Stories of Jewish Chicago

September 17, 2010 5:49:36 AM PDT
Showcasing archival materials, cultural and fine art objects, and audio and visual recordings from its rich and varied collections, Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies opens an evolving eight-part exhibit that explores the Chicago Jewish experience. Beginning Sunday, September 19 and continuing through the end of 2012, Uncovered & Rediscovered: Stories of Jewish Chicago will unfold in a series of focused, changing "chapters" (each on display from three to six months) revealing the stories of individuals, places, events, and particular moments from Chicago's Jewish past. These stories range from the 19th-century romance behind the launch of the Spiegel mail order catalog to the

impact of Jewish votes from Lawndale on the election of President Kennedy. The exhibit will tell tales of Chicago's

Jewish pioneers and politicians, artists and anarchists, authors and entrepreneurs, and even Jewish boxers.

Uncovered & Rediscovered will be free to the public and open 10 am to 5 pm Sunday-Thursday. The exhibit will be mounted in the ground floor vestibule and lobby of the award-winning Spertus building, 610 South Michigan Avenue, and will expand to other areas of the building as it progresses. It will be augmented by an interactive media center on the 2nd floor, featuring clips of film and television recordings about Chicago Jewish life. In addition, visitors will be able to add their own personal stories of Jewish life to an interactive map of the Chicago area. This "memory map" will be accessible on-line and at Spertus.

A Celebration of Chicago's Jewish History will officially open the exhibition, Sunday, September 19, at 3 pm.

The public is invited to enjoy a special performance by the Maxwell St. Junior Klezmer Orchestra, featuring traditional instrumental and vocal klezmer music, along with behind-the-scenes commentary from Uncovered & Rediscovered curator Ilana Segal. Maxwell Street Klezmer Band founder Lori Lippitz will serve as emcee for this performance. Tickets for the exhibit opening are $18 ($10 for Spertus members, $8 for students) and are available online at www.spertus.edu or by phone at 312.322.1773.

The first chapter of the exhibit is Chicago's Jewish Pioneers. Running from September 19 through December 2, 2010, this section will focus on the mostly German Jewish immigrants who founded Chicago's first synagogue and other early institutions. Through materials from the Spertus collections it documents a poignant story of Chicagoan Abraham Kohn and his gift to President Abraham Lincoln (1861). A rare daguerreotype of Caroline Hamlin and Marcus Spiegel anchors the story about their relationship, which spurred Chicago's first Jewish conversion (1897).

The second chapter of Uncovered & Rediscovered will be called Paved in Gold? The Road to Maxwell Street. This section will run from December 16, 2010 through March 17, 2011, shining a light on the Jewish Eastern European immigrants who came in large numbers around the turn of the century. This section will feature stories of sweatshops and garment workers, Yiddish theater, and, of course, the Maxwell Street market. The third chapter, titled North, South, East, and West, will run from April 3 through September 15, 2011. It will highlight the stories of Jewish life in neighborhoods including West Rogers Park, South Shore, Logan Square, Albany Park, and Lawndale. Future sections will focus on stories around the development of Jewish institutions (including Michael Reese Hospital, the Jewish Federation, and the National Interreligious Task Force on Soviet Jewry), Jewish education (including stories of Hull House and of Herman and Maurice Spertus). The exhibit will continue with sections on Jews in public culture (with topics ranging from the Century of Progress to Leon Despres), a Jewish homeland (with materials ranging from early Zionist memorabilia to artwork created in support of a Jewish homeland in Birobijan, Russia), and Jews in arts and culture.

"Uncovered & Rediscovered is an exciting new initiative that is different from any exhibit that has been mounted here at Spertus," said curator Ilana Segal. "We have sought to illustrate the history of Chicago Jewry through individual stories. The exhibit treats history as living and breathing; inviting visitors to literally 'put themselves on the map' and be included, helping to form a dynamic, evolving record of Jewish life in the Windy City."

Ilana Segal, Spertus Curator of Collections, has a rich history researching and sharing collections of Judaica. In addition to her position at Spertus, Segal serves as Judaica Curator at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El (Highland Park) and as Judaica Curator at Central Synagogue (NY). In her capacity as a Judaica specialist, she has worked with Sotheby's (NY) on sales of important Judaica and Hebrew manuscripts and she has served as the Assistant to the Curator of Jewish Art at the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary (NY). She received an MA in Jewish Art and Material Culture from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and Columbia University, and a BA in Art History from Columbia University.

Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies is open Sunday-Thursday, 10 am-5 pm. (Spertus is closed Fridays & Saturdays). Admission to the exhibit-including the media center-is free. Visitors are encouraged to visit www.spertus.edu for a schedule of changing exhibit themes and related programming.

Spertus is located at 610 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago's South Loop. Discount parking is available for $10 with Spertus validation at the Essex Inn, two blocks south of Spertus at 8th Street and Michigan Avenue.

Uncovered & Rediscovered: Stories of Jewish Chicago
Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies
Opens Sunday
10am-5pm, Sun- Thursday
www.spertus.edu


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