Driving West Rogers Park at the Northtown Library

Join the Northtown Branch of the Chicago Public Library for a special film chronicling the neighborhood’s Jewish community. “Driving West Rogers Park: Chicago’s Once and Future Jewish Neighborhood,” discusses the “Golden Age” of the 1950s and ‘60s, the growing Orthodox community, and successful efforts to strengthen and preserve a robust, diverse neighborhood for future generations.

The 25-minute film will be aired on Thursday, October 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Northtown Library, 6435 N. California. Filmmaker Beverly Siegel and Howard Rieger, president of Jewish Neighborhood Development Council of Chicago, will be available for questions after the screening.

For more information, please contact the library at (312) 744-2292.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Shabbat Message from Howard Rieger, President, JCCWRP

Won’t You Be My Neighbor is a new documentary film about Mr. Rogers, who hosted a television children’s show that originated in Pittsburgh from the late 1960s until the early part of this century.  We had the pleasure of watching it in the real Mr. Rogers Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, where Beverly and I live when we aren’t in Chicago, and where Fred Rogers lived until his death in 2003.  And we were able walk one block to the movie theater to see it.

Fred Rogers underscored the dignity and essential worth of all human beings, the sanctity of life, the respect that we should accord to others, and the crucial role that our neighborhoods can play in conveying those values to the next generation.

Neighborhoods are fragile.  They are about more than brick and mortar.  At their core they are living and breathing things that need to be nurtured.  They are strengthened when we break down perceived barriers that wall us off from others.

Having lived a block from Central Park in New York City for 5 years before I retired and returned to live part time in Chicago, I always felt uplifted by the diversity of those who use that public place.  Just being there with so many others built community.

In Pittsburgh, our neighborhood streets are always crowded with residents, creating an atmosphere both interesting and more secure because of the presence of so many others.

Growing up in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, we had that lifestyle until the mid-1950s when it ended almost overnight.  In the latter years that we lived there I rode an El and a bus to just “hang out” on Western and Devon and then Cal and Devon.

The streets were packed.  But that, too, ended.

Today, our West Rogers Park lifestyle is decidedly suburban.  One uses a car to do almost everything.  For that reason, we need to come up with creative ways to make better use of our public spaces to build community.

How about a farmer’s market or other events and programs in Lerner Park, at the epicenter of WRP population density?

I wonder if those who are reading this may have additional suggestions?

We should always be looking to enhance the quality of life in our neighborhood for the betterment of all.  At JCCWRP we place a premium on continually trying to improve our effort to do so.

Beyond The Borders – Shabbat Message from Howard Rieger, President, JCCWRP

Building bridges with other groups that call West Rogers Park home has had a twofold payoff for us.  It has amplified our voice, thus allowing our Alderman, Debra Silverstein to make a more compelling case for needed public improvements, which together with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other city officials she has brought to fruition.  And it has helped us to establish meaningful relationships with those with whom we share our neighborhood.  In unity there is strength.


Working beyond the “borders” within WRP has been a key to our success.


We also have benefited from looking outward, working beyond our neighborhood and political borders.  Engaging in collective action with the Peterson Park Improvement Association.  Meeting with the past and current mayors of Lincolnwood, Jerry Turry and Barry Bass and other Village officials.  Connecting with key leadership in Skokie, including Chief of Police Anthony Scarpelli.


Mariyana Spyropoulos, President, and David St Pierre, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District have been invaluable partners in enabling us to overcome roadblocks to neighborhood improvement.  Kurt Summers, Treasurer of the City of Chicago, with his priority of visiting every neighborhood, helped us during his time in WRP to extend our reach into the community.


And this is only a sampling of the other city, state and national elected and appointed officials with whom we have engaged.


Borders can either be barriers to collaborative action, or they can provide a new vantage point for broadening perspective and enhancing cooperation.


While the name Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park may convey to some that we work in isolation as a Jewish organization that is constrained by our location within the city of Chicago, we have demonstrated that achieving our full potential requires breaking down the barriers that divide us.


Let us know what’s on your mind by responding to this email or giving me a call.  Feedback is always appreciated.


Shabbat Scott "Shalom",




I Want To Make A Difference On Devon – Shabbat Message from JCCWRP President, Howard M. Rieger

When people ask me how things are going in West Rogers Park, I naturally focus upon the good news:  the new Magenta Sister Stores on Pratt & California; the just-announced plan for a new North Town Branch of the Chicago Public Library on Pratt & Western; the new park that will transform and beautify the corner of Devon & McCormick, and the new signage at Kol Tuv and Tel Aviv Bakery.  Other things are in the pipeline.  All real.  All good.


Then the conversation usually defaults to what can be done about Devon between California & Kedzie, which is not yet good enough.


With the Streetscape upgrade of the lighting and sidewalks and the addition of benches and other beautifying elements to the avenue, thanks to the effort of Alderman Debra Silverstein, the time to leverage those changes is now.



