Two weeks ago, we hosted a group of JUF/Federation volunteer leaders and professionals on a “mission” to West Rogers Park.Some of those who attended serve on the planning and allocations committee that is charged with making the annual $25,000 grant to JCCWRP.
Starting with a visit to Tel Aviv Bakery and Kol Tuv Foods, the group heard from Menachem Sabo and Chayim Knobloch, respectively, about the challenges of operating a small kosher store, the changes they’ve adapted to over the years, and the hard work that it takes to stay in business.
For some of us, supporting these and other merchants in the neighborhood is discretionary.But others in our community have no alternative, because they don’t drive, or even if they do, they don’t own a car. Bringing Jews from outside the neighborhood into our community stores -- and seeing those stores through their eyes -- turned into an eloquent reminder that we perform a mitzvah when we shop in the neighborhood, because our patronage helps to keep those stores afloat for those whose options are limited.
Chayim Knobloch spoke about having some customers who are not always able to pay for what they buy in a timely fashion.Kol Tuv allows them to run an ongoing account at the store and pay when they can.He told us that one of Chicago’s daily newspapers once ran an article on the store, mentioning this practice. Soon after the story appeared, people began sending in checks to help pay these accounts for the needy.How moving when one of the members of our group asked us for Chayim’s contact information so that she could send him a check for the same purpose.
Everyone then gathered at F.R.E.E, Friends of Refugees from Eastern Europe, for a special showing of Beverly Siegel’s new documentary,Driving West Rogers Park:Chicago’s Once and Future Jewish Neighborhood, followed by a Q & A session.
It was clear from the audience’s comments that everyone left the tour with a fuller appreciation of the incredible return on investment that JUF receives through the grant that they make to JCCWRP, and I believe, a sense of how much we appreciate that support, which has enabled us to insure the future of WRP by strengthening the public face of the neighborhood.