As stated in my South Side post, my interest in photographing former Chicago synagogues stemmed mainly from tracing the family history on the South Side. Although my mother’s parents both lived on the West Side (Garfield Park and Medical Center areas) during the first two decades of the twentieth century, I don’t know where they worshipped. After some research, I believe my mother's grandparents, the Sachs family, attended B'nai Jehoshua at S. Ashland and W. 20th. My grandparents (below) lived in Hyde Park following their marriage in 1922.
The former Anshe Knesses Israel Congregation, W. Douglas Boulevard
Other large congregations included Congregation Anshe Sholom on S. Independence Boulevard, which still has the orignal stained-glass windows; Kehilath Jacob, where Benny Goodman played the clarinet, on Douglas Boulevard; and Knessess Israel Nusach Sfard (K.I.N.S), also on Independence. One of the most beautiful is the former First Roumanian Congregation, which moved to Douglas Boulevard from what is now the last remaining former synagogue in the Maxwell Street area (see my family’s connection in “There Used to be a Synagogue Here: South Side” post).
The real treasures are found on the side streets – Christiana, Drake, Homan, Millard and Ridgeway – and sometimes took two trips to find. Many of these tiny shuls are now vacant lots, as is much of North Lawndale. The remaining ones, now churches, give one pause to think of the Torahs and tallit-clad worshippers that once filled these buildings. Remaining Hebrew inscriptions and Stars of David intensify those feelings. They had names harking back to the homeland, including Bikur Cholim Anshe Rosh Poland, Anshe Russia/Polie Zedeck, Mikro Kodesh Anshe Lida and Pinsk, and Anshe Pavalatch.
West Side residents were notably interested on what I was doing in their neighborhood – one asked pointedly, “Why are you taking pictures of the church?" – and unanimously friendly. Given large numbers of people congregating on the streets during the day, though, I don’t recommend wandering around there alone.
Side door, the former Anshe Motele, S. Ridgeway Avenue
For my entire collection of photographs, please see the “Former Chicago Synagogues” sets on http://www.flickr.com/brulelaker.
NOTE: The Hebrew Theological College was razed shortly after this entry was written. Anshe Knesses Israel is slated for demolition in early 2012,