Guide to Jewish Genealogy in Chicagoland

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Life in Jewish Chicago

"Life in Jewish Chicago" helps delve into the lives of our ancestors in the Jewish communities of Chicago. It is a guide to the historic institutions which our ancestors participated in. As you locate materials, try to picture what life was like. A history of the Jews of Chicago can be found on the website of the Spertus Institute.

The following record types will aid you in painting this picture:

Organizations
Jewish Newspapers & Periodicals
Synagogue Records
Personal Collections & Oral Histories
The "Old" Neighborhood

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Organizations
   

The best source of information about the organizations, especially the landsmanshaften, is Bridges to an American City:  A Guide to Chicago Landsmanshaften, 1870 to 1990. This book by Sidney Sorkin contains a comprehensive directory of Chicago groups including date founded, home country, officers, and other information. Also included is an index of over 2600 individuals mentioned in the book. The book is out of print and can be found in the Skokie Library.

The Chicago Jewish Archives has collected information and records from many organizations including such groups as:

Akiba Schechter Jewish Day School
American Jewish Congress. Chicago Division Records, 1930-1986
American Woman's ORT, Chicago Region, 1966-1983
Chicago Home for Jewish Orphans

And many, many more, ...

For a current list go directly to the Chicago Jewish Archives website.

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Jewish Newspapers & Periodicals

Over 500 different Jewish newspapers & periodicals have been published here over the years. These publications contain news of people active in the Jewish community.  The following periodicals are available at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Study in the Asher Library.

Advocate (later called Reform Advocate) published in English from 1891-1946 was the voice of Reform Jewry.

Daily Jewish Courier in Yiddish from before 1893 until 1944 was the voice of Orthodox Jewry.

Sentinel in English 1911-1996

Forward in Yiddish 1920-1953 was the voice of Socialist and Secular Jews.

Other periodicals available include Israelitishe Presse (first Yiddish publication 1877), Chicago Yiddish Tageblatt, Daily Jewish Courier, Occident, The Jewish Advance, The Maccabean, The Chicago Jewish Forum, and The Jewish Way.

For complete details you can browse the online catalog of:

Spertus Institute of Jewish Study

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Synagogue Records

The most comprehensive collection of synagogue records is housed at the Chicago Jewish Archives. Their collection included over 120 synagogues with each collection varying from one folder to over 20 boxes of materials. Below you will see the start of the list of synagogues included. Please consult the website and call their office if you are looking for a specific synagogue.

Adas Shalom (Dempster)
(Cong.) Adas Jeshurun
Agudath-Achim Bikur Cholim
Agudas Achim North Shore (First Hungarian Cong.)
Agudath Jacob (Evanston)
Ahavas Israel
Aitz Hayim Center for Jewish Living (Highland Park)
Albany Park Hebrew Congreg.
Am Echad (Park Forest)
Am Echod (E. 83rd St.)
Am Echod (Waukegan)
(Cong. ) Am Shalom (Glencoe)
Am Yisrael

There is a collection of 526 marriages from Sinai Congregation which is posted on Jewishgen at http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/USA/sinai.htm.
These records are from 1861-1905.
If the synagogue is still operating it is always a good idea to just call them and see what they have in their own archives. You might also ask them to check their memorial boards to see if any plaques were dedicated for your ancestors.

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Personal Collections & Oral Histories

The best set of personal collections and oral histories can be found at the Chicago Jewish Archives. It is best to first browse their website to see if there is something that might pertain to your family.

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The "Old" Neighborhood

Many books have been written about the history of the Jews of Chicago. The two most important books are:

Meites, H.L.. History of the Jews of Chicago.  (Reprinted 1990, originally published in 1924 by Jewish Historical Society of Illinois)

Cutler, Irving. The Jews of Chicago: From Shtetl to Suburb.  (University of Illinois Press, 1996)

The Meites book has been reprinted by the Chicago Jewish Historical Society and can purchased directly from them.  The Cutler book is available at the Spertus book store as well as other book stores.

For a complete listing of books about the history of Jewish Chicago see the Reference Materials on this website.

Every year tours of Jewish Chicago are run by Dawn Schuman Institute and also the Chicago Jewish Historical Society.

 

 

                  

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Guide to Jewish Genealogy in Chicagoland 
Copyright 2004-2014 by Mike Karsen

Last update:19 July 2014