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Of World’s Fairs, Cellphones and 10 Other Facts About Jewish Illinois

1) 297,885 Jews live in Illinois.

2) The first recorded Jewish resident in Illinois was John Hays who lived in Cahokia, near the Missouri border. He was a farmer, trader, and soldier, and served as St. Clair County’s postmaster until 1798, when he was appointed sheriff.

3) Music entrepreneur Sol Bloom developed the Midway Plaisance, the site of the 1893 world’s fair.

4) Current Mayor Rahm Emanuel is Chicago’s first Jewish mayor. Illinois’ first Jewish mayors served concurrently: William Eppinger of Jacksonville (1880-1890) and Morris Saddler in the town named for him (Saddler), from 1880-1886.

5) Illinois’ two Jewish governors were Henry Horner (1932-1939), and Samuel H. Shapiro of Kankakee, which is about 90 miles south of Chicago. Shapiro succeeded to the governorship after eight years as Illinois’ Lieutenant Governor but lost the election six months later.

6) In 1842, Abraham Jonas became Illinois’ first elected Jewish legislator; Jonas became a friend and confidant of Abraham Lincoln and both joined the new Republican Party in 1854. Jonas’s law partner, Henry Asbury, prodded Lincoln to run for the U.S. presidency. Jonas arranged the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debate in Quincy, Illinois, where he lived.

7) In 1917, Long before she became the fourth Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meir was a public librarian at the Douglas Park branch of the Chicago Public Library.

8) The 1995 film “Casino,” directed by Martin Scorsese, is based on the Las Vegas chapter of the life of Frank Lawrence “Lefty” Rosenthal (1929-2008), an eminent sports bettor from Chicago who in the 1950s would run the largest illegal bookmaking operation in the U.S. under the name of the Cicero Home Improvement Co., based in Cicero, Illinois.

9) The Anti-Defamation League was founded on September 13, 1923 by Sigmund Livingston as a committee of the Chicago B’nai B’rith. Livingston was also the author of the book “Must Men Hate?” which was intended to refute popular anti-Semitic myths.

10) On July 3, 1933, Jewish Day was celebrated at the Century of Progress world’s fair.

11) Two Chicago lawyers have served on the U.S. Supreme Court. The first was Arthur Goldberg, a prominent labor lawyer. He resigned from the court at President Lyndon Johnson’s request to become the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The other Supreme Court justice from Chicago is John Paul Stevens.

12) Chicago-born Jewish inventor Martin Cooper is credited with making the world’s first cellular telephone call in 1973.

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