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Jacob Weinger


By Jacob Weinger, age 16, Skokie Illinois

[Editor’s note: Jacob Weinger is a friend of Winnipegger Ilana Elbaze. He has written this piece to give our readers a slice of life of living in the Skokie Jewish community]

It’s Sunday evening and I feel like eating fleyshik. Rather than going to Ken’s Diner for a burger or emptying my wallet at Shallots, I decide to walk the four blocks to eat Schwarma at Taboun. On my way there I meet a few other hungry friends willing to take the walk. When we arrive at the restaurant, the Israeli waitress seats us by the window and we order our food in Hebrew, which most of us have been learning since first grade. My friends and I discuss what school will have in store for us tomorrow.  We attend Ida Crown Jewish Academy. Our nine hour school day is demanding and I’m thinking that tomorrow’s Monday and I’ll be home late after working on the yearbook.  That will be tomorrow. For now, I sit back and just enjoy the company of my keepah-wearing peers as the humous rouses my simple taste buds.

This is Skokie, home to over fifteen Jewish congregations of all denominations. (It’s like the old joke: Two Jews are stranded on a desert island.  There are three synagogues. One for each to attend and the one that neither will set foot in.) Within its diameter, Skokie is home to four Jewish day schools accommodating pre-nursery through middle school.  There is also a JCC housing daycare and extracurricular options for kids from newborn through high school.  Skokie boasts nearly ten Kosher restaurants that serve everything from Israeli food to pizza to fine dining choices. There’s even a Kosher Subway and a Kosher Dunkin Donuts.

This is Skokie, the place I have called home for 16 years and where I have met thousands of people and established hundreds of bonds. This is Skokie, where more than half of the residents are Jewish while the other half is comprised of an abundance of backgrounds and ethnicities.

About ten minutes into our meal, I notice the bearded man sitting two tables over. It is my Rebbe from freshman year. Across the room I see my 2nd grade teacher eating with her husband. As the night progresses, I find myself shaking hands with old classmates and waving to acquaintances from shul.

My friend Solomon Lowenstein sits across from me eating his rice. Not a year ago, Solomon moved from Riverdale, New York to Skokie. He’s a freshman at the Academy. Over the summer, his family moved and became members of our synagogue. Solomon’s shock of red hair and eager smile has endeared him to a lot of people at our shul and at school.  His adjustment to Skokie life was effortless and he found outlets for his interests easily in Skokie, joining an intramural hockey league and even making it onto the school baseball team.  Solomon beams when he speaks of his recent achievement. He had made the “walk-off walk” to win the game a week ago. Solomon laughs with pride when we discuss it and says, “You should have seen the other team’s faces. They couldn’t believe the little gingy won the game.”

Solomon’s still beaming as we discuss the “chesed wedding” we attended a week earlier. We had helped in what little ways we could. Solomon had waited on the tables during the dinner. Earlier in the morning, I had helped set up the room. He and I, along with many other of my peers had participated at the ceremonies. The wedding was for a young couple who could not afford to pay for the trappings and ceremony. Together, my peers and I had helped make the wedding seem as if a rich uncle had paid for it. In reality, the community paid for the wedding and it was the local Jewish high schools who supplied the willing students to set up, clean up and celebrate. 

The Ida Crown Jewish Academy—or “The Academy” as we like to say, is one of the several Jewish high schools in the area. Each school offers their students many opportunities to do chesed, but the community in general is always looking for volunteers.  My friend Tal Tovy was offered the chance to lead “Shabbat groups” for her synagogue. Tal was born Israeli and has held an Israeli status since I met her in kindergarten. Growing up speaking Hebrew at home, Tal now teaches Hebrew for the Sunday school affiliated with her congregation.

Another friend, Yaakov Greenspan has also found extraordinary opportunities to volunteer in the community.  An Academy freshman, Yaakov acts as a peer tutor at school and a lainer for mincha services on Shabbat. “I just tend to find these things,” says Yaakov of his opportunities. “I live in Skokie, and there’s always something to do.”

My friend Ezra Allswang would attest to that fact. He walks in just as my friends and I are walking out. When I ask him what he’s been up to, he replies, “I just came back from teaching little kids about Shavuos.” Ezra is a counselor for children through the B’nei Akiva organization. He tells me a funny story about one boy whose older brother we both know.  We are talking a bit when we both notice Rabbi Brand drive by the restaurant. We were at his youth minyan not eight hours earlier.

I give my last goodbyes to the many familiar faces I have seen at the restaurant and walk home with my friends. Two blocks from my house, my friends and I part from each other. I’m off to study for the Talmud quiz I’ll be having bright and early tomorrow morning. Perhaps afterward I’ll call a friend whom I know from the last NCSY shabbaton.  Perhaps I’ll find a minyan for a quick maariv. Of course I will.

 This is Skokie, after all.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.