The making of an American shtetl
December 14, 2008 11:41 AM   Subscribe

Menorahs glowed in almost every living room window during Hanukkah. Hasidic Jews streamed down the streets on Friday night and Saturday morning, walking to and from synagogue services. "There was total freedom," marvels Magda Brown, 81, who survived Auschwitz. But inside their homes, at night, the survivors—and their families—were roiled by their pasts. The rest of Skokie did not know the troubles that stirred behind the immaculate facades of the close-packed houses.

A previous post regarding the most infamous incident in Skokie's history.
posted by scody (5 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks, scody. Here's a link to the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center which is opening on April 19 next year. The public library has a large digitzed archive about the activities surrounding the march in 77-78.
posted by jessamyn at 1:01 PM on December 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

When I read this it reminded me that I had seen a job posting long ago for an archivist to work with Stephen Spielberg on an ambitious project to record testimonies of all the remaining survivors of the Holocaust. A quick web search reveals that he did go on to get over 52,000 recordings, and the whole project has become part of the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences at the University of Southern California. It's now called the USC Shoah Foundation Institute. I searched on Regina Samelson and Aaron Elster, mentioned in the article about Skokie, and they've been interviewed. Not all the interviews are online, but some sample clips are, sorted according to theme.
posted by tractorfeed at 1:52 PM on December 14, 2008

There was also a pretty good TV movie about the march. But the article is right -- Skokie's remaining Jewishness is decidedly of a certain age, white-haired ladies at Barnum & Bagel's (more upscale than it sounds). The development surrounding Old Orchard has made it a pretty generic suburb nowadays. The museum is near there, but tucked away in a bit of an odd location, though it will have substantial expressway visibility.
posted by dhartung at 2:16 PM on December 14, 2008

Meanwhile, Collin had disappeared from the scene, convicted in 1980 on eight counts of indecent liberties with minors.

There are times when I wonder if rounding up the religious and political extremists and keeping them away from kids would be the quickest way of cutting down on child molestation.
posted by rodgerd at 5:21 PM on December 14, 2008

I spent the first 2 years of my life in Skokie, born months after the attempted march. I was too young to remember living there, but I do remember visiting my Bubbie and Zaydie (that's Yiddish for grandmother and grandfather; they were not survivors as their parents were emigrants from Belarus) there often before they, like many others, followed their daughter (my mother) to Las Vegas. I've always had fond memories of my grandparents' house and visiting Bubbie's classroom at East Prairie elementary school. It's always been strange for me when I see how much the neighborhood has changed now. But even stranger for me is its association with the attempted march. It's the only thing anyone seems to know about the little suburb, and so my personal thoughts about Skokie are miles away from the public perception.

Thanks for the post.
posted by ErWenn at 9:24 PM on December 14, 2008

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