Progress of a Suburban Jewish Community
Park Forest Revisited
Park Forest, a privately developed suburban new town located some thirty miles south of Chicago, started off with its first tenants in the summer of 1948. In the beginning the project consisted of “garden apartments” designed for people with middle-class incomes; most of the tenants were under thirty-five and few even of the wives lacked some sort of a college education.
I had made a study of the Jewish community of Park Forest—which by the middle of 1949 comprised about 150 out of a total of 1,800 families—and in the April 1951 issue of COMMENTARY I described its first fourteen months of existence. In this initial period the Jewish families, though scattered throughout the length and breadth of the project, had had no trouble in finding one another and, following rounds of exploratory parties, had begun to form circles of friends and acquaintances. From among these circles, people with a bent for organizing had set up first a B’nai B’rith lodge and, shortly thereafter, a chapter of the Council of Jewish Women. Then the leaders of the two clubs had begun to meet to discuss the possibility of establishing a congregation. However, their first session indicated that the Jewish community felt its most pressing need to be the Jewish education of their children. While one group, mainly composed of men, wanted to found a synagogue with a Sunday school attached, another, made up mainly of women, rejected the congregation and insisted on a Sunday school alone for the children. After months of meetings and discussions, the latter course was adopted.
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