Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois

"From Babylon to Skokie: A Short History of Ashkenazim" by Ron Grossman

  • 26 Jan 2014
  • 12:30 PM
  • Temple Beth Israel, 3601 Dempster, Skokie
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Program starts 2:00 p.m

"From Babylon to Skokie: A Short History of Ashkenazim" will be the topic of a presentation by journalist and former history professor Ron Grossman at the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois meeting on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014. His talk will begin at 2 p.m. at Temple Beth Israel, 3601 W. Dempster St., Skokie.

Grossman, a Chicago Tribune reporter, explains that Ashkenazim, the term referring to Eastern European Jews, is derived from the Hebrew word for Germany. He will outline their development and movement through Europe.
“Their language, Yiddish, was formed along the Rhine River and had its Golden Age in Eastern Europe,” Grossman says. “Pogroms and poverty brought millions to the United States, where neighborhoods like Lawndale were Yiddish-speaking enclaves by the middle of the 20th century. To German-Jewish Americans, they seemed like peasants, not anyone a yekee (German Jew) would want his daughter to marry. Now they live side-by-side with German Jews and gentiles on tree-lined streets of the North Shore,” he says.
Grossman was raised in the Albany Park neighborhood of Chicago by parents whose parents came from Bialystok, Poland.  At age 6, he was registered in cheder, where he learned a Yiddish-inflected Hebrew and prayers according to minhag (customs) of the Ashkenazim.  His bar mitzvah ceremony took place in a storefront synagogue and he went to Lane Technical High Schoolundefinedat the urging of parents who'd seen an engineer uncle able to find work in the Depression.  The two familiesundefinedhe and his parents, the uncle, an aunt and their daughterundefinedshared a one-bedroom apartment.  He dropped out of architecture school to attend the College of the University of Chicago, and stayed on for a PhD in ancient and medieval history.
Before turning to journalism, he was a professor at several universities.  A staff writer at the Chicago Tribune since 1986, he's written about Jewish topics from datelines in this country and Israel. He's the author of "A Guide to Chicago's Neighborhoods." His map of the Chicago ethnic neighborhoods is considered authoritative by scholars and government officials.
The JGSI meeting facilities at Temple Beth Israel will open at 12:30 p.m. to accommodate members who want to use or borrow genealogy library materials, get help with genealogy websites on the Internet, or ask genealogical questions before the main program begins. For more information, visit or phone 312-666-0100.

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