Photo Credit: Baruch Lytle

When I set out for what I called a working vacation, I wasn’t completely sure where I was headed. I only knew that I was going through a very tough period in my life, mentally and emotionally, and it was affecting both my work and my spiritual life. My davening was beginning to feel hollow and my focus on my daily tasks and on my obligations at work were falling well below the standard I had set and kept my whole wonderful Jewish life up to this point. I had to admit I was going into a state of anxiety and depression, and I seemed to be spiraling downward fast.

Lucky for me, Hashem had blessed me with years of writing about this very subject and others just like it for the readers of The Jewish Press. I knew that with support and guidance and optimism I could get back on track, but I needed a safe place to focus on my health and a supportive community as well.


I recalled that last year I had spent a Shabbos in Chicago while enjoying a cross-country tour of America via Amtrak. The long trip required that I hop off and stay in Chicago so that I would not be in a vehicle during Shabbos. Back then, a dear friend in Williamsburg had recommended I call The Chicago Center – a large multipurpose Jewish center – and inquire about a place to stay for Shabbos. That Friday morning, to my amazement, I unlocked the door to a beautiful spacious two bedroom apartment, fully stocked with everything I needed for Shabbos and next to a welcoming shul just across the street. All of this at no financial obligation. (Of course, a donation is greatly appreciated.)

Perhaps they could come to my rescue this Shabbos as well? Indeed they could. Not only were they able to accommodate me, but they arranged for me to stay in their medical/ mental health residence for a few weeks.

The few weeks made a world of difference. I pursued treatment and utilized therapists from Jewish organizations in Chicago that helped me evaluate my needs and build a game plan to get back on track and stay healthy when I returned to New York. I was placed in a beautiful apartment at The Chicago Center – under their program Refuah 311 – once again fully stocked with food and Shabbos necessities and even a washer and dryer. I utilized the beautiful mikveh and davened across the street each day with renewed zeal at Chesed L’Avrohom, the shul and birthplace of The Chicago Center. I took part in the thriving kollel and re-engaged Gemara and Mishnah Berurah studies each evening. When not meeting with my therapists I got caught up on unwritten articles that had been piling up for weeks.

But most importantly, I was greeted and loved upon by a rabbi and community that were clearly the result of the heart-and-soul attention given to it by the Zidochover rebbes and organization over the years.

“We’re commemorating 100 years,” Rabbi Tzvi Bider, chief executive officer of the Chicago Center, told The Jewish Press. The Chicago Center is headed by the Eichenstein rabbonim and started by the zaidy of the present Rebbe – both named Rav Yehosua Heschel Eichenstein. “The zaidy of the present Rebbe moved to Chicago in 1922,” Bider said. “So we’re here for 100 years providing leadership to the entire Chicago community.”

The Zidochov-Eichenstein chasidic dynasty originated in Galicia, Poland. In the 1920s there was a big fire in their community and the Rebbe came to America to raise money. Jews from Chicago that formerly lived in Galicia seized the opportunity to encourage him to stay, convinced that he would make a great impression. “And he did,” Bider said. “Since then 100 years has passed and we’ve seen four generations of rabbinic leadership from the Eichenstein family, which in America is a rare thing – to have such a long history.”

The affiliated shul, Chesed L’Avrohom, is a diverse kehilla made up of almost equally Chassidish, Litvish and modern Orthodox Jews. “It’s been this way for many many years,” Bider said. “Rabbi Eichenstein had always spoken about being inclusive not exclusive.” Today, two of the present Rebbe’s sons play vital roles at The Chicago Center. The older son, Rav Pinchus Eichenstein, serves as the president of the organization, while the younger, Rav Zalman Eichenstein, as the Rav of the shul.

Bider said The Chicago Center has evolved over the century, and it began with the original Rav Yehosua Heschel Eichenstein’s shul on the West Side of Chicago. This shul quickly became a central location for the people in the community, always involved in Torah and chesed. After his passing, during the years of World War II, the current Rebbe’s parents continued what the previous generation had begun and were involved in hachnasas orchim and getting documents for people who were trying to leave Germany and Poland to save themselves.

Finally, the present Rebbe expanded on all the previous work done by his father and zaidy and created a center to provide for everything the Jews of Chicago should need “from cradle to the grave,” as Bider put it. “That was his vision,” Bider said, “Whether it’s refuah, advocacy and referrals, mental health, bikur cholim and many other areas of need, not to forget there is a beis medrash for Torah and tefillah. In all there are around 50 different programs we run to benefit the Chicago community.”

The mission of The Chicago Center is to help anyone in need – whether through referrals, advocacy, food or material goods – and to ensure the person has access to top notch healthcare and accommodations to get them through their journey. Bider said the organization is opening a medical center that will cover medical, dental and behavioral health services for the entire Chicago community with a goal of being fully functional by January 2023.

According to the Jewish United Fund (JUF), there are 319,600 Jews (175,800 households) living in Chicago. “We help thousands of families every year,” Bider said. “It’s hard to live in Chicago and not be affected in some way by The Chicago Center.” The Center has especially been impactful during Covid, providing during that time over 20,000 weekly meals, over 5,900 Shabbos meals, over 16,000 Covid tests; it has also given over 2400 medical referrals and provided mental health support for nearly 600 individuals since the pandemic began.

This November 20, there will be a gala event for the community to commemorate the 100 years of contributions of the Eichensten family to the Chicago community and to celebrate the growth of The Chicago Center.

“I have been here for 22 years,” Bider said, “I was inspired by the vision of helping the community. Our slogan at The Chicago Center is ‘the answer is yes,’ and we’ve been answering yes to the Jewish community for 100 years.”

The Chicago Center can be reached at 773-761-4005 and at


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Baruch Lytle is a Jewish Press staff writer.