What can we do about the boarded-up former cleaners at 3024 W. Devon that has become a dismal symbol of abandonment?  What about the vacant double store just west of Citibank at Devon & California, with dirty and torn paper covering the windows, one of which is shattered?  What about the stores for rent whose owners are not actively marketing their shabby-looking properties and in some cases obstructing progress?  And what can be done to find new businesses willing to relocate to Devon?


The answer to the challenges we face on Devon is to redouble our efforts by broadening input and involvement from the community.   And that is just what we will do in the days and months ahead.


Do you want to be part of a  constructive movement to make a difference?  Join us in a sustained effort to work with Alderman Silverstein and other like-minded officials and residents to transform this section of Devon once and for all.




Shabbat Scott "Shalom"



All Politics Is Local; The Time To Act Is Now

ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL;  THE TIME TO ACT IS NOW – Shabbat Message from JCCWRP President, Howard M. Rieger

Late U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill could have been looking at the opportunity for impact we currently have in West Rogers Park when he coined the now-famous dictum: “All politics is local.”


Just this past Monday, Alderman Debra Silverstein convened a well-attended community meeting to introduce plans for the new state-of-the-art public library with 30 senior housing apartments to be built on the northwest corner of Pratt and Western.  West Rogers Park is one of three city neighborhoods slated to receive a new library through a Chicago Public Library-Chicago Housing Authority co-venture, and WRP is the first of the three slated for actual development.


Ald. Silverstein acknowledged the important role played by the members of the community who collected more than 2000 signatures on a petition in support of a new library.  JCCWRP is proud to be a founding member of the LEARN coalition that coordinated this effort.


As the project moves forward, many issues need to be resolved: provision for adequate parking; criteria for resident selection; nearby commercial development to accommodate residents; design, safety and environmental concerns for the new structure, and design and programming for the library itself.


We will  remain an active member of LEARN to ensure that the needs of our community are met.


Can one voice affect such an outcome?  Doubtful.  Can many speaking out collectively make an impact?  Undeniable.


Ald. Silverstein emphasized that future community meetings will be called to solicit input. Your attendance is crucial.  Bring your friends, relatives and colleagues with you.


In the long run, becoming activists on behalf of our community is the most important voter turnout all.


Shabbat Scott "Shalom",



Winning Through Teamwork – Shabbat Message from JCCWRP President, Howard M. Rieger

As the Cubs brilliantly demonstrated — in addition to mazal — winning takes teamwork.


Cubs President Theo Epstein said yesterday:  “If you have people trying to grab credit, people trying to deflect blame, it’s usually not going to work too well over the long haul.”


Teamwork is what leads to victory.  And we at JCCWRP want to be part of a winning team that has a single-minded focus of making West Rogers Park the best neighborhood it can be.


While there can be no final victory to our mission, we should feel gratified that our ability to coalesce a significant part of the community has backed up Alderman Debra Silverstein’s efforts to bring a beautiful park, with a bridge linking the recreation trails on the west and east side of the North Shore Channel, to Devon & McCormick in 2017, and a new Chicago Public Library to Pratt and Western.


Scott "Shalom" Klein and I met with the Alderman last week and reiterated our commitment to work with her on park improvements and library planning and to assist in any other way we can to be a force for ongoing neighborhood improvement.


Teamwork will ensure that the longest-standing Jewish community in Chicago will be here for decades to come.


Shabbat Scott "Shalom",





Help Strengthen our Voice and our Impact – Shabbat Message from JCCWRP President, Howard M. Rieger

Over the past three years, Jewish Community Council of West Rogers Park has demonstrated that positive change can happen when people work constructively together to achieve common goals.


The lead story in this week’s  News Star publication reinforces the importance of advocacy — and confirms that our advocacy works.


The article reports on recent progress of the community-wide effort to secure a new Northtown Branch Library for West Rogers Park.  The petition drive sponsored by the LEARN coalition, of which JCCWRP is a founding member, has garnered more than 2,000 signatures urging the city to set the gears in motion.


Ald. Debra Silverstein and her husband Sen. Ira Silverstein are the petition’s top two signers.


“I believe community activism is a powerful tool,” Ald. Silverstein states in the article.  “I strongly encourage everyone to keep advocating for our neighborhood and our library.”


The lifeblood of JCCWRP is the volunteers who, along with JUF/Federation, support our work financially and programmatically, serve on our board and committees, give us direction, and  augment our voice to our elected and appointed officials.


We have exciting new initiatives to benefit the community.  To fulfill our potential, we need to bring new people into our organization who are committed to our mission.


JCCWRP is an organization of neighborhood residents and Jewish community leaders who care deeply about the past, the present, and the future of West Rogers Park. We aim to promote and encourage commercial, cultural and residential development designed to sustain a thriving community here in West Rogers Park for generations to come.


Who do you know who should be part of our efforts?   Please share your thoughts with us!


Thanks for your ongoing encouragement.