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June 29, 1984 - Image 17

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-06-29

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Friday, June 29, 1984 17
' i= 3 r
"aitierlding servigd.
L
The synagogue, which' was
founded in 1934 as the Isaac Agree
Downtown Synagogue, still- gets its
share of downtown employees for
Kaddish, "but we used to have more
in the way of social activities," Rabbi
Gamze said. Membership peaked at
about 700 in the mid-1970s and is
currently 535. However, those fig-
ures are misleading according to the
rabbi, since most members make
only the minimum 885 yearly dona-
tion and almost never come down-
town.
"I guess they just like the idea of
perpetuating a place of worship down
here, even though they never use it
themselves," the rabbi said.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Dorothy Hertzberg feeds the ducks in,Palmer Park during a picnic outing planned by JVS volunteers.



Hazelwood. (The foster care business
may have been the only "industry" in
Detroit which didn't suffer during
the recent recession. Inner-city
neighborhoods are often marked by
four or five such homes within a few
square miles.)
Rose has lived in Detroit her
entire life. She has spent portions of
her 71 years on Dexter, Blaine and
Gladstone — all neighborhoods that,
like Rose, have seen better times. In
lieu of a Jewish Community Center,
Rose attends classes and activities at
a former one — the Considine Rec-
reation Center on nearby Woodward
Ave. When she can get a lift, she
attends Shabbat services at the
Downtown Synagogue.

Ethel grew up in Russia and
came to Detroit in the early 1920s.
She is quiet and reserved, keeping to
herself while Rose monopolizes the
conversation with talk about her as-
sorted illnesses. "They're nice people
here," Ethel says of those who take
care of her at the L and L. But then,
Ethel gives -the impression that she
would enjoy life anywhere where the
other people just let her be.
Curtis Dennis has been a Jew by
choice for almost nine years. Con-
verted by Rabbi Noah Gamze of the
Downtown Synagogue, Dennis takes
the bus from his home on Mack to
attend services each morning. He
was drawn to the synagogue by Ab-
raham Hall, a congregation member
who, like Dennis, has Ethiopian
Jewish roots._
"I already had Jewish pebple in
my family, "Dennis said, outlining
his Falasha background. "But there
was a lot of inter-marriage, so there
were some doubts (among members
of the congregation) about the au-
thenticity of my Jewishness.
"I felt like I needed to do some-
thing to reaffirm my sense of religion
and to avoid any problems witkbeing
accepted for the minyan by the other
members, so I went ahead and made
•,
t „,, ) 3 ,

situations is one thing which sets his
congregation members apart from
others, Rabbi Gamze feels, even
though the Downtown Synagogue's
role has changed drastically in recent
years.
"The main purpose in founding
this synagogue was to give mourners
a place to come to and recite Kad-
dish," the rabbi said. Now, with fewer
people living inside the city limits
and more Jews working in the sub-
urbs as opposed to downtown, the
synagogue, which is located on Gris-
wold, serves as _a place where the dis-
advantaged can feel comfortable

things official by going through with
the conversion."
Dennis, who is in his late 20s,
was born in Detroit but floated
around the Midwest before returning
home in the early 1970s, just in time
for the job squeeze he noted sorrow-
fully:After losing his position as an
ice cream vendor in 1980, he survived
by finding various odd jobs. Dennis
has worked as a roofer, a handyman
and even a personal aid to fellow con-
gregant Schwartz, who recently
broke his hip. _
That willingness to help each
other out when they are' n difficult

Ambassador Convalescent Cen-
ter resident Dorothy Hertzberg says
she wouldn't mind getting out of the
city. In fact, she says, she would like
to apply for a Federation-subsidized
apartment at the new Hechtman
complex opposite the Jewish Com-
munity Center in West Bloomfield.
But the more she seems to think
about moving, the less attractive the
idea becomes. Nagging doubts and
the insecurity involved in leaving
her roots at this point in life begin to
surface.
"I've spent my entire life, all 64
years, in Detroit," Ms. Hertzberg
said. "I'm not ready to throw in the
towel. Besides, this place (the Am-
bassador) isn't so bad . . . except for'
the food. It's better than living at
Borman Hall (Jewish Home for
Aged) anyway. That's for people who
are going to die."

Why do so many of the disadvan-
taged choose to remain in the city
when programs like Project Out-
reach offer a ticket out? Pride, and
the fear of leaving familiar surround-
ings for someplace unknown are ter-
ribly tough obstacles to overcome, ac-
cording to Mrs. Menczer.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF PARTY

The luncheon fare consisted of
salami sandwiches and potato salad.
There was coffee and plain yellow
cake for dessert. All-in-all, it was
your basic, blue-collar, .picnic-style
lunch.
But the group of about 35 disad-
vantaged Detroit Jews attending a
special Israel Independence Day cel-
ebration last month savored their
food as if they were dining at La
Marmite or the London Chop House,
and not the Morris Branch of the
Jewish Community Center. Surviv-
ing another bone-chilling, inner-city
winter in a poorly-heated foster care '
hope or a damp, drafty flat makes it
easier to appreciate simple pleas-
ures, like salami sandwiches.
The JVS Project Outreach pro-
gram sponsors six of these get-
togethers each year for the enclave of
mostly elderly, isolated Jews who
remain in Detroit. In addition to the
Independence Day program, there

,

,

are gatherings for Rosh Hashanah,
Succot, Chanukah, Purim and a
summer picnic each July.
For the Yom Ha'Atzmaut lunch-
eon, JVS volunteers decorated the
tables with blue and white streamers
and placed a miniature, Israeli flag
on each plate.
Sometimes these people make
friends at the programs, but often
they do not, Project Outreach Direc-
tor Faye Menczer said of the De-
troiters who attend the gatherings.
"However, just the chance for them to
be in a Jewish environment for an
afternoon. is something that they
desperately need."
Leonora Socia, the only Jewish
resident among 200 people at the St.
Martin De Porres Nursing Home on
the city's East Side, finds both com-
fort and companionship at the JVS
programs. Growing up in St. Clair
Shores did not "put me in the center
of things, from a Jewish standpoint,"

Mrs. Socia admits. "But being
younger, I could search out those ac-
tivities I was interested in. Now, I
feel separated, cut off, from the
Jewish community. So I come to
these events whenever I can."
For the group activities, a bus is
furnished by JVS. But most of the
Project Outreach contact with these
city residents is provided by volun-
teera, who visit the Detroiters on a
monthly, or even weekly basis. The
JVS volunteers, who are called VIPs
(Volunteers for Isolated People),
often take several city residents from
the same neighborhood along on the
same outing, creating an additional
outlet for socializing with other Jews
coming from similar backgrounds.



Those interested in becoming a
Jewish Vocational Service VIP may
contact Faye Menczer, at the JVS
office, 833-8100.

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