Monday, April 12, 2010

Chicago needs Jewish Heritage Day

I bought my first real three-piece suit from Al Koralchik at his tailor shop on O'Brien Court & Halsted with the dough I made from working at Gee Lumber ( Greek Family) on 79th Street. Al Koralchik was the brother-in-law of Izzy Kagan, a great Austin High School football star who served in the Marines with my Dad's buddy the legendary Leo Coach Jimmy Arnenberg on Guam. They all kept in contact after the War and Mr. Kagan eulogized Coach Arnenberg at his funeral Mass.

I worked for Si Blitztein at the Evergreen Plaza. Si subsidized more Catholic educations than Catholic Charities.

Jews like Morris B. Sachs* and the Blackman Family Jewelers - now in Orland and Tinley Parks - once served the Catholic population along 79th Street, supported the south side Irish Parade, sponsored Leo High School Letterman Club, Yearbook and offered scholarships to poor kids.

Jews were our neighbors and co-laborers in the Trades Unions.

My grade school and high school buddy Danny Levi ran the Irish Temple on 111th Street.

Catholics and Jews seem to carry the philanthropic load in Chicago - read the names on every civic and cultural board of directors.

Today, Ms. Naomi Stewart argues:

Chicago needs a Jewish day. We need a Jewish parade. Chicago has all kinds of ethnic parades and days, and Jews are a huge part of Chicago. We contribute to the economy, culture and education. We like to wave flags and be seen marching down the streets having fun, too.
We could have a ''Jewlicious Fest,'' as they have in New York and San Francisco. Many cities have fests for Jews, except Chicago. Chicago is a big city. The day should be May 14, in celebration of the creation of Israel. Let's call it ''Jewish Heritage Day.''

Unless they give us a parade and our own day, I will never feel welcome in this town. I never did, and now I realize why. I hope I'm not the first or only Jew to suggest this idea.

Chicago's first synagogue, Kehilath Anshe Mayriv (KAM), was founded at the corner of Lake and Wells in 1847 by a group of Jewish immigrants from the same general region of Germany. By 1852, about 20 Polish Jews had become discontented enough to break off from KAM, and founded Chicago's second congregation, Kehilath B'nai Sholom, a more Orthodox congregation than the older KAM. In 1861, the second major secession from KAM occurred, and, led by Rabbi Bernhard Felsenthal, this splinter group formed the Sinai Reform Congregation, meeting in a church near the corner of Monroe and LaSalle Streets.

In 1859 the United Hebrew Relief Association (UHRA) was established by some 15 Jewish organizations, which included a number of B'nai B'rith lodges as well as several Jewish women's organizations. After the fire of 1871, Jews moved out of the downtown area, mainly southward, settling eventually in the fashionable lakefront communities of Kenwood, Hyde Park, and South Shore. Wherever they settled they established needed institutions, including Michael Reese Hospital, the Drexel Home (for aged Jews), and the social and civic Standard Club.

That would be some celebration!

One of the shows frequently asked about (when it wasn't a question on Bozo's Circus) was The Morris B. Sachs Amateur Hour. Sad to say, many ended the phone call dismayed that one of their favorite shows is just a memory today. Since the show was aired live, chances of any kinescope films popping up sometime are rare.

From an era where local talent shows were the norm, the Sachs program was considered the "daddy" of all amateur hours. The program had already been heard on WENR Radio for fifteen years when it came to WENR-TV in 1950. Master of Ceremonies was jovial and easy-going Bob Murphy, who joined the show in 1949 doing the radio version for one year and then taking on double-duty when the program debuted on channel 7. Murphy's job was to make sure the contestants, many who probably had never seen a television studio before, were comfortable. The show's announcer was Bob Cunningham. Music was provided by two Amateur Hour alums- Adele Scott and Al Diern.

Musicians, jugglers, acrobats, singers, comedians and more took the stage. Some hoping to "hit the big time," others for the thrill of being on television, and some came for the prizes.

And we are not talking cheap door prize junk. Winners on The Morris B. Sachs Amateur Hour went home with watches, jewelry, cash, and every thirteen weeks- a car if he or she won the semi-finals.

The Morris B. Sachs Amateur Hour was produced by Norm Heyne and aired on WENR and WENR-TV Sunday afternoons from 12:30 to 1:30.


susan said...

Come to the Greater Chicago Jewish festival on Sunday June 13 at St Paul Woods in Morton Grove (oakton west of the expressway). 11 am to 6 pm. 30th anniversary.

pathickey said...

Only as long as the blintzes hold out!

Thanks Susan! Chicago needs to do something.

Unknown said...

Why not just have a "Universal Heritage Day" when we all celebrate the diverse heritages we all enjoy directly or indirectly, instead of having separate ones for separate groups. That way it's better illustrated how individual heritages benefit us all, even ones we're not descended from.

Marathon Pundit said...

Who lives across the street from that synagogue? I'll give you a hint, he is no friend of Israel.