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September 12, 1986 - Image 28

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-09-12

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

LOOKING BACK

Rockaway's 'Jews of Detroit' Traces Community's Antecedents

the important role it had in the book
from the very beginning in the schol-
arship it gave Rockaway to enable him
to write the history in his post-graduate
years at U of M. Dr. Rockaway taught
history at the University of Michigan be-
fore going on aliyah to Israel. He is now
senior lecturer in the Tel Aviv Univer-
sity Department of History.
To know one's history, it is neces-
sary to know the antecedents. Dr. Rock-
away fulfills that purpose on a high
level. He resorted to high-level research
from the very start and continued the
search for facts in recent years, assuring
a readable, informative work deserving
of appreciation of the scholarship em-
bodied in the years given to producing a
factual record.

PHILIP SLOMOVITZ

Editor Emeritus

A

celebration as meritorious as the
sixtieth anniversary of he
Jewish Welfare Federation of
Detroit would suffer a serious handicap
if it were not accompanied by retention
of historical records of the community's
antecedents and developments. The
planning for the events presently being
observed has the commendable fulfill-
ment of such an imperative need.
When the Federation's leadership
meets next Tuesday to mark the 60th
anniversary, the participants in the pro-
gram will be treated with a noteworthy
gift. They will be presented with a
printed copy of an accumulating record.
It is The Jews of Detroit — From the Be-
ginning 1762-1914. It will be a specially
planned presentation of an important
volume because it will have come off the
presses of Wayne State University Press
on the afternoon of Sept. 16, a matter of
hours before the Federation's annual
meeting.
It is a 175-page book replete with
charts explaining many economic and
cultural records in early Detroit Jewish
history. The many photographs and
maps will inspire nostalgic sentiments.
It will be welcomed as a beautifully pro-
duced work. The jacket, designed by
Leonard N. Simons, who had a deep
interest in encouraging the publication
of the book, shows a large group of early
Detroiters at a Temple Beth El picnic in
1889.

Dr. Robert Rockaway

Dr. Rockaway has produced a back-
ground volume, from the earliest
pioneering days until World War I. Fed-
eration is already assuring completion of
the Detroit Jewish history with pledged
assignments to highly qualified scholars.
Research in the total project is already
proceeding.
Meanwhile, advance reading of the
book provides appreciation of the devo-
tion its author has given to a serious
undertaking which commenced with his
doctoral thesis when he earned his Ph.D.
at the University of Michigan.
It should, be recorded to the credit of
the Detroit Jewish Welfare Federation of

Jewish Females and Detroit Females:
Occupational Status, 1910

OCCUPATIONAL GROUP

DETROIT
FEMALES
%
NO.

Professional and semiprofessional
Proprietor, manager, official
White-collar
Skilled
Semiskilled and unskilled

3,332
0
11,327
9,067
16,812

8
0
28
22
41

JEWISH
FEMAT,ES
%
NO.

11
1
74
13
0

32
5
207
36
0

Sources: Di Detroit Iddishe Direktory, 1907; Thirteenth Census of
the United States, 1910.

Occupational Distribution of Temple Beth El
and Congregation Shaarey Zedek Members 1910

,

OCCUPATIONAL GROUP

NO.

SHAAREY
ZEDEK

Or o

BETH EL

13
6
6
Professionaland semiprofessional
57
63
59
Proprietor, manager, official
27
20
19
White-collar
2.5
7
7
Skilled and semiskilled
0
3
3
Unskilled
Sources: Temple Beth El membership roster, 1910; Congregation
Shaarey Zedek membership roster, 1908; Detroit City Directory,

1910.

