Friday, May 3, 1985
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
BY JEFFREY GUYER
eople with university degrees
in clinical psychology, marriage coun-
seling and social work don't usually sit
around their living rooms smiling and
reminiscing about their early days in
the Detroit Jewish community as they
discuss a self-diagnosed emotional
Rabbi and Mrs. James Gordon,
however, find nothing wrong with it.
"Determining what goes and what
stays and the packing are traumatic
experiences," says Mrs. Gordon. "But
it won't be as traumatic moving into
Israel as it will be moving out of our
The Gordons came to Detroit in
1963, when Rabbi Gordon became the
spiritual leader of Young Israel of
Oak-Woods. He is only the second
rabbi to hold the post in the
synagogue's 33-year history.
But realizing there are other
things in life, the Gordons are pulling
up stakes and making aliyah at the
end of August.
"It's time," Rabbi Gordon says.
"Two of our sons have made aliyah and
our grandchildren are in Israel. Our
daughter just married an Israeli. So
the family aspect was a big factor.
"Another factor was that we
wanted to be able to go and still be
active and young enough to enjoy it. I
wanted to go at a time when I could
still contribute to the life in Israel, and
not when I'm not actually physically
Contributing, though, will not be
the same as the 22-year contribution
the Gordons made in Detroit.
"I hold a master's degree in clini-
cal psychology and marriage counsel-
ing from the University of Detroit,"
Rabbi Gordon says. "Unfortunately,
there is a shortage of marriage coun-
selors in Israel. So I'm looking into the
possibility of finding something in
that line of work."
Making aliyah will not
cut the Detroit ties
for Rabbi and Mrs. Gordon
Mrs. Gordon, vice president of
education of American Women for
Bar-Ilan University, has been a social
worker and quality control auditor for
the Michigan Department of Social
Services. Like her husband, she will be
in a different "line of work" when they
settle in Israel.
"I'm retiring and spending time
with my children and grandchildren,"
she says. "I think I've made my contri-
bution to the community as far as a
social worker is concerned. I'll prob-
ably end up doing some kind of volun-
teer work while I'm there. It's really
impossible to live in a community in
Israel and not be involved. I think now
that whatever work I do will be volun-
In honor of the contribution the
two have made to their community
and their synagogue, Young Israel of
Oak-Woods is holding a testimonial
dinner Sunday night at what Rabbi
Gordon has called "one of the longest
existing synagogues in one spot —
Over their two decades in Detroit,
Rabbi and Mrs. Gordon have wit-
nessed change and growth at Oak-
Woods and the community at large.
"It was a totally different kind of
congregation when I came here,"
Rabbi Gordon says. "Young Israel of
Oak-Woods at that particular time
was not what one would consider a typ-
ical Young Israel congregation. It was
the first synagogue in Oak Park and,
therefore, was made up of membership
from a number of congregations in De-
troit where the people were moving to
"Of course there was a nucleus of
people who identified with the Young
Israel movement and they were in- -
strumental in seeing to it that it be-
came affiliated with the National
Council of Young Israel."
The nucleus, though, was sma
compared , to the group that beg.
Young Israel of Greenfield, says Rab
Gordon. It took a little more time.
"Things did not really come
gether in terms of the character of C I
membership," he remembers, "un
after the riots, when there was a tr
mendous influx of people from Detrc
into the suburbs, which changed tl
character of the membership. That
also when the membership reached i
"Actually it coincided with tI
year we added on the building. TI
riots were in July 1967 and we ded
cated the new building in April 196,
So two months later you had the rid ,
in Detroit which immediately creat
a move of great numbers of Young I
rael of Wyoming people."
It is that make-up of the memb€
ship that Rabbi Gordon sees as tl
greatest difference between the You'.
Israel he came to in the early 1961
and the one which he is leaving at ti
end of this summer.
"Young Israel of Oak-Woods 1,N7
made up of many non-observa),
people, people who utilized it as tl,
most convenient synagogue in tl
area, and there were those with
particular affiliation with Young
rael. Things were. very different whf
I first came here," he says.
But just as the cohesiveness of
congregation began . to change wi
time, changes have continued in
opposite direction, says Rabbi Gord
"In the last four or five years we'
experienced a triple kind of deci
tion. There are those who the
mighty takes to His minyan. So
with their families having marri
and moved away, have moved
apartments or down south. And thi
the highway (I-696 construction) h
decimated a good part of our congre
tion. The highway has affected 0
Woods more than other synagogues.
number of houses around here h
people in them who were members
Oak-Woods. Their houses were tak
away, so they were physically tra
Mrs. Gordon, though, points
other possible origins of the decline
"It all started with the youi'
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