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July 22, 1988 - Image 50

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-07-22

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

OUTLOOK

A New
Song

Detroit's newest Reform
temple was established only
months ago, but already it
has more than 300 families
and big plans for the future

ELIZABETH KAPLAN

Staff Writer

he -magician stood on the bimah. He
looked around; the audience sat
hushed.
Then he pulled a silk handker-
chief from his pocket. And with the
wave of his hand, he turned it into a magic wand.
Les Schneid's children were enthralled. "They
were really paying attention," Schneid says. "Just
like they do in Sunday school. That's what all the
children do. They follow him like the Pied Piper."
This piper, this magician, is Rabbi Dannel
Schwartz, and he didn't need a magic flute or
tricks to attract congregants to Detroit's new
Reform temple, Shir Shalom. They're coming in
droves. More than 300 families already belong to
the temple and the membership shows no signs
of slowing down.
Congregants say a variety of things drew them
to Shir Shalom. One says he is impressed by the
innovative programs, like an upcoming service
that will be conducted under the stars. Another
says she likes the excitement of helping create a
new temple. A third says he is impressed by the
congregation's closeness and family atmosphere.
Yet there is one factor they all cite when
discussing their interest in Shir Shalom. Rabbi
Schwartz.
"My reason for joining is simple and right to
the point;' Ethel Rosenblatt says. "It's because of
Rabbi Schwartz. He's always been there when I
needed him and I have a great deal of respect for
him both as a rabbi and as a person!'
Schneid and his wife, Diann, praise the rab-
bi's "level of energy and magnitude!' Says Mrs.
Schneid: "I liked him so much there was just no
going anywhere else!'
And Stuart Bas says he appreciates Rabbi
Schwartz's attitude toward his congregants. "You
see him anywhere — the deli, at a show — and he
never walks past. He always recognizes every
member of the temple and says, 'How are you and
how are the kids?' In the congregation where I
was raised, I always thought the rabbi was
somebody you couldn't even talk to!'
The majority of the new congregation's
members were not affiliated with Temple Beth El,
where Rabbi Schwartz served until last year. They
came to Shir Shalom on the recommendation of
friends, or after seeing a full-page advertisement

50

FRIDAY, JULY 22, 1988

Rabbi Dannel Schwartz: looking into the future at Shir Shalom

in The Jewish News.
Others, like Bas and Rosenblatt, followed the
rabbi from Beth El.
"It's like your stockbroker or your dentist,"
Bas explains. "I don't care where he's working. If
my doctor leaves his office, I'm going to follow him.
And that's what I did with Rabbi Schwartz. I have
that much faith!'
lb hear of the young Dannel Schwartz hardly
suggests a man who would one day head a Reform
congregation in Detroit.
Raised in an Orthodox home in New York,
Rabbi Schwartz learned at an early age that his
father had bigger plans for him than to become
a rabbi.
Yet Rabbi Schwartz persisted, encouraged by
students at the nearby Hebrew Union College.
Knowing them "gave me a great deal of feeling
toward what it means to be a Jew and a rabbi;'
he says. "It taught me what Judaism means — the

spirituality and the connectedness, the
peoplehood and the dignity born out of caring!'
His parents, meanwhile, felt less attached to
the world of Orthodoxy as elements within the
movement expressed their opposition to the State
of Israel. The Schwartzes turned to Reform
Judaism.
And when Rabbi Schwartz decided to attend
rabbinical school, he opted for HUC.
He also opted for New York, working first as
assistant rabbi at one congregation, then looking
into positions with other temples in Long Island.
Massaschusetts and Montreal were possibilities,
too.
In the end, and almost "on a lark;' Rabbi
Schwartz came to Temple Beth El.
After 14 years there, and after the temple
board decided not to renew his contract in July
1987, Rabbi Schwartz was looking to leave
Michigan.

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