By Pam DeFiglio
After remarks as inspiring as a Holocaust survivor urging tolerance to all religions and as prosaic as the results of a parking study, the Skokie village board at its Monday meeting gave the go-ahead for a small mosque at 4255 W. Main Street.
Khadija Husain, a Skokie resident, told the board that Syed Hussaini, 86, came to the United States, could not find work in his profession of engineering, and worked at O'Hare and saved his money for many years with the dream of opening a small mosque.
"We hope to be a vibrant part of the community and reach out to our neighbors," she said. It's being organized under the auspices of the Kaleemiah Foundation, which Syed Hussaini said loosely translates as "from Moses."
Paul Luke, chair of the village's Plan Commission, said plans call for a mosque used primarily for prayer about an hour per day, and one to two hours a day around the noon hour on Fridays. The capacity would be 60 worshippers.
It would have an office, a conference room and a snack room where employees would eat their lunches. Luke said there are no plans to host banquets or weddings.
A representative from Gewalt Hamilton Associates, which performs traffic engineering among other services, said a traffic study showed that at the midday hours in which worshippers would come to the mosque, there were 62 available parking spaces on Main Street from Kedvale to Kostner, and additional spaces on Kildare and Tripp, for a total of 128 spaces.
However, Howard Swibel, a trustee and member of the Illinois Holocaust Museum's board of trustees' executive committee, said that when the Holocaust museum moved in in 1986, there were no questions about parking--and sometimes busloads of people came for lectures.
When the Holocaust Museum decided the space was too small for its needs and moved out in 2008 to its current larger facility on Woods Drive, it hoped to sell the Main Street property--but six signed contracts fell through, he said.
He said some have asked whether it's appropriate for a Muslim institution to fill a space once occupied by Holocaust survivors, and responded that Fritzie Fritzshall, the museum's president and a Holocaust survivor, could not attend Monday's meeting, but her position was that "We don't all have to look alike, we don't all have to pray alike... but we need to care for our neighbors."
Swibel added, "We believe this is America and they should be given a chance."
He added the Holocaust Museum Foundation hope to close on the deal this week.