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August 31, 1984 - Image 41

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-08-31

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

dynamism of the culture extended
beyond my expectations."
Pollack was born 42 years ago in
Ludington, a town of 10,000 people
on the shore of Lake Michigan. There
was a Jewish community of perhaps
two dozen families, she recalls, too
small to maintain a synagogue or
other Jewish institutions. Her father
was a butcher and grocer. Her grand-
father, who came to America from
Russia, had been a cattle dealer.
The town was composed primar-
ily of Germans, Scandinavians and
Poles. "Except for my brother and sis-
ter, there were no other Jewish chil-
dren in school," she remembers "So I
had a strong sense of being a minor-
ity, a sense that I was different, and
that this would obligate me in a spe-
cial way.

"My parents imparted a strong
sense of identity, but I associate it
primarily with the ethical values of
Judaism and with the sense of fam-
ily. Judaism gives shape and mean;
ing to family life. For me, personally,
that has sufficed. My identity as a
Jew is unambiguous. It involves liv-
ing a life dedicated to good works."
Pollack recalls with a bit of dis-
comfort that her 'parents told their
children that "we were the example
in Ludington — if we failed, it would
reflect upon all Jews. So we didn't
fail!" From them, she also picked up
her liberal ideology.
She can only recollect one small
incidence of anti-Semitism when
growing up. "One day in the third
grade, one kid said, 'You killed Jesus
Christ.' I ,replied that I wasn't even

born then! In general, though, even
as I felt different; I didn't feel
threatened. My parents were well
liked, and it was a very comfortable
community."
She left Ludington in 1960 to
attend U-M. "I didn't find the transi-
tion too difficult. I had spent time at
the National Music Camp at Inter-
lochen, and met lots of Jewish high
achievers."
Pollack obtained bachelor's and
masters degrees from Michigan and
received a teaching certificate from
the state in 1972. She also studied
flute and violin, as well as ballet and
modern dance. An accomplished ar-
tist, she has taught at the Ann Arbor
YM-YWCA, Washtenaw Commu-
nity College and elsewhere. In 1963,
she married Hank Pollack, a

Friday, August 31, 1984

41

geophysicist at U-M, had children
and for a time settled into the routine
of being a middle-class housewife.
Her son John, who will be entering
Stanford as a freshman this fall, car-
ries forward the family's musical
tradition, as a violinist. (Her other
child, Sara, was tragically killed in
an accident six years ago.)
How did she become so consumed
by politics? "Actually, it happened in
a traditional, middle-class way," she
replies. "I was at a neighbor's house,
having a coffee, back in 1966. In the
course of our conversation, she asked
me if I was a Republican or a Demo-
crat. 'A Democrat,' I said, hesitantly.
Well, she then proceeded to ask me if
my husband would like to be a pre-
cinct captain. He became a precinct
captain, while I did the work!"
Pollack found that she could
"make a difference, that my work had
an impact." She moved up in the
party hierarchy, became involved in
local, state and federal campaigns,
and served as chairman of the Ann
Arbor Democratic Party from 1975 to
1977. In 1979, she took the plunge,
winning the spot on the city's school
board.
Pollack feels her performance in
that office was essential to her later
success, "though at the time I didn't
have any further political ambitions.
My decision to run for the Senate was
a late one — I filed one week before
the deadline. No one asked me to
run." Nonetheless, she beat three I
other Democrats in the primary andl
then narrowly defeated Roy Smith i7
the general election.
Pollack denounced Smith's tad-
tics in the 1982 campaigh. "He made
indirect insinuations against my pa-
triotism, religion and gender, and
questioned my fitness to serve. He
called me unpatriotic, anti-family,
pro-lesbian and a socialist." (Pollack
is a strong feminist, and says she does
not admire those aspects of Judaism
that relegate women to "second-
class" status.)
In Pollack's opinion, there were
traces of anti-Semitism in all of this. 1.
"Smith lost some of his campaign
staff," she noted. "The whole thing
backfired for him in Ann Arbor, but it
cost me votes in the eastern part of
the district. They are less familiar
with Jews there, and they often mis-
trust people from Ann Arbor anyhow,
seeing them as too liberal and
affluent."
She has encountered no anti-
Jewish feelings in Lansing, though.
"My being a Jew hasn't 'impacted on
my effectiveness or acce tance at all.
I don't work on Rosh H hanah, Yom
Kippur, or Passover, of course, but
that can't be helped." SI* mentioned
that one of her closest colleagues is a
fellow Jewish Senator, Jack Faxon,
the Southfield Democrat.
Pollack is a member of two Se-
nate committees, Education and
Health and Finance. Though she
came to Lansing with an expertise in
pedagogical matters, she says she
has devoted more of her time to fiscal
affairs. •
Pollack's seat will come up for
grabs again in 1986. She intends to
stay involved: "I believe in social jus-
tice and change through the political
process, wherever I feel Y can make
an impact. I'm not in it for the short
term — I've been active for almost 20
years, and I'm not going to stop now."

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