My Illinois hometown is in the news. My sleepy little village—where it seems that the lion's share of the village's municipal budget goes toward the upkeep of parks and recreational facilities, and the front page of the village website discusses the right way to get rid of your yard waste—made national headlines this week.

"Skokie Holocaust Museum Opens," "Thousands Turn Out for Grand Opening of Holocaust Museum," the headlines read. Yes, our little storefront Holocaust museum—where we used to take field trips to see faded family photographs donated by neighborhood families—has just moved into a multi-million dollar facility. Addressing the crowd were President Barack Obama (via videotape), former President Bill Clinton, and Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel.

This moment was a long time in the making. Skokie, a suburb of Chicago, has always had a strong Jewish presence. These streets are home to ever-growing numbers of synagogues, kosher bakeries and butchers. Thirty years ago, roughly 5,000 out of 70,000 Skokieans (or do you prefer Skokieites?) were survivors of the Holocaust, and the majority of the population was Jewish. In 1977, this meant that anti-Semitic bigots thought that our village would be a perfect platform for them to display their hateful rhetoric and cheap shiny boots.

As you can imagine, this did not go over very well with the residents of our village, be they Jewish or non-Jewish. Court hearings and national headlines followed, and our little village was plucked from suburban anonymity into the center of a swirling controversy. The entire ruckus concerned what would take place in a just few blocks, the downtown area containing the village hall, the library, some mom-and-pop hardware stores, and a historic firehouse. (The art school my siblings and I attended as kids is located there too.) And the Nazis never marched.

Local survivors mobilized to open the small store-front museum which I remember visiting as a fifth-grader, and their efforts culminated in the museum that opened just two days ago.

The Skokie Chabad Public Sukah
The Skokie Chabad Public Sukah

But I am also inspired for another reason. You see, at the center of that very same downtown where the neo-Nazis wanted to march, lies a small park containing a few benches and some lovely flowers, an oasis of calm in the middle of an already sleepy downtown. But twice a year, it livens up: For many years, Lubavitch Chabad of Skokie has arranged that on Chanukah there is a giant menorah presiding over the snow covered flowerbeds, and every Sukkot a beautiful paneled sukkah is erected in the center of the park, offering people the opportunity to shake the lulav and etrog and to have a quick bite.

The sukkah is quite an institution in town, and we have "regulars" who come every year to participate in the holiday celebrations. Little old ladies pushing wire shopping carts come by share their memories of the sukkah that Zayde would build in Russia, and mothers bring their kids to stand in the shade of the fragrant pine boughs, and I stand for hours each day welcoming them in and showing them how to say the blessings.

So the neo-Nazis have come and gone (my 8th grade teacher is convinced that she scared them off when she showed up with her son's baseball bat), but the sukkah and the menorah will remain forever!