HIAS Chicago Celebrated its Centennial with Freedom Grove Planting
In honor of HIAS Chicago's Centennial milestone, a Freedom Grove of 100 trees was dedicated in Channel Runne Park in Lincolnwood on Thursday, June 21, 2012. Distinguished community leaders, Harvey Barnett and Igor Boguslavsky, were co-chairs of this special celebration.
"Trees are like immigrants who come to this country," said Suzanne Franklin, former Director of HIAS Chicago. "Their roots grow deep, they enrich the earth and they become tall and plentiful, a canopy that shelters us and makes our world stronger and more vibrant."
In homage to HIAS Chicago's origins on Maxwell Street, the Freedom Grove was dedicated at a community-wide celebration that transformed Channel Runne Park in Lincolnwood into a festive, open-air market. Thanks to the generosity of Danziger Kosher Catering, vendors dressed in outfits of the early 1900’s served kosher hotdogs, knishes, potato pancakes, pickles, olives, penny candy and other traditional street foods to the music of Tanya Melamed and the Melamed Jazz band. A popular Chicago musician and singer, Tanya Melamed was a client of HIAS Chicago who was happy to entertain the more than 250 guests, many of whom had also been resettled by HIAS Chicago over the decades.
An important part of its 100th Anniversary was the promoting of a three-year campaign to raise $2 million for the HIAS Chicago Endowment Foundation to ensure that HIAS Chicago will be able to continue its vital work for future generations to come. We are pleased to report that to date, $500,000 has been generously donated in honor of individuals and families whose immigration and resettlement in America was assisted by HIAS Chicago.
"One by one, family by family, HIAS Chicago has meant freedom for generations of immigrants," said Jeffrey Kriezelman, recent past president of the Board of Directors, whose own grandparents were brought to Chicago from Eastern Europe by HIAS. "As HIAS was there for my family, it is very important to ensure that HIAS Chicago stays strong for those who need us now and into the future.” Jeffrey’s father-in- law, the late Arthur Barbakoff, was on the HIAS Chicago board for more than 54 years. Now, Jeffrey proudly talks about his son-in-law, board member Justin Burton, as the third generation of family connected to HIAS Chicago.
HIAS Chicago asked the community to help make their own family's immigration story a chapter in its history. The agency continues to collect personal narratives of our community's history to pass on to future generations.
You can tell your own or your family's story on the HIAS Chicago website by clicking "Share Your Story".
Among the many stories that HIAS Chicago collected is that of Igor Boguslavsky. Igor is co-chair of HIAS Chicago's 100th Anniversary celebration, along with Harvey Barnett, a past JUF Chairman of the Board and leader of Operation Exodus, a major effort of JUF and its affiliated agencies to resettle more than 36,000 refugees from the Former Soviet Union.
With HIAS Chicago's help, Boguslavsky and his family came to the United States as refugees in the 1970s. As a young engineer, in his apartment closet on Belmont Avenue in Chicago, he started Belmont Trading Company recycling old computers and cell phones. Belmont Trading is now an international corporation headquartered in Northbrook, where most of its employees are immigrants from the Former Soviet Union.
"When my children and grandchildren go to visit the Freedom Grove, our journey to America will be remembered," said Igor Boguslavsky, one of 40 percent of the HIAS Chicago board made up of first generation immigrants helped by HIAS Chicago.
"HIAS Chicago has made a huge difference in my life," said Irena Persky, the new HIAS Chicago Board President, who emigrated with her family from the Former Soviet Union as a teenager. Irena shared with guests her story of perseverance and dedication. She came to Chicago with not a word of English, but with hard work and constant studies she was able to become a HIAS Chicago Undergraduate Scholarship winner in 1994 while attending Loyola University. Irena went on to become a Ph.D. psychologist and works at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Chicago. Irena adds “What a takeoff for the next 100 years of HIAS Chicago! What an amazingly meaningful, memorable, and successfully executed celebration we had on June 21st! Thank you to all who made it possible! Thank you for your vision, energy, effort - tremendous hard work, dedication, and support of HIAS Chicago.” In this centennial year, Irena exemplifies not only the value that immigrants bring to our country, but how important HIAS Chicago remains in the lives of immigrants and our community.
“Dear all,” said Richard Levenfeld, HIAS Chicago Board member, “frankly, I was not surprised by the success HIAS achieved yesterday. Suzanne, Harvey and Igor led a group that put every inch of their energy into this celebration and the success of the Freedom Grove. HIAS Chicago earned its terrific reputation over a very long period of time. It is a great deal to say that yesterday's celebration was a true tribute to HIAS Chicago. Cheers to all who made this happen and love to HIAS.”
Susan Wexler, Assistant Director, added, “HIAS Chicago’s 100th Anniversary celebration was a real tribute to the work of HIAS Chicago and to the immigrants and refugees who bring so much to our community. Thank you to everyone for helping to make our evening so special and for helping to ensure that HIAS Chicago will continue to be there for years to come.”
As guests toured the “Freedom Grove” and passed the commemorative plaque and centerpiece of the Grove, one father, who came as a refugee years ago, shared with his young daughter his own journey to America and how HIAS Chicago and our Jewish community had been there for his family. Although he came with only a suitcase, he said, he came feeling like he belonged to a bigger family! He talked about how he wants to bring his whole family back to this site to tell this story and, how he hopes when they grow older like him, this special place will help his family to always remember their roots!! What more can we ask for!
HIAS Chicago Director, Suzanne Franklin and our 100th leadership committee want to express a special thank you to the Marketing and PR committee for their outstanding accomplishments in promoting this celebration. “What makes our community, state and nation the shining example it is for the world, is its’ diversity and its’ immigrant roots. We are a country made up of a fabric of nationalities all woven together by this shared belief in making all things possible, of seeking our dreams and of finding a place to call home! Their combined newspapers, publications, radio stations and community events help so many in our community feel that positive connection,” said Franklin.
“Months ago we asked them to join with HIAS in reaching out to our Russian/English speaking community and come together in a collaborative effort to promote HIAS Chicago and the building of a “ Freedom Grove” in honor of the many contributions immigrants have given our community. They did that with pride, with collaboration and with great success!”
Members of the committee are:
100th Anniversary Marketing & P.R. Committee members:
Vlad Veren, Reklama ( Co Chair)
Igor Golubchik, Vashe Radio & Russian Chicago Magazine (Co Chair)
Faina Kravchenko, editor of Reklama
Aaron Cohen, JUF News
Igor Tsesarsky, Kontinent Media Group
Leonard Mogul, Kontinent Media Group
Ellen Ostrov, New Life Radio
Natasha Altman, New Life Radio
Irena Persky, HIAS Chicago Board President
Randy Felsenthal, Past president, HIAS Chicago
Maya Gumirov, HIAS Chicago Special Projects Coordinator
HIAS Chicago began as a seed 100 years ago. It has grown into a tree whose broad canopy has sheltered and nurtured thousands of individuals fleeing hardship and oppression. The great celebration of the HIAS Chicago Centennial proved once again that we as a community will keep our Jewish legacy alive. The Freedom Grove is our legacy and an honor to our family members and friends who made this country their home. May our Freedom Grove guarantee that, in another 100 years, a forest of hope and opportunity will still be here to serve those seeking safety and shelter in America.
Maya Gumirov, resettled by HIAS Chicago in1995
Suzanne Franklin, former HIAS Chicago Director
For more information about the HIAS Chicago’s 100th Anniversary Endowment campaign please contact: Jessica Schaffer, Director of HIAS Chicago at 312.357.4666 or JessicaSchaffer@jcfs.org.