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.