Skokie natives recall 1977 neo-Nazi march

Forty years ago, Anita Silvert and James Sherman were young college graduates watching as their hometown of Skokie made international headlines.

This summer, they're reliving those memories as they play pivotal roles in the upcoming Evanston revival of Sherman's 1985 play, "The God of Isaac," which centers around a neo-Nazi group's efforts in 1977 to stage a demonstration in the heavily Jewish suburb.

Sherman recalls that as a young man, he nearly got whiplash turning to watch TV one night when news anchor Walter Cronkite mentioned Skokie on the news. Until then, he said, "I never gave being Jewish much thought."

Silvert's father, Richard Salzman, was the village attorney who crafted an ordinance in the attempt to prevent the National Socialist Party of America from marching. The World War II veteran, she said, was conflicted over that act because it didn't fall in line with constitutional free-speech protections.

Salzman's argument that displaying the swastika was an act of hatred against Jews, and as such was unprotected by the First Amendment, ultimately was struck down by the courts. Amid years of court battles, the march in Skokie never took place, though there was one in Chicago.

One's Jewish identity

"The God of Isaac" looks at a second-generation American Jew's emotional processing of the neo-Nazi group's plans as he wonders just what his involvement should be. Silvert, now a teacher at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago, will play the role of the mother in the play, which Sherman wrote.

When the play was first performed years ago at Chicago's Victory Gardens Theater, Sherman says, many were shocked by the subject matter.

"I never imagined that 30 years later the questions raised would suddenly feel so resonant and topical," he said, pointing to recent hate crimes aimed at Jews and others.

The play will run from July 8 to Aug. 27, at Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St., Evanston. Tickets are available at

A practice run

Good luck to Naperville sailing aficionado Gary Kochanek, who this weekend will take part in the Chicago Area Sail Racing Association Long Distance Chicago to Waukegan 30-mile race on the 36.7-foot Beneteau Sail Monkey. It's the same boat Kochanek will sail less than a month later for the 26th time in the Chicago Yacht Club's Race to Mackinac, a 333-mile course that's the oldest freshwater distance race in the world. The retired Allstate executive has been sailing since the 1980s, carrying on the tradition of a close friend who taught him to sail and died young of leukemia.

Mercy tries again

Years after its proposal for a new hospital in Crystal Lake became ensnared in a kickback scheme involving former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and campaign fundraiser Stuart Levine, Mercy Health System is proposing a 13-bed micro hospital - the first of its kind in Illinois.

McHenry County Board Chair Jack Franks has spoken out in support of the facility, saying other hospitals are too far from Crystal Lake. But others - including the Rev. Nathaniel Edmond of Elgin - say hospitals in Elgin and Huntley have plenty of beds.

The proposal comes before the Illinois Facilities and Services Review Board at a June 20 meeting in Bolingbrook.

Levine was the chairman of the review board who had said he could get the Crystal Lake project done due to an expected campaign contribution from the hospital system. Mercy wasn't implicated in the scandal that ultimately sent the former Democratic governor - and Levine - to prison.

Health battle, not governor's bid, for Cohen

It's already a crowded Democratic primary field. But millionaire pawnbroker Scott Lee Cohen says he, too, was debating throwing his name into the ring for the 2018 governors race until a cancer diagnosis got in the way.

Cohen, of Chicago, famously withdrew his candidacy for lieutenant governor in 2010 under pressure from Democratic Party leaders who'd dredged up some unsavory episodes in his past, then made an unsuccessful bid for governor that same year as an independent. He told family and friends in a Facebook post in recent days that he had a bladder tumor removed, information he was sharing "because many people have asked about my intentions of running in the upcoming election."

Right now, he said, "I could not devote myself to this job ... There will come a time, the right time, to run again, this I am certain of."

Democratic candidates running against GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner currently include Highland Park state Rep. Scott Drury, state Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston, Madison County regional superintendent of schools Bob Daiber, community organizer Tio Hardiman of Chicago, Kenilworth businessman Chris Kennedy, Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar and Chicago billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker.

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Daily Herald File Photo, 1977Photos from an anti-Nazi rally outside the Skokie municipal building in May 1977.
Daily Herald File Photo, 1977Skokie residents protest a proposed Nazi rally outside the municipal building in Skokie, May 1977.
Daily Herald File Photo, 1977Skokie village attorneys unsuccessfully argued that hate was not protected under the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of free speech.
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