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February 06, 1987 - Image 17

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-02-06

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

CLOSE-UP

DEALER

CRISSMAN CADILLAC OF BIRMINGHAM

Down To Goshen

1350 N. Woodward, Just South of Big Beaver (16 Mile)

Continued from preceding page

stay, and the Israelis report lit-
tle finger-pointing and accusa-
tions of "Why are you here?
Why don't you go back to Is-
rael?" from American Jews.
"The American people grew
up in a way," says Shalom Lev.
"They found that Israel is a
normal country with normal
problems and if people leave,
it's their choice."
To incorporate the Israelis
into the Detroit Jewish com-
munity, the Jewish Commu-
nity Center set up the Israeli
Community Organization, giv-
ing them a permanent location
to celebrate Israeli and Jewish
holidays. The Center also of-
fers Israelis six months free
membership. Center Execu-
tive Director Morton Plotnick
finds "a great receptivity by Is-
raelis to become part of the
community."
The mood in Israel is chang-
ing as well. In the past, Israelis
reacted angrily to those who
left, regarding them as
traitors, explains Benny
Schwarz, the Jewish Agency's
shaliach (emissary) to Detroit.
"Today you can find Israelis
saying, 'If I had the chance, I
would do the same.' When Is-
raelis who are making good
money in America say they
want to move back, the reac-
tion is, 'Are you crazy?'
"People are going and com-
ing, staying for a while,"
Schwarz adds. "There's a feel-
ing that it's not necessarily so
bad to live in the United
States."
He explains the rising mood
this way; "What is so bad about
a person who gave ten or 15
years of his life, served in the
army, was wounded, and
moved to America? What is the
difference between him and an
American Jew who goes back
and forth (to Israel), gives
money and is hailed as a hero
by Israeli leaders?
"Because the security condi-
tion of the state is not critical,
to come back (to Israel) in the
summer to visit is not so bad."
Schwarz's job is not to ob-
serve the human condition,
however. It is to help Jews to
make aliyah and, by extension,
to help Israelis to return. Al-
though he helps arrange
events for the Israeli Commu-
nity Organization and tries to
act as a bridge between the Is-
raelis and American Jews, he
emphasizes that the job of a
shaliach is not "to be an
entertainment officer."
"My feeling is that this is a
group like any other Jewish
group in town," he says. "As a
shaliach, I should work with
them, because the potential to
bring back Israelis is not less
likely than any other Ameri-
can group."
Because Israelis lack a
"Diaspora mentality" they
lack some of the necessary
tools for Jewish survival here.
This inability to deal with
Diaspora life could have stun-

ning repercussions later on.
"Yordim are not affiliating,"
explains Micha Lev. They are,
for the most part, not joining
synagogues, Jewish centers or
other Jewish groups. "In Israel
you don't have to join to belong
(to the community). You be-
long by being. When Israelis
come to America and have to
pay to pray, it offends their
sensibilities."
"I came from a small shul, a
little house. There were no
dues," Avi Gruber says of his
upbringing in a religious fam-
ily in Israel. "It was an open
house because it was a house of
God."
No longer strictly observant,
Gruber, owner of Avi's Auto
Care in Farmington Hills, has
attended services at non-
Orthodox Detroit congrega-
tions. He recoils from the for-
mality of Judaism in America.
"Some people think that this
is Judaism, that if you come in
a suit you're a Jew. I'm not
used to the singing. There was
no choir (in Israel). At first I
didn't have the feeling I was in
a synagogue."
Shalom Lev probably sums
up the feelings of many:
"I don't hide the fact but I
don't feel that I have to do
something to show I'm Jewish,
like join a synagogue. I don't
have a minority complex, be-
cause where I grew up I was the
majority and when I got here, I
was too old to feel like I was a
minority."
Israelis have proven fairly
resistant to involvement in De-
troit's Allied Jewish Cam-
paign. The Campaign began to
target Israelis in 1982. "The
first year wasn't exactly suc-
cessful," is Benny Schwarz's
understated observation.
Others argue differently.
Subsequent years saw
greater successes, but it is hard
to convince people who served
in the army and fought wars,
that they must now give money
to Israel to support the state.
Shalom Lev describes the
prevailing attitude in Israel for
Diaspora fund raisers: "I call it
shnorrer (begging). When I
was in Israel, I want to an ORT
school. They used to put up
plaques on the walls of the
Americans who gave money,
and when (the Americans) left,
they took them down and put
up other plaques.
"They even put plaques on
the chairs," he says, still
amazed after all these years.
There is another reason that
Israelis don't join: even after
ten or 15 years, many still feel
that they are here temporarily,
so there is no need to hook up to
the larger Jewish community.
Failure to somehow "nor-
malize" themselves to Dias-
pora life, however, could prove
a disaster to their children who—
have neither an Israeli iden-
tity or an American-Jewish in-
frastructure to fall back on.

Continued on Page 22

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