by Laura Weisskopf Bleill
When I moved to Champaign-Urbana to start my first newspaper job, it wasn’t without a hint of irony. As a senior in high school I had absolutely refused to even apply to the University of Illinois, and didn’t even come down for a college tour.
My job hunt came down to opportunities at newspapers in either Fort Wayne or Champaign. Believe me, there was really no contest. But it wasn’t until right before my wedding that I realized it was my destiny — or beshert, as the Yiddish term goes, to come here.
To understand why, I have to go back about 75 years. It was common knowledge that my maternal grandparents met at the University of Illinois, and so the story goes, they actually first interacted at what is now the Main Library. The legend goes that my grandmother asked my grandfather for a cigarette. He gave her one, even though he knew that she didn’t smoke.
She only spent one year at the University of Illinois campus, and had to drop out of school to take care of her ailing father’s business at home in Chicago. But their love lasted, and they were married shortly after my grandfather graduated in the late 1930s.
(To illustrate how long ago that was, the one time my grandmother visited here I realized that she had never seen the Illini Union in person — because it was built well after she left school.)
But what I didn’t know was the connection my parents had to C-U. How they met: my mom, who attended another Midwestern university was visiting her respective Greek house for a sorority walkout weekend at the University of Illinois. When it was time to go back to St. Louis, she accepted a ride from a guy who was dating her best friend, but whom she had never met. That guy is my dad. C-U, FTW (for the win)!
The concept of passing down teachings from generation to generation is a central theme in Judaism. Little did I realize how literal I had interpreted that when I chose a mate — or at least when I chose my geography.
My husband and I celebrated our anniversary last week. I didn’t watch the video (for an 897th time), but I know I told the three-generation story during my blubbery wedding speech. It’s been eight years since that night, and our Champaign-Urbana roots are deeper than ever.
Laura Weisskopf Bleill, a co-founder of chambanamoms.com, had not one but two horahs (Jewish circle dance) at her wedding. She writes “Being a Jew in C-U,” a column about being a Jewish suburban girl in a cornfield, on Thursdays. You can reach her at email@example.com.