So, what’s the big deal about Skokie, Illinois, really? What is it that makes Skokie such a mensch?
Besides its name, believed to be related to the Algonquian word for fire, (which is pretty cool, considering Chicago means onion or garlic), or the fact that the Village of Skokie happened to be the first municipality in the United States to gain nationally accredited Police, Fire, Public Works and a Class-1 Fire Department.
Or that Skokie was named one of the fastest-growing suburbs in the U.S in 2003, by Money magazine, boasting about 64,000 residents and more than 240 acres of parkland. Not to mention that back in 1997, Skokie earned the National Gold Medal for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management, and still managed to keep her name on the board in 2009 as the recipient of the prestigious Distinguished Agency Award.
What’s the big deal?
Sure, ethnic, national, religious and linguistic diversity (and celebrating and defending that diversity) have always been everyday facts at the core of the Skokie experience, and true, these ethics permeate our book and are reflected in our wide, multicultural range of participants. And yes, in the 1970s and 80s, majority of people were largely 1st, 2nd, or 3rd-generation immigrants, either speaking another language in their home or studying their culture’s language at a separate school (such as a Hebrew school or the Japanese Futibaki school).
And it’s clear that Skokie has been home to Hindu children from India; Buddhist children from Japan, China, Korea, Burma, etc.; Orthodox Christian children from Greece, Armenia, etc.; Catholic children from the Philippines; and Jewish children from everywhere from Argentina and Cuba to Israel and, particularly, Russia. (The Village of Skokie became a well-known destination for many Refuseniks from the former Soviet Union.)
We know another notch of fame stems from the 1960s, when Skokie was the suburb of Chicago with the largest percentage of Jewish residents, where in the 1970s, one in every 6 Jewish residents was a Holocaust survivor or a relative of one (Strum, 2000).
This was so well-known that the American Nazi Party threatened to march through Skokie in full SS regalia in 1977, resulting in a legal challenge that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, portrayed in a TV movie, Skokie, starring Danny Kaye; and culminating in the cathartic, healing blessing of building a Holocaust Memorial statue outside the Village Library. Skokie survived the threat and stands strong, ultimately becoming host to the internationally recognized Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, which opened in 2009.
We already know that connectivity is at the core of Skokie. The village is located only 16 miles from Downtown Chicago, 3 miles from Lake Michigan, less than 10 miles from O’Hare International Airport, and the home to a 1.8 million-square-foot, open-air mall, known in the 80s as Old Orchard Mall, located right across from Niles North High School, which was depicted in one of the most memorable 80s movies of all time: Sixteen Candles.
Not to mention that same mall was referenced in the 2004 movie Mean Girls. Or that Jenny Schecter, a lead character in Showtime’s drama, The L Word, had to go home to Skokie and returned after an entire season (Skokie has a way of bringing its people back home to family.) And it’s no mystery that there are multiple mentions of a certain barbershop quartet in the best Film Noir of the 90s, the Oscar-winning The Usual Suspects.
So, what is the big deal about Skokie?
Skokie is our hometown. Niles North is our high school. And Old Orchard Shopping Mall (a.k.a. Westfield Old Orchard) is the center of our Universe.
We grew up in Skokie in the 80s. And we graduated Niles North in 1990.
And though we moved on in our lives to reside and work in other locations, we return, like birds that fly south for the winter, back to Skokie, to quench our thirst for home.
In 2009, we kick-started the heart of a new relationship book that is currently nearing the end of its development: The Dating GPS™: Guys, Pricks and Sweethearts. One might think that writing a book about understanding what it takes to create healthier love connections among people requires groups of doctors, therapists and high-end medical professionals to reflect every mental and emotional angle to tackle the world of love.
We say “Nay.”
Though we have very credible professionals for where proper guidance is essential, ~ 50% of our collaborators and contributors are everyday, local and genuine people.
Real words from real people, who have real connections and real successes; they fill the pages of our book.
And, to top off our relationship book’s beer with the right amount of froth, the hearts of many of our real contributors and collaborators beat to the sound of the same groovy drum: Sko-Kie! Sko-Kie! Sko-Kie!
Who are we talking about?
- Author: Anita Myers, Niles North Alum, Class of ’90
- Author: Alex Sukhoy, Niles North Alum, Class of ’90
- Male Panelist: Mr. Dave Tesnow, our Middleton grade school gym teacher
- Male Panelist: Omar Sotello, Niles North Alum, Class of ’89
- Male Panelist: Chuck Vasalos, Niles North Alum, Class of ’90
- Editor: Ellen Klowden, Niles North Alum, Class of ’87
- Graphic/Web Designer: Art Pagsuyoin, Niles North Alum, Class of ’90
- Content Contributor: Nicki Richter, Niles North Alum, Class of ’90
- Professional Legal Contributor: Melanie Klinghoffer, Niles North Alum, Class of ’90
- Writer/Professional Contributor: Tom Schaller, Niles North Alum, Class of ’88
When looking at the amazing collaboration, we almost think something ethereal happened between the class years of 1986 to 1990, because somehow, even after 20 years, and even when most of us now live in different parts of the United States, we’re collectively turning an idea into a resource book. A book that has, so far, gained nearly 450 Facebook fans supporting what we are doing and where this book needs to be: in the hands of every person who wants to gain a real and honest perspective on what it takes to have and keep love.
Our book heralds men and provides hope to women. It spotlights good men and extends a hand to women who are exhausted and hungry for love. And we do it all because we have the blueprint of Skokie, through its anchored family values, genuine cultural acceptance and ingrained work ethic. These traits, and so many others, are woven within the fabric of our character and fill the pages of our book.
Real people on the path to building real changes. We owe our thanks to Skokie, our wonderful mensch of a friend.
And that’s what the big deal is about Skokie, Illinois.
(Images & Research: Skokie.org, Google, Wikipedia, IMDb)