Tradition That Lives in the Modern World
Originally established in the early 1950s, Congregation K.I.N.S. of West Rogers Park, located at 2800 W. North Shore, is a community of approximately 300 members actively engaged in Orthodox Jewish practice, study of the Torah, support of Israel and local community involvement.
During the immediate post-WWII period, still-undeveloped areas of West Ridge went through a period of rapid growth, and in the summer of 1951, ten families led by Maurice Aberman and Maurice Spilky felt the need for a new synagogue to serve adherents of Traditional Judaism. They founded the West Rogers Park Congregation, originally located in a rented double storefront at 2642 West Pratt Boulevard. The congregation hosted daily and Sabbath services, as well as a school and was granted its charter as a religious corporation in October 24, 1951. Through a door-to-door membership drive, the congregation grew quickly, setting out to construct a new building in March 1952. In September 1952, the synagogue held High Holiday services at its new sanctuary at 2800 West North Shore Avenue under the leadership of Rabbi Louis Levy and has served the community from this location ever since.
In 1954, Knesses Israel Nusach Sfard (K.I.N.S.), one of the oldest synagogues on the West Side of Chicago, sold its building at 1308 South Independence Boulevard in Lawndale and was looking to continue its name. Under the leadership of Rabbi Moses Mescheloff, the young congregation merged with the old, creating Congregation K.I.N.S. of West Rogers Park at the end of 1956, a story told in an episode of Curious City on Chicago’s public radio station, WBEZ-FM.
A Solid Foundation Built on the Strength of the Past
The merger resulted in an expanded youth program, an agreement with the Jewish Community Centers of Chicago and growth of the congregation’s community life. During this period, the synagogue’s Hebrew and Sunday schools, adult education classes, sisterhood and men’s club fostered a sense of belonging among members of the congregation, where they could also participate in traditional Jewish weddings, funerals, bar-mitzvahs and bat-mitzvahs.
Rabbi Mescheloff led the synagogue until 1981, when he became rabbi emeritus and Rabbi Paul S. Greenman became the religious leader. Around this time, Jewish life in West Rogers Park was vividly described by young author Adam Langer, who grew up nearby and whose first novel, Crossing California, portrays the neighborhood in 1979. Around this time, many longtime residents began moving to growing suburbs such as Skokie and Buffalo Grove, and declining membership created a fight for the congregation’s survival.
Evolving to Thrive Today and Tomorrow
In 1994, Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky was named to head the synagogue, which returned to its roots to serve a growing Orthodox community making its home in West Ridge. While continuing to serve the congregation, he also has taken an active role in the broader community as past president of both the Chicago Rabbinical Council and the Rabbinical Council of America and as Dean of nearby Ida Crown Jewish Academy.
Today, the congregation provides its families with opportunities to become fully involved in their faith and in the community, through charitable projects, social activities and religious practice.