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July 26, 1985 - Image 80

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-07-26

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86 Friday, July 26, 1985

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

CENTENNIAL
SYNAGOGUE

With an eye to the future, Traverse City's
small Jewish community marks its
synagogue's 100th _anniversary.

BY HEIDI PRESS

Local News Editor

Sharon Kowalsky reads from the Torah in preparation for her June bat mitzvah as Mickey
and Zack Fivenson (right), Sadie Grossman and Student Rabbi David Wolfman watch.

■ -•

A

rabbinic duties — "life-cycle events"
— for the community, except mar-
riages, which as a student he is not yet
qualified to do.
Fivenson said the student rabbi
visitation program started in 1972,
and it gave a big boost to the commu-
nity, in addition to providing some
rabbinical leadership. When Sleutel-
berg leaves, student rabbis will be
engaged to serve the community on a
monthly basis. "(It) has given the shul
stability," she adds.
Although the rabbi comes from
the Reform seminary and the congre-
gation is affiliated with the Reform '
movement (Union of American He-
brew Congregations), there is really
no Ortgle orientation. According to
Fivenson, the congregation has a Con-
servative Jewish leaning, "but we
have to try and find a middle ground."
The sources for kosher food are nomi-
nal, but Fivenson says local stores
cooperate by shipping items to the
area. Sleutelberg said keeping kosher
the case of the women, she said that
is one activity that keeps the commu-
other pursuits, work and children
among them, have drawn the women nity going.
"It's a young vibrant group that
away. •"You can't split up your time-
takes its Judaism seriously. They do
and energy any more."
She hopes the future will bring a an incredible amount of programming
through the year. They celebrate all of
monthly scholar-in-residence program
the holidays."
and full-time rabbi. At present, the

s the centennial of Traverse
City's Cong. Beth El ap-
proaches, Ellen Fivenson is al-
ready looking forward to the next 100
years,
A former presidnt, treasurer and
secretary of the congregation, Fiven-
son is chairing the weekend centen-
nial celebration, slated Aug. 2-4.
About 30 families make up the con-
gregation, and summertime usually
brings about ten more.
The influx of young families in the
area is giving the congregation a posit-
ive outlook for continuity, Fivenson
said. "Fortunately we have young
people. We hope we can continue the
programs we have."
Currently, the congregation has
regular Friday night services, a reli-
gious school and adult education
classes. Fivenson said plans are in the
offing for a pre-school program.
Currently, there are no youth
groups, no sisterhood or men's club. In

,

.

congregation is served by a student
rabbi, Arnold Sleutelberg, a native of
Hudson, Mich., who is pursuing
studies toward ordination at Hebrew
Union College in Cincinnati. He has
come to Traverse City for the past two
summers, performing a full range of

He said the Jewish community
there has seen a revival in the past five
to ten years because of the influx of
young families. !They do so well for
their numbers," the rabbinical student
said, jokingly adding that its most

17 1 9 4

XEBREW UN[ ON COLLEGE
'LIBRARY —
WALTER ROTHMAN, L IBR
CINCINNATI
OH 45220

pressing need is to get 60 more
families.
A "sense of an extended family" is
what one feels by going into the small
60-seat sanctuary, Fivenson said.
"When you come to the small
sanctuary you feel you've made your


Centennial Chairman Ellen Fivenson

mark . . . It helps us feel the link be-
tween what went on previously and
what's going on today."
She recalls when she moved to the
area in 1970 there were only about ten
families affiliated with the synagogue
and it was only open for holidays. She
credits the people who hung on from
the beginning. "We started with the
bare minimum and now have some-

thing alive and creative."
The congregation is active in
ecumenical programs . in Traverse
City. Sleutelberg and an, Epiicopal
priest have "exchange sermons,"
whereby one will deliver a sermon to
the other's congregation. ,
Fivenson said. she was particu-
larly pleased that the general commu-
nity has recognized the congregation
and invited it to be a part of an ecu-
menical assembly.
"This community accepted the
Jews very openly, especially. from
, churches in our area. It's always a
matter of cooperation. We're lucky to
have that kind of openness," she said.
In the past there were interfaith

Pesach Sedarim, and once a church

group came to buy the community's
chametz. The Jewish community also

participated in a community-wide
"walk for hunger."
Anti-Semitism has not been a
problem. Fivenson said such incidents
were rare and added, "The community
is open, tolerant and inquisitive."
Jews first came to the area in
1868, but it wasn't until 1882 that ar-
ticles of incorporation for a synagogue
were filed. Ground was broken in
1885, and an Orthodox synagogue was
in the making. In the congregation's
early days, only High Holiday services
were held because the community, was
so widespread. Shabbat services,-we
rent feasible. Despite dry attendance. :
periods, the ' synagogue continued th13 0 . '

used and in 1977 it was declared a
state historical site.
Next weekend's activities will in-
clude a Kabbalat Shabbat service;
with Temple Iirael of West Bloom-
field's Cantor Harold Orbach as guest
speaker. A dinner with entertainment
by folk duo Gemini is slated for Aug. 3,
and Chuck Wolfe of Detroit's Jewish
Home for Aged will be the emcee.
A dedication ceremony and
brunch will complete the weekend's
schedule.
Fivenson said the simplicity. and
the old building give the members a
feeling of being "part of a movement, of
fulfilling a role in the area' of Jewish
continuity." And she and her husband,
Mitchell (Mickey) -have been active
organizers for the synagogue: since
their arrival. She speaks with a special
fondness for the Synagogue. Her sen-
timents are echoed by Sleutelberg.
"It's a heimish - community. It's
family. We really work together as one
unit." -
And as Ellen Fivenion sees it, the
congregation has only just begun to
live. "In thenext 100 years, thete's a
lot do do." ❑

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