28

Friday, September 12, 1986 THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

The Rockaway original doctoral
thesis covered the years 1750 to 1814.
For the Federation 60th anniversary
volume he conducted added research,
taking the reader back to 1762, listing
the earlier pioneers. That chapter intro-
duces the reader to the years when
Jewish traders faced confrontations with
Indians, facing hardships during the
frontier days when the British were in a
battle for territorial control and during
struggles to resist the Indian tribes. It
was, in all respects, true pioneering.
German-born Chapman Abraham
leads off the earliest details about
Jewish settlers here as the first Jew to
have come to Detroit. He came in 1762
from Montreal where he traded in wine
and brandy and supplied gun powder to
the British.
Ezekiel Solomon, who came to Fort
Michimilimackinac (Mackinaw City) in
1761, also figures prominently in the re-
counting of the earliest settlers.
This introductory chapter at once
creates a readership appetite for the
entire Rockaway-provided account of De-
troit Jewry's role as an emerging leading
American Jewish metropolis.
The Jews of Detroit assumes special
significance in its emphasis on the gen-
eral experiences by an American Jewish
community in the process of integrating
incoming immigrants from East Euro-
pean lands as well as Germany. The
processes related by Rockaway are filled
with fascinating occurrence and define
the steps that were pursued • in
Americanization and cultural attain-
ments of the newly arrived as they be-
came strong factors in sharing citizen-
ship in their new home.
At the same time, Rockaway relates
the local economic factors to similar pro-
gressive steps by other communities as a
progressive social as well as cultural
evolution. Tabulated by Rockaway in 22
charts are the economic, cultural, reli-
gious and other facts as the accompany-
ing selected charts indicate as basic
examples.
Rockaway describes the immigrants'
status, those from Germany as con-
trasted by the East European, as steps
towards the eventual that results from
the embracing of their new experiences
as incoming settlers from abroad. The
path toward an eventually-achieved
unity and cooperation was not an easy
one. Rockaway describes the conflict in a
chapter, entitled "A Community Di-
vided." The early German antagonism is
thus defined in that chapter:
Detroit's accultrated German
Jews viewed the Eastern Euro-
peans ambivalently. As fellow
Jews, the immigrants merited as-
sistance; yet their religious Or-
thodoxy, Old World mannerisms,
and politics perturbed the Ger-
mans and heightened their feel-

United Jewish Charities Contributions,
1900-1915

YEAR

1900
1901
1902
1903
1904
1905
1906
1907
1908
1909
1910
1911
1912
1913
1914
1915

AMOUNT RAISED

.$ 3,674
3,826
3,704
4,270
4,687
7,297
9,094
10,258
12,593
13,870
14,942
18,188
21,966
24,497
29,107
34.333

NO. OF
CONTRIBUTORS

247
265
245
258
306
315
360
368
447
4,53
433
431
489
534
608
660

Source: Annual Reports, United Jewish Charities of Detroit,
1900-1915.

ings of insecurity regarding their
own position in the general
community. And their concern
about their status as the' city's
Jewish elite led the Germans to
consciously set themselves apart
from the newcomers.
In a letter to the American Is-
raelite in 1882, Magnus. Butzel ex-
pressed the prevailing view of
the city's German Jews toward
the immigrants' religious orienta-
tion when he wrote that "the lib-
eral interpretation of Jewish doc-
trines, as accepted and practiced
by the majority of American Is-
raelites, finds them further re-
moved from the Chasidim-ridden
Russian refugee than from any of
the other religious societies that
exist in this country."
This outlook changed little
over the next thirty years, as De-
troit's Reform German Jews per-
sisted in seeing Orthodox
Judaism as slavish, superstition-
filled, and incompatible with
American traditions.

Bitterness prevailed. It affected the
political involvements and ceated splits
in the charitable activities. Eventually,
German leadership began to respect the
Orthodox and East Europeans' ideologies
and needs. There was concession to the
demands for Sabbath observance and
kashrut. Rockaway points out that "the
United Jewish Charities inaugurated
procedures to prevent persons on relief
from assembling at the Jewish Institute
`where one may learn of the disgrace of
the others.' " At this point Rockaway
gives credit to Fred M. Butzel for his
immense services in aiding imigrants
with money, jobs and free legal advice:
"His (law) office was always open to
anyone with a problem."
Unity soon developed. The coopera-
tion that developed is explained by Roc-
kaway as follows:

Despite differences and an-
tagonisms, tentative steps at
cooperation between the German
Jews and Eastern Europeans did
occur. Beginning in the late
Nineteenth Century, Beth El and
Shaarey Zedek exchanged pul-
pits, cooperated in relief work,
and a number of their members
socialized on a regular basis.
This was due primarily to the c-/

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