Skokie mayor: Menorah lighting event a gesture of hope, unity

Rabbi Yochanan Posner of Lubavitch Chabad in Skokie lights the menorah of Hanukkah during the communitywide Menorah Lighting event Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016 at Krier Plaza in downtown Skokie. (Karie Angell Luc / Pioneer Press)
Rabbi Yochanan Posner of Lubavitch Chabad in Skokie lights the menorah of Hanukkah during the communitywide Menorah Lighting event Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016 at Krier Plaza in downtown Skokie. (Karie Angell Luc / Pioneer Press)

The annual menorah lighting in downtown Skokie is a yearly reminder for Rabbi Yochanan Posner how fortunate he is to be an American and to be able to practice his religion in public.

Several dozen attendees came out Dec. 28 on the fifth night of Hanukkah this year to enjoy the prayer, songs, latkes and donuts and a fire dancer.

The event took place at Skokie’s Site of Civic Pride. It’s where, for over three decades, representatives from the village and Lubavitch Chabad of Skokie have celebrated the Jewish holiday with the lighting a traditional menorah and also an electric menorah that stands roughly six-feet tall in the public square.

Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen addressed the crowd gathered and noted that various other representatives of the local government, including village manager John Lockerby, had come out to join in the festivities

Posner, who leads holiday celebrations and education programs at Lubavitch Chabad, said he remembers coming with his father, Rabbi Yosef Posner, director of the Chad, to prepare for the annual public celebration as far back as the early 1980s. The event is especially meaningful to him because many of his Jewish relatives in Russia and Poland had to hide their faith from public view or risk persecution, he said.

Of all the Jewish holidays, Posner said Hanukkah is most representative of outreach to the greater public and a menorah lighting that’s open to all, no matter their faith, is a perfect way to celebrate the “festival of lights.”

Attendees — who ranged in age from infants to older adults — gathered around the latkes, also known as potato pancakes, and the donuts, both of which are foods typically eaten during the Hanukah holiday, chatted between the prayers, songs and the featured entertainment of the night: A fire dancer who spun around various flaming batons. A man dressed in a dreidel costume — the small four-sided spinning top bearing letters of the Hebrew alphabet often present during Hanukkah celebrations — posed for photos with the attendees.

In an address to the crowd, Van Dusen reminded attendees that celebrations like this are a illustration of Skokie’s commitment to a diverse and unified community.

“We live in very challenging and very difficult times,” he said. “Change is afoot and we don’t know what change is coming.”

Community unity provides “the kind of stability that will ensure our great future” no matter what changes come down the pike, Van Dusen said.

Skokie resident Debbie Holstein, 42, who attended the event with her parents and a family friend, said she did so because the celebration was a way for her to recognize and celebrate the right to religious freedom she and her fellow Americans are afforded.

Posner said he agreed with the mayor’s statement about the uncertain times both domestically and abroad.

He said he can’t tackle all the world’s problems and the best he can do is to “illuminate” the community with a “good and positive message.” The yearly menorah lighting allows him to do that in Skokie, he said.

After all, Posner said, the best way to fight darkness is with light.

Lee V. Gaines is a freelancer.

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Yom Hashoah

69th Annual Holocaust Memorial Service to be held in Skokie April 27

Yom Hashoah

For the 69th year, hundreds of Holocaust survivors will come together Sunday, April 27, in what traditionally has been the largest gathering of survivors in the Midwest ­– the Annual Holocaust Memorial Service.

Organized by Sheérit HaPleitah of Metropolitan Chicago, the umbrella organization for area Holocaust survivor groups, the collective memorial observance will begin at 1:30 p.m. at Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob Synagogue, 8825 East Prairie Road, Skokie. The event is co-sponsored by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

“This annual memorial honors the memory of our six million martyrs, including one and a half million innocent children who perished only because they were Jews,” said Charles Lipshitz, president of Sheérit HaPleitah of Metropolitan Chicago. “We also will observe the 69th anniversary of the liberation from the concentration camps, and honor the contributions that Holocaust survivors have made to society.

“We cannot let the world forget that a modern society, Nazi Germany, was capable of committing such atrocities,” Lipshitz said. “Many reactionary forces are hard at work to change history and deny that the Holocaust ever happened. We must be vigilant not to allow this to occur.”

