Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation was founded nearly 120 years ago on Jewish Chicago's famed Maxwell Street. Our present building, built more than three quarters of a century ago, is our third home. In the late 1940's we constructed a large religious school building adjacent to the Synagogue, creating a complex that was able to serve a significant Jewish population. In the 1950's, Agudas Achim had a High Holy Day attendance approaching three thousand with a youth service held at a local movie theatre!
It's builders, in the main, were successful in business and the professions and were committed to constructing a functional as well as aesthetically pleasing building. Their affluence allowed them to build one of the most beautiful Synagogues ever constructed in Chicago. Costing nearly $400,000 to construct (in the millions of dollars if built today), the Synagogue houses a Sanctuary which can accommodate nearly 2,000 individuals on permanent pews, as well as a social hall, office space, a Chapel and classrooms. Today, Agudas Achim is the last example of the classical Cathedral Synagogue extant as a Jewish house of worship in Greater Chicago.
Tragically, as the community changed and the Jewish population dissipated (1960-1980), poverty and diminished membership plagued Agudas Achim. The growing crime and destruction in Uptown translated into numerous anti-Semitic attacks on the structure. Exquisite stained glass windows were smashed and the building was broken into on many occasions, the perpetrators leaving further decimation in their wake. The handful of elderly supporting the Congregation was no match for the double edged sword of poverty and vandalism. The result - this once magnificent structure suffered severe damage. A roof in terrible disrepair and a broken heating system further contributed to the destruction of this once magnificent Synagogue.
Today, Agudas Achim stands tarnished yet unbowed. Structurally sound, this more than three quarters of a century old building needs a great deal of repair to make it fully functional. Its functionality is essential to respond to the needs of a large population numbering in the thousands, living at or slightly above the poverty level, who desperately need a center to meet their religious, cultural, social and medical needs. Unlike other majestic buildings of the past, Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation is once again a functioning Synagogue. Its congregants, mostly seniors from the former Soviet Union, require a full array of support activities. In adition to this large population, the advent of gentrification in Uptown augers well for the infusion of young Jewish families into our Congregation. Agudas Achim must muster its every strength to meet the challenges of the 21st century.