A small number of Jews settled in the south suburbs a century ago, but the initial significant influx was sparked by the building of Park Forest. One of the first and most acclaimed post-World War II planned communities in the country, it targeted returning veterans as potential buyers.
A later migration to the region took place in the mid-1970s as numbers of Jews moved from Chicago's south side and other areas to south suburban communities like Homewood, Flossmoor, Olympia Fields, Hazel Crest and Glenwood.
Today, the region is home to a relatively small but active Jewish community, attracted by affordable housing, award-winning schools and outstanding park districts. Residents describe the area close and warm. Major highways provide accessibility to other suburban areas and Chicago and the Metra rail system serves commuter needs.
For nearly three decades, the Anita M. Stone Jewish Community Center in Flossmoor has been serving residents of 12 south suburban communities with a full-range of programs accommodating social, educational and recreational needs for children and adults of all ages. Three Jewish Federation agencies, Jewish Children's Bureau, Jewish Vocational Service and Jewish Family and Community Service, provide service through a south suburban office in Hazelcrest.
Six years ago, in response to a community-wide Priority Study, the Federation opened a south suburban office to provide referral services and work with Federation and area service organizations to assess needs and coordinate service delivery. The Federation and Stone JCC are also part of the Cooperative Jewish Council, which enables participating organizations to provide services more efficiently and to strengthen the south suburban Jewish community.
Much of the area's Jewish life centers around its active, vital congregations, which offer religious schools and adult education programs.