This week I met with my friend and colleague Steve Nasatir to bring him up-to-date on our JCCWRP agenda. Steve stays abreast of our work through these Shabbat messages, but getting together provided a chance to put the short version into broader perspective for him.
Several years ago, as I thought about how to address challenges facing the community in West Rogers Park, it was JUF/Federation that matched initial support I received from community leaders who were eager to generate neighborhood improvements. That combination of support made possible the planning study that led to our organizational relaunch. Today, the Federation makes an annual grant to JCCWRP, which, together with funds we raise from our board and other donors, continues to drive our operation.
Returning to Chicago after a two-month absence gave me a chance to gain a broader perspective as well. First morning back, as I waited at a red light at Devon and McCormick, I was thrilled to see that construction of our new park is well underway. We played a major role in fueling the transformation of that once-blighted site, which Alderman Silverstein, top city officials and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District brought to reality.
A day later, on my way downtown for my meeting at the Federation, while waiting at the light at Pratt and California, I was able to spend a minute savoring the sight of the Magenta Sister Stores that opened a year ago with the assistance of our Executive Director Shalom Klein. A once-dilapidated strip of storefronts is now filled with cars. The Magenta owners -- and their community patrons -- continue to benefit from our ongoing involvement.
Continuing down Pratt at Western, catching another light at the future site of the new Northtown branch library that will be opening at the end of 2019, I thought about the recent series of community meetings that Alderman Silverstein convened to gather input for the architectural firm that will design the new facility; for the Chicago Housing Authority, which is funding the project, and for the Chicago Public Library. From day one, JCCWRP has been a major part of the community advocacy process for a new library. As a founding member of the LEARN coalition and as one of the driving forces for gathering petitions that enabled the Alderman to strengthen her case for the need for a new library building for our neighborhood, we can take pride in yet another positive outcome.
We know that there continues to be more to do, but by taking a step back, we can see how far we have come. Seeing the forest as well as the trees. And yes, taking a deep breath at a stop light rather than expressing exasperation as I would ordinarily do!