Author and Jewish historian Dr. Irving Cutler gives you a colorful account of Chicago’s Jewish history through the lens of seven synagogues. His guide lays out milestones across several denominations and ethnic groups, and includes personal insights you won’t find in history books! It’s his answer to Curious Citizen Elias Saltz’s question: “Where were the largest Jewish neighborhoods in Chicago, and what were they like?”
The idea behind Elias Saltz’s question first germinated in the mid-90s when he visited the now defunct Agudas Achim synagogue in Uptown for a singles event for a Jewish group that he was involved with.
“They put on a ‘restore the building’ day where they brought in 30 or so people to do light work like painting, cleaning, and mingling,” he says.
Spending time in Agudas Achim got Elias thinking about how it fit within the largely Vietnamese neighborhood surrounding it.
“It really seemed out of place in that neighborhood,” he says. “The fact that there was a very large synagogue there meant that there was at one time a significant Jewish population. [I thought] there were probably synagogues in other neighborhoods with a similar type of situation.”
Elias grew up in East Rogers Park, where he attended the B’nai Zion synagogue on Pratt near Sheridan and went to day care at a Jewish Community Center near Estes and Greenview. He now lives with his wife (who he met at that singles event!) and two teenage sons in Buffalo Grove, and works as an architectural consultant.