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What’s That Building? The Suburban Mosque With Englewood Roots

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The Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview.

The Mosque Foundation in southwest suburban Bridgeview, founded by Palestinian immigrants in 1954, is among the larger mosques and Muslim community centers in the Chicago area. (WBEZ photo)

Jason Marck

Every week, about 4,000 people flood into the Mosque Foundation to pray. The three-level building sits two blocks west of busy Harlem Avenue in southwest suburban Bridgeview.

The Mosque Foundation has been in Bridgeview since 1981, but its roots in Englewood date back to the early 1950s, according to Crain’s Chicago Business real estatereporter Dennis Rodkin, who joined Morning Shift with some insight into the building’s history.

 The main men's prayer room in the Mosque Foundation. (Jason Marck/WBEZ)

It’s one of the Chicago area’s largest mosques, but it’s not the oldest

There are about 50 mosques in the Chicago region, and the Mosque Foundation is among the biggest. Many of the schools, homes and businesses that surround it were built by members of the Mosque, some of which have the shahada (the Muslim profession of faith) carved into their walls. When the mosque was completed in 1981, about 75 people came to Friday prayers. Now, around 4,000 people pray on the mosque’s three levels every week.

But the Mosque Foundation is not the oldest mosque in the area — that title goes to the Al-Sadiq mosque, built in 1922 at 45th Street and Wabash Avenue in Chicago.

The view through one of the domes in the Mosque Foundation. (Jason Marck/WBEZ)

The Mosque Foundation started with 30 families praying in an Englewood storefront

When Palestinian immigrants started arriving in Chicago in the early 1900s, many settled in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, Rodkin said. By the 1950s, about 30 families in Englewood decided to form the Mosque Foundation and worshipped together in a rented storefront. Two decades later, they started looking for land to build a mosque and settled on a parcel they could afford in an industrial area of 93rd Street in Bridgeview.

People make the move to Bridgeview for the mosque

The Mosque Foundation’s membership is still heavily Palestinian, but also includes Syrians, Yemenis, Jordanians and Iraqis, according to the mosque’s president, Ousama Jammal. Over the years, many of them have relocated in order to live near the mosque and the surrounding facilities. Jammal himself is an example: he lived and worked in Aurora, but drove to Bridgeview to pray and attend other mosque activities. When he and his wife had school-aged children, they moved to Bridgeview to be near the Al-Siddiq School next door to the mosque.

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