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Yeshurun is a Chicago story.

It’s a story of Jews building their North Side community while drawing upon their West Side roots. It’s a story of individuals and families, of lay leaders and rabbis, banding together to establish a shul where Jewish heritage and traditions will flourish – and be passed to the next generation. It’s a story of a Kehilla that grew into a community anchor and a bastion of Torah and Avodas Hashem.

The shul began, in 1970, as an experiment. Could a handful of families north of Touhy turn a run-down, leaky building into a welcoming makom tefilla? Could a minyan of men be rallied to form a reliable group for daily davening?

Yes, it could, they realized, but only with extraordinary amounts of devotion, perseverance, ingenuity, gumption, and good old elbow grease. The initial bumpy years, instead of discouraging the founders, just made them work harder. The more they overcame the closer it brought them together, and the firmer the foundation took hold. Congregation Adas Yeshurun, their shul, became a reality.

From its beginning, the shul placed great value on community involvement. The initial Yom Kippur appeals were to raise funds for the local schools. Charitable causes, both local and beyond, got the attention and support of the membership. Yomim Tovim and Simchas were opportunities to celebrate with the broader community. Shiurim and learning opportunities were open to all, and men and women from around the community happily partook.

A decade into Adas Yeshurun’s existence a significant milestone occurred. Anshe Kanesses Israel, an august West Side institution known as the “Russishe Shul,” merged with the young congregation, connecting it with over 100 years of Chicago history.

But the single most important move the shul would make would be in 1989 with the hiring of a dynamic yungerman from the Chicago Community Kollel by the name of Rabbi Zev Cohen. The Kehilla saw in Rabbi Cohen at that time, and in the more than 30 years since, a talmid chacham of the highest caliber and leader who motivates and inspires everyone around him. Rabbi Cohen’s personal mission statement would become the motto of the Shul: “Torah is the Ikur!”

Accordingly, in the period following Rabbi Cohen’s hire, Torah-programming additions and enhancements proliferated. In 1990 the Frumi Noble Night Kollel, in conjunction with HTC, was launched. At that time, structured weeknight Torah study was a novel idea in the community and this Night Kollel was one of the first of its kind. Soon after that, and driven by the learning programs’ success and popularity, the shul remodeled to create a Beis Medrash on its ground floor. This space allowed for more shiurim as well as additional minyanim, including a second minyan on Yomim Noraim.

In 1993 a Russian Jew walked into Yeshurun carrying the remnant of a Torah scroll that had been in his family for generations. The story the man told of the tribulations surrounding this piece of parchment captured the hearts and imaginations of the Rov and the shul membership, and a campaign was undertaken to write a new Sefer Torah that would incorporate this remnant and restore it to its rightful, holy place. Four years later the “Torah of Survival” was complete and an emotion-filled, community-wide Hachnosas Sefer Torah was held, making that Torah, and its story, and integral part of Yeshurun.

One of Yeshurun’s greatest Torah learning innovations and community contributions came in 1998 with the creation of the Choshen Mishpat Kollel. This unique Kollel, with its focus on monetary Halacha, cemented Yeshurun’s place as one the community’s most valuable Torah resources. Now, with the Choshen Mishpat Kollel as his anchor, Rabbi Cohen spent nearly his entire day in the walls of the shul to the great benefit of the shul membership and community at large.

As Yeshurun entered its 4th decade, it became apparent that a larger location was needed. With great effort by the shul’s lay leadership, and with great siyata d’shmaya, the perfect building was found – just one block away. In 2006, the building at 3050 Touhy was purchased and remodeled to accommodate the growing kehilla.

With a new, expansive, two-story main sanctuary, a large beis medrash, and multiple additional rooms for minyanim, shiurim and activities, the shul entered a new era of serving the membership and the community.

From early in the morning until late at night the shul is a non-stop bustling hive of Torah and Tefilla. It is a community center of ruchnius and achdus. It is not only the largest and most-utilized shul in the “Touhy corridor” but it is a destination for activities from across the city and a landmark of our Torah community.

As we celebrate 50 Years of Yeshurun we express gratitude to Hashem for bringing us to this point in our history. We remember all those who set the foundation and paved the path for our Kehilla as it stands today. We feel the pride of accomplishment coupled with the responsibility to build and shtieg further.

We look toward the future with great anticipation and enthusiasm and commit ourselves to writing the next great chapter of the Yeshurun Story.


Thu, May 23 2024 15 Iyar 5784