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April 24, 1987 - Image 33

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-04-24

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Joel, Shelly and daughter
Casey Newman display some
of Casey's creations,

president of the Union of American
Hebrew Congregations, all Jews
are Jews by choice. And it is not
that they're choosing not to be in-
volved, but rather that they do not
- have the skills to be involved.
Although people want to be
Jewish, American culture seems to
take precedence over Jewish cul-
ture. In a study of Jewish college
youth, a heavy preponderance iden-
tified themselves as "American"
and stated that they don't mind
marrying non-Jews. They also
stated that they want their chil-
dren to be Jewish.
Jews typically affiliate with
the Jewish community when they
have young children. In a study of

4,000 Jews in the greater New
York area, demographer Dr. Steven
Cohen found. 87 percent of
those with school-age children were
affiliated in some way. From this
and other findings, Cohen con-
cluded that the number of unaffil-
iated is much smaller than the 50
percent figure usually cited. Of
primary importance, according to
Cohen, is reaching and involving
those Jews who are "passing
through" Jewish affiliation to
"enhance their connections with
other Jews ... and commitment to
Jewish values."
Enter Detroit's Jewish Experi-
ences for Families. It is a unique
program, and although there are

smaller-scale efforts in other com-
munities — such as Los Angeles'
Jewish Lamaze program and holi-
day workshop series — none has
tackled the job of maintaining the
discreet identity of each participat-
ing synagogue or agency while of-
fering meaningful, quality pro-
gramming for each.

In carrying out her staff role,
Appelman tries to use humor so
that programs are non-threatening.
She has, on occasion, dressed as
Mazel the Mouse to involve pre-
schoolers and has, in a more seri-
ous vein, developed family holiday
guides and activities that can be
carried into the home. She hopes

eventually to offer tapes for use in
the car or at home.
"When we were growing up, it
was all or nothing," she says. "If
you didn't do it all, there was
something wrong with you. There
was a reason to be guilty. But it's a
transitional process. Judaism is a
religion in which one can grow."
But the program is only viable
so long as the synagogue leadership
is involved, according to Berman,
who says that "we must create a
kind of peer pressure to make fam-
ily programming a priority." Those
sentiments are echoed by Fresh Air
Society president Dr. Richard
Krugel who says that "outreach
and cooperation between
synagogues and agencies was lack-
ing somewhat in the past. This
program, however, opens new doors
for community cooperation."
Krugel also notes that FAS
was chosen to house the new pro-
gram because of its history of in-
formal education, its outstanding
camping facilities and strong staff
and leadership support. The result?
Krugel says that JEFF "is making
significant inroads in getting the
family to function together." More
than 400 families were reached in
the program's first six months of
"Our initial goal was to reach
into the synagogues to make them
more cognizant of options in family
learning experiences;" Krugel
states. "As an ultimate goal, we
would like to use the same process
to reach out to unaffiliated families
through our agency 'system."
In the meantime, the program
is meeting many needs for the
synagogues. An example of this can
be seen at Adat Shalom Synagogue,
whose membership, according to
President Irwin Alterman, has
grown substantially — attracting
several hundred new families
within the past three years. And,
he notes, "the largest block of them
has young children."
"In our case, these people have
already elected to stand up and be

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