Let’s step back in time to 150 years ago this month – June 1864.  

President Abraham Lincoln is running for re-election against George B. McClellan.  The civil war is still ongoing, with battles this month in West Virginia, Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi.  Arlington National Cemetery is established this month. In November, Lincoln will be re-elected with 25 states voting – votes were not counted from the 11 remaining southern states.  

Oak Park is a subdivision of Cicero.  The Great Chicago Fire won’t occur for another 7 years.  And in Chicago, public meetings were convened to establish the fourth Jewish congregation in the city.  About fifty men attended and established the Zion Congregation of West Chicago.  The first service will be held a few months later, on September 30, 1864.  This service will take place in a Baptist church in the west loop.

Now let’s jump forward 150 years to today.  We will kick off the celebration of our sesquicentennial year with our own High Holiday services this fall, to coincide with that first service 150 years ago.  We will begin the year with a special celebration at Rosh Hashanah and continue the celebration throughout the year 5775.

 We have a wealth of activities planned for the year, hopefully something for everyone.  There will be concerts and special lectures and visits,   In November Israeli singer-songwriter David Broza will perform a concert you won’t want to miss.  Also in November Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the URJ will join us for a Shabbat service.  In December, we will have scholar-in-residence weekends –  Gary Zola from the American Jewish Archives the first weekend and Rabbi Gerson and David Sokol presenting a series on the history and art of OPT the following weekend.

That’s just the  first few months!  Highlights for 2015 include Pajama Havdalah with ShirLaLa, Adult Meditation with Shira Klein, Jewish Lawndale Dinner, Oy Vey it’s a Purim Party, Cantors Concert, Bagel Boys Old Fashioned Breakfast, and a Sesquicentennial Formal Celebration.  

Make sure to visit 150.oakparktemple.com throughout the year for more information and to keep up on the various sesquicentennial celebrations. 

I wonder what those 50 men would think of us today if they could join us for some of these events?  Or if they could drop by for a Friday night service, a Saturday morning service, or hang out with us on a Sunday morning? I imagine they would be overwhelmed by the incredible atmosphere we’ve created here at Oak Park Temple. 

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