Saturday, February 21, 2015

PUSH National Headquarters - K.A.M. Temple
 by: chicago designslinger

 PUSH National Headquarters - K.A.M. Temple (1924) Newhouse & Bernham, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

About 50 years before Operation PUSH moved into this classically inspired, many columned building, the structure was home to Chicago's oldest Jewish congregation, Kehilath Anshe Maarav, or K.A.M. This was Kehilath's 3rd home in 30 years and wouldn't be their last, but that's another story for another day. Consecrated in 1924, architects Henry Newhouse and Felix Bernham purposely chose the non-denominational, institutional looking, Greek and Roman temple motif for their design. K.A.M. was a progressive, Reform congregation and most reformers didn't like to wear their religion on their sleeve.

  [PUSH National Headquarters - K.A.M. Temple, 930 E. 50th Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

By 1971 the demographics of the neighborhood around 50th and Drexel Boulevard were changing, and K.A.M. decided to merge with the nearby Isaiah Israel congregation, an idea first put forward in 1919. K.A.M.'s building didn't sit empty for long though, because in July, 1972 the Rev. Jesse Jackson's recently organized Operation PUSH purchased the temple for $200,000.

  [PUSH National Headquarters - K.A.M. Temple, Hyde Park - Kenwood National Historic District, Chicago  /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Jesse Jackson had been an advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, and started an outreach program in Chicago, called Operation Breadbasket, under the auspices of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, where King had once been president. After King's assassination in 1968, the Rev. Ralph Abernathy became the head of the SCLC and apparently he and Jackson didn't see eye to eye on the direction the organization should take in the wake of King's death. Jackson was advocating for a much more proactive stance in the fight for civil equality, including, if the need arose, civil disobedience. Jackson broke-off with the SCLC, and Operation Breadbasket became Operation PUSH (People United to Save [now Serve] Humanity). For the past 40 years, from their impressive headquarters at 50th & Drexel, the organization has worked to bring civil and economic parity to the disenfranchised around the world.

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