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Chicago festival connects Jewish and Black history in one place of worship

Chicago festival connects Jewish and Black history in one place of worship
Chicago festival connects Jewish and Black history in one place of worship 02:26

CHICAGO (CBS) – A festival on the West Side celebrated the past, present and meshing of two communities.

Drive past the Stone Temple Baptist Church on Douglas Boulevard and see it. CBS 2's Noel Brennan went to check it out at the Chicago Sukkah Design Festival.

"No matter what you're going through, walking through here changes your whole perspective," said Pastor Reshorna Fitzpatrick.

Perspective is rarely permanent. It evolves like a Chicago neighborhood.

"The Lawndale area has a very special place in Jewish history and also Black history," Rabbi Reni Dickman said.

Two communities have a connection to a house of worship in North Lawndale.

"So it's directly across the street," Fitzpatrick said.

The church where Fitzpatrick serves as pastor used to be a synagogue.

"This neighborhood has been a place of refuge for both of our communities," Dickman.

Dickman can think of no better place to celebrate a holiday.

"On the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, we build these temporary dwellings," she said. "It's a celebration of the fall harvest and it's also a time to remember that our ancestors, our ancient ancestors, dwelled in temporary huts like this when they left Egypt."

But the goal in North Lawndale is to build structures and relationships that last.

"We are in James Stone Freedom Square, the site of the second annual Chicago Sukkah Design Festival," said Jonathan Kelley with Lawndale Pop-up Spot 

He connected community organizations and architects to create each sukkah.

"This is an effort to bring people together, to cross racial and cultural divides, to get to know people on a personal level," Kelley said.

Dickman added, "One of the goals of this festival is to deepen the relationship between the Jewish and Black communities."

"Seeing people come together, seeing communities come together," Fitzpatrick said.

After the holiday, each sukkah will be repurposed in Lawndale.

"One is going to become a place for meditation," Dickman said. "One is going to be a memorial to people lost to gun violence."

They'll become permanent spaces to share and celebrate perspectives.

"Now they can say 'We've got this beautiful space, Come and share it with us," Fitzpatrick said.

One sukkah will become a garden pergola. Another will become a rooftop place space and another will be a library for borrowing tools.

The public can visit the festival in North Lawndale at the corner of Douglas Boulevard and Millard Avenue through Oct. 15. 

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