“The number of Holocaust survivors is dwindling to a precious few as we approach the 69th anniversary of the end of World War II,” said Larry Schwartz, president of the Association of Descendants of the Shoah – Illinois, Inc. “We, as children of survivors, are taking an active role in reminding the world that the crimes of Nazi Germany can happen again if we do not maintain vigilance. The legacy of the Holocaust survivors will be sustained and enhanced through our education and outreach efforts, for we shall never forget the sacrifices of the Six Million Jews who did not live to see the Nazi war machine defeated.”

“We will not remain silent in the face of Iranian, Arab, or any other entity’s wish to destroy Israel,” said I. M. Hubscher, co-chairman of the community commemoration. “This circle of violence must stop, and we, as children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of survivors will continue to lead the effort to eradicate hate, death and destruction.”

At the 2014 memorial service, Regine Schlesinger, veteran anchor/reporter for WBBM Newsradio 780 and the daughter of Holocaust survivors who were on Schindler’s List, will be one of the featured speakers. Others will include the Honorable Roey Gilad, Consul General of Israel to the Midwest; Mayor George Van Dusen of Skokie; and David T. Brown, Board Chair of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

A high point of the service is the candle-lighting ceremony honoring the six million Jews who perished. The ceremony will be conducted by Sherry Rubinstein Warso of Dor L’Dor, the Young Leadership Division of Sheérit HaPleitah, with participation by children and grandchildren of local-area Holocaust survivors.

Winners of the first Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) essay contest will be announced by David Levine, the new chairman of the memorial service. Officials of the Jewish War Veterans-Skokie Post 328 and Jewish Boy Scout Troops #69 and #243 will present colors. Proclamations by Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago and Mayor George Van Dusen of Skokie will be published in the ad journal.

The village of Skokie is supportive of Sheérit HaPleitah’s efforts to sustain the memory of the Holocaust.  When the American Nazi Party chose Skokie in 1978 for its infamous demonstration, Sheérit HaPleitah helped lead the opposition, with the assistance of former Mayor Albert J. Smith and the village trustees. The struggle was portrayed in a made-for-television movie starring Danny Kaye.

A documentary by Todd Whitman about the days leading up to the infamous 1978 demonstration aired on PBS in January 2013. The film featured many Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, as well as activists from the next generation who stood ready to protect the survivor community.

Sheérit HaPleitah later led the movement to construct a monument in memory of the Holocaust victims on the Skokie Village Green, on land donated by the village and from funds collected from area individuals and synagogues and the Jewish United Fund.

The sculpture by Edward Chesney, depicting three generations, torn prayer books, a menorah, and other items symbolizing the destruction of European Jewry, was unveiled on May 31, 1987.  That night, the memorial received worldwide attention after it was desecrated with spray paint, including the epithet “Jew liars” and other messages of hate.

“This insidious act made the message on the dedication plaque even more meaningful,” said Lipshitz.  It reads, “This monument will remain in perpetuity as a reminder of what hate can do to mankind if decent people are not vigilant to forestall such a calamity in the future.”

I am joining the Dempster Street Merchants Association and the Skokie Chamber of Commerce in supporting the investment of high-speed internet options from AT&T Illinois in Skokie

Letter of Support for AT&T



Dear Skokie Mayor Van Dusen and Village Trustees,


The Dempster Street Merchants Association is a team of businesses focused on revitalizing and modernizing this historic street, especially here in Skokie.  We recognize the past, but we are building for the future.


In today’s economy, access to high-speed data networks, or high speed Internet, is essential to operate efficiently, better serve customers and truly compete in a global marketplace.


Businesses in surrounding villages are benefitting from the faster internet speeds and competition in communications networks provided by the U-verse network from AT&T.  Businesses in Skokie should too.


That’s why the Dempster Street Merchants Association strongly supports bringing AT&T U-verse to Skokie.


High-speed internet networks are essential to virtually every business in every industry, including our members in professional services, retail, automotive, education, health care, insurance and news and media services.


This is a very good product from a reputable company seeking to bring new services to benefit our village.  We’re fortunate to be a community with a strong economy.  But we must continue to advance our infrastructure, and broadband is the economic development infrastructure of the 21st century.


For our businesses and our economy, we encourage you to take action to bring the AT&T U-verse high-speed internet network to Skokie.







Scott "Shalom" Klein

Dempster Street Merchants Association