In a recent article in theWeekly Standard, Joseph Epstein, who has written extensively about Chicago, reflected upon the things that enable some neighborhoods to prosper while others decline.
Epstein was a classmate of my brother Jerry, graduating from Senn High School in 1955.His novels, some set in West Rogers Park, convey a feeling for what our community was in its heyday of the 50s and 60s.
This article is no exception, containing observations about the “good old days”.It also includes his reflection on the two cities that exist in Chicago today, one doing well, and one confronted by seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Epstein references a book about Chicago by Robert J. Sampson entitledGreat American City (2012),in whichSampson makes the argument that neighborhoods have their greatest chance of improving themselves through community organization.
Epstein takes that one step further by noting that to have organization, one needs to have leadership, something that is absent in the places that need help the most.
When I think about the reasons why West Rogers Park is by far the longest standing Jewish community in the history of Chicago, what comes to mind is that we have been fortunate to have at our core a large group of residents and leaders who are committed to our community.But commitment is never enough.
What is required is to have leaders who lead.Who identify the challenges that face us and then roll up their sleeves to dosomethingabout them.
That’s a pretty simple formula for success, but as we can see in the city that we share with so many others, there is no guarantee that that will happen.
Let’s hope and pray that it will!