Makom Shalom was founded in 1991 by Rabbi Allen Secher, based on a vision of Judaism infused with spirituality and spiritual meaning. Initially, Makom was a "havurah," a group of about ten people who met monthly in members' homes. Makom Shalom in Hebrew means "Home of Peace."
In 1993 it incorporated and found an ideal home at Grace Place reflecting Makom's commitment to coexistence with other religious traditions and to Jewish spiritual renewal, creatively updating traditional religious practices and making them more meaningful and relevant.
The warm Jewish renewal congregation's services and activities are accessible to everyone regardless of their knowledge of Judaism or Hebrew. Interfaith couples and their families feel at home and welcome at Makom. And Makom's members are actively involved in Tikkun Olam, healing the world and the community. Our Rabbi Chava Bahle is with us 1 or more times a month, and we have lay led services and other programming that create a rich and lively environment. For the most part, we meet, the 2nd and 4th friday of each month at Epiphany UCC, 2008 W. Bradley Place (in the Church community room off of the west courtyard). Please check the schedule page for current programming dates and locations.
A few words about our beloved Podivin Torah
The Podivin Torah – Makom Shalom’s beloved Holocaust Torah – was scribed at the turn of the century and belonged to a synagogue that was built in 1630 in Podivin. Podivin was a town on the Austrian-Czechoslovakian border and home to a small Jewish community when World Word II began. We know of only 14 survivors; the rest were forced onto a train bound for Terezin Concentration Camp. This Torah was their history and their heritage; it was and is the story of the ancestors of all the Jewish People.
From 1946 to 1965, this Torah resided in a synagogue basement in Prague with over 1,500 other rescued scrolls. It is one of an elite corps of Torah Scrolls distributed throughout the world that carry the message of redemption and renewal in memory of those who perished.
In 1996, Makom Shalom’s founding rabbi, Allen Secher, brought this Torah home to Chicago. Even though it was covered in humble brown wrapping paper, several people remarked that Rabbi Allen must be holding a Torah as he carried it through Heathrow Airport.
The Torah was joyously welcomed to Chicago by a Klezmer parade down Dearborn Street, and under a huppah. A year later, Makom Shalom dedicated the Torah while being honored by a visit from Podivan’s last Jewish survivor.
The Torah’s restoration was a community-wide effort and included donors of many different faiths. Its mantle is brown on the outside to resemble the wrapping paper it was covered in for so many years. Woven into the fabric is a worn tallit that once also covered the Torah. Embroidered hands forever hug the Torah and vibrant leaves for each donor hang from an embroidered Tree of Life.
The plain brown cover of our Torah reminds us to look beyond the surface when studying the Torah. It also serves as an inspiration to look beneath the surface with each other, including practicing extended mishpocha and finding the love and talent in each of us to sustain our community.