A colorful and successful community: The Jew in Chicago

A colorful and successful community: The Jew in Chicago

As Yosef Meystel has pointed out before, around 1841, when the Jew first came to Chicago, many of them would work as street vendors going from house to house trying to sell anything. As the community started to grow, they also started to open small businesses like minor groceries stores or even clothing stores and their owners would live on the second floor.

The Jewish community was just one out of many other immigrant communities: there were also Irish, British and Swedish. They were accepted and worked their way into the most important social spheres, something that would have been almost impossible in Europe since life was not as easier as in America. The Jew found a rather juvenile open-minded city willing to accept them. Afterward, there were Jewish people working at banks, insurance companies and even in real state agencies. They successfully blent in and since then have been part of the most important corporate and social organizations. They founded the first synagogue in Chicago and in the state of Illinois in the surroundings of the Lake and Wells streets.

Successful Business People

Among the most famous Jews, Julian Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck and Company, stands out. Sears went on to become the most important and solid retailer in the world. Rosenwald took advantage of his role as a renowned businessman to improve the social aspects of the city: he invested in his own community but also founded schools and museums. In 1927, Julian Rosenwald founded the Museum of Science and Industry. In the early 1900’s, Chicago went on to become a big city: in less than 30 years the city had grown in more than a million people, and obviously, there was a huge Jewish portion. This growth brought new areas of activity: the already established businesses started to grow and expand. The banking sector was facing an extraordinary scenario due to the high credit demands.

Image courtesy of Mike Mozart at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of Mike Mozart at Flickr.com

An elite

With time, many Jewish people moved to the outskirts of the city towards the south. Around 1900, the richest households would live over there. However, these families would put distance between themselves and the Jewish newcomers, who settled mostly in the western part of the city. This was likely due to the gap between the educational level and the economic situation. Nonetheless, this gap went on to become more and more narrow.

The Synagogue, formerly located in a tiny room of a textile Business was now a clear depiction of the rise of the Jewish community in the social and economic spheres.

Leaving a mark (to this day)

The Jewish community also played a distinctive role in the foundation of the University of Chicago around 1890. The university, as many other universities in America had huge financial problems since their inception. It was not until Rabbi Emil Hirsch fought fiercely and led a campaign to provide the institution with funds. Thanks to his acquaintances he managed to raise enough money for the University to be established.

If one were to take a look at the influence of the Jewish community in Chicago, one would find that their impact on the development of the city resulted in lots of successful companies, organizations, social institutions, etc.

Tips on success and life

Chicago has become one of the most important cities in America. Given the influential role the Jewish community has played over time, it is not longer rare to see that part of this development obeys to the way Jews conceive life: always bearing in mind a sense of purpose and commitment and leaving behind the selfish connotation of life.

Being Jew means being an agent of change: the individual is nothing. Bonding with people is how improvement socially speaking is achieved. Following the interests with passion will result in fulfillment. On a career choice, for example, this is entirely applicable: the Jews has taught the world that in both life and businesses there is no short distance. One must be always willing to go further than the rest, pushing one self to be the best and, at the same time, figure out a way to impact people in a good way: whether it is a client, a friend, an acquaintance, a partner, etc. Being an inspiration, lighting a spark on the people around, is how society and businesses persist.

Focus on getting rid of every time waster: sometimes people receive a no for an answer. Saying no means realizing what is really important and provides an insight of where must one be. Being organized, defining priorities, having a to do list, breaking up the day into slots, not taking too much — but willing to go that extra mile — and applying small changes towards the improvement of the current situation will result in a much better and fulfilling social and economic life.