet.

 

I am sure that many of you have additional ideas for us.  Let me know what’s on your priority list.

Let's Clean Up West Rogers Park! An exciting beautification contest…

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The Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park “Curb Enthusiasm” beautification contest has arrived! This program is in partnership with JCC Chicago.

The contest is open to all single family residences, businesses, multiple family residences, condo balconies, synagogues or schools. This is a friendly competition where participants can put their gardening and decorating skills to good use!

The period for judging will be May 18-19 and will focus solely on front and side yards, UNLESS you only have a backyard.

Judging will be based on the following:

  • General appearance of buildings, fencing and edging
  • Overall landscaping
  1. Lawns
  2. Shrubs, evergreens and trees
  3. Color accents
  4. Creativity

Participants must be present at the Bernard Horwich JCC, 3003 W. Touhy on Sunday May 21st at 3pm to win.

First Place: $500 Value
Second Place: $300 Value
Third Place: $100 Value

In addition to beautifying your own backyard—help us spruce up Bernard Horwich’s yard! On Sunday, May 21st please join us at 3:00 p.m. for a community investment project! We will “dig in” and get dirty as we clean up and make Horwich beautiful.  We will also have take-home projects to add to your family’s on-going efforts to beautify West Roger’s Park!  Everyone is welcome to participate, even if you don’t enter the contest.  This is a free event, but advanced registration is encouraged.

Help us spread the word and encourage your family and neighbors to join in by registering at https://www.jccchicago.org/event/west-rogers-park-curb-enthusiasm/. Instructions for submissions will be provided upon registration.
A flyer is attached and we look forward to your participation!

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