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December 04, 1987 - Image 28

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-12-04

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

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1

Rabbi Is Fighting
Local Apathy On AIDS

ALAN HITSKY

Associate Editor

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he numbers of AIDS
patients and victims
in Michigan "seem ex-
traordinarily small for all the
hoopla," says Rabbi Marc S.
Blumenthal of Temple Beth
El of the nearly 500 Michigan
AIDS cases reported since
1981. "But the numbers are
2 1/2 to 3 times that because of
the people who get sick
elsewhere and come home to
die."
Blumenthal, associate rab-
bi at Beth El for the last 15
months, has been active in
AIDS counseling for the last
five years. He started as a
hospital chaplain in the
Bronx while studying for the
rabbinate at Hebrew Union
College in New York. He is
the only rabbi involved in the
local AIDS Interfaith Net-
work, which offers counseling,
support and education for in-
terested clergy, AIDS patients
and their families. In New
York, he was one of just two
rabbis involved in the fight
against AIDS.
"It is not just the Jewish
community," says Blumen-
thal of the apathy towards
AIDS. "It is any community
that feels they have not been
touched, even though they
have."
There is no statistical
breakdown by religion of
AIDS patients in Michigan,
according to Ted Duncan,
director of Wellness House in
Detroit which can house up to
six AIDS patients. Nor is
there a breakdown of the
religion of the volunteers who
help his program or the
separate Wellness Networks,
which provides AIDS patients
with food and clothing when
necessary, counseling, sup-
port groups, and volunteer
drivers and handymen.
Rabbi Blumenthal only
knows of isolated cases of
Jewish victims within
Detroit's Reform community:
three or four deaths (out-of-
state) among the children of
Beth El's 1,600 member
families, one current patient,
a death in New York recently
of the child of Temple Israel
members.
The small overall number of
Jewish cases has led to little
involvement within the
Jewish community. Temple
Emanu-El in Oak Park has
collected 2,000 cans of food
since September and divided
the food between four
charitable groups, including
Wellness House. Blumenthal

Rabbi Blumenthal

and Judy Lipshutz, of United
Community Services, are the
only Jews on the board of
Wellness House. There are a
number of Jews among
Wellness Networks' 300
volunteers, according to refer-
ral line coordinator Terry
Ryan, but no statistics are
available.
But
Jewish
and
community-wide interest in
AIDS will change as the
disease spreads. Rabbi
Blumenthal believes the
danger to the homosexual
community will soon be out-
stripped by the growing
danger to intravenous
substance abusers, including
Jews, and their sexual part-
ners. "Detroit has the second
highest per capita drug abuse
problem in the nation, and we
will see more AIDS cases, I
think," the rabbi says. Illegal
intravenous steroid use
among high school and col-
lege athletes — a growing pro-
blem — will also contibute to
the AIDS menace, Blumen-
thal believes.
So what can the Jewish
community do about AIDS?
• Blumenthal has ad-
vocated community and
synagogue panels made up of
attorneys, doctors, rabbis and
AIDS patients "to educate, to
increase awareness."
• "We need to talk to our
kids" to educate them and
stress prevention of AIDS.
Along these lines, Michigan
State Temple Youth and its
national equivalent in the
Reform movement have made
AIDS a national project.

At its recent Chicago
meeting, the Union of
American Hebrew Congrega-
tions (Reform) adopted a com-
prehensive resolution on
AIDS. The UAHC opposed
general, mandatory testing
for AIDS, and advocated fast-
track approval for new drugs,

Continued on Page 30

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