Saul Alinsky - Early Life and Family

Early Life and Family

Alinsky was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1909 to Russian Jewish immigrant parents, the only surviving son of Benjamin Alinsky's marriage to his second wife, Sarah Tannenbaum Alinsky. Alinsky stated during an interview that his parents never became involved in the "new socialist movement." He added that they were "strict orthodox, their whole life revolved around work and synagogue ... I remember as a kid being told how important it was to study."

Because of his strict Jewish upbringing, he was asked whether he ever encountered antisemitism while growing up in Chicago. He replied, "it was so pervasive you didn't really even think about it; you just accepted it as a fact of life." He considered himself to be a devout Jew until the age of 12, after which time he began to fear that his parents would force him to become a rabbi. "I went through some pretty rapid withdrawal symptoms and kicked the habit ... But I'll tell you one thing about religious identity," he added. "Whenever anyone asks me my religion, I always say—and always will say—Jewish." At the same time, he was also an agnostic.

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