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Historic places of worship need funding to preserve their landmark architecture

At KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation, we had to put off maintenance to our historic structure until it could be delayed no longer. Raising funds for landmarks preservation is difficult.

KAM (Kehilath Anshe Maarav) Isaiah Israel, located at 5080 S. Greenwood Ave. in the Hyde Park neighborhood, is seen in this photo Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 14, 2020.
KAM Isaiah Israel, located in Hyde Park, Oct. 14, 2020. Historic houses of worship have few options to obtain funding for landmarks preservation, the president of the congregation writes.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

I have the honor of serving as president of KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation, where a nearly century-old landmark building in Hyde Park is our home. Because of this, I read the Sun-Times’ recent editorial discussing efforts to embrace and preserve historic houses of worship with great interest.

I appreciated that you highlighted how delays in maintenance to historic buildings can have dire consequences. Unfortunately, those delays are often necessary, as raising funds for preservation of historic houses of worship is particularly difficult. Many lenders will not provide loans to religious groups, especially where the collateral is primarily or exclusively a landmarked structure and, unfortunately, there are not many other options. For us, these issues meant that we put off maintenance on our awe-inspiring sanctuary until it could be delayed no longer, as Chicago weather further exacerbated damage to the building to the point that bricks were coming loose.

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Though this means there is much work to do — and more than there might have been had we been able to address it earlier — we are fortunate to have begun to address these issues.

And so, as we join the Sun-Times in applauding the use of landmark status to protect historic houses of worship, we suggest that consideration also be given to how to help those institutions access funds to maintain their historic structures. Such funding is important because, as you rightly note, historic houses of worship can play a significant role in assisting communities to appreciate and further the beauty within their midst.

In addition to worship, these historic buildings have and will provide spaces for communities to educate future generations, train leaders, organize people to pursue just causes, and so much more. Preserving historic houses of worship helps make sure those important activities can continue in and be enriched by spaces that tell the history of these communities and of our city.

Max Stein, president, KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation

Texas, Chicago and a big snowstorm

The wife and I pulled up stakes in Chicago about five years ago, mostly to beat the cold and snow. Sunny Florida beckoned until the hurricane seasons.

After years of abandoning our Florida paradise nest and high-tailing it to stay with family in Atlanta, plus the fact Hurricane Michael just missed us by a mere give miles, we fled again. Now we are in Austin, Texas. The last few days here in the Texas capital was like nothing the locals have ever experienced before. Five-degree temperatures, six inches of snow and no power literally brought the Texas capital to a standstill. No salt and no snow removing equipment for these Texans. Why, they just close down the highways, and you’re on your own. No snow shovels, and what the heck is “dibs”? They wait till the snow melts.

It is with great pride that I read that Chicago has just had another massive snowstorm and single-digit temperatures. No big deal — the roads are open, the snow is being shoveled and life goes on.

Of all the knocks that Chicago takes, one thing is for certain — those intrepid folks in those snow plows and the rest of the indefatigable Chicagoans have made us proud we once lived among you.

The City of Big Shoulders Indeed.

Bob Angone, Austin, Texas