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June 23, 1989 - Image 54

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-06-23

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Volunteers at the Jewish
Information Service
have heard it all.


Special to The Jewish News


volunteer for the
Jewish informa-
tion Service is a
cross between a
detective and
social worker.
When Lawrence Aronsson
was on duty at JIS one day, an
Israeli man and his daughter
walked into the office at the
Jimmy Prentis Morris Jewish
Community Center. The man
was trying to locate a cousin
he had not seen in many
"I asked him, why did you
come to us?" Aronsson said.
"He told us he had just gotten
off the plane from Israel and
had some extra time while
waiting to take his daughter
to the Mayo Clinic for treat-
ment. He got into a cab at the
airport and gave the driver
the last address he had. But
when the driver took him
there, the driver told him he
was certain the cousin didn't
live there anymore. It was an
area that once had a Jewish
population, but you wouldn't
want to go there. So the cab
driver took them to the Oak
Park Community Center,

where they told them to come
to the Oak Park JCC. The
front office sent him back
When the Israeli told
Aronsson the name and age of
his long-lost relative, the
volunteer decided to begin
with the Jewish homes for the
"The first place I called was
Borman Hall," Aronsson said.
"They told me that he had
lived there, but he had died
three months ago. But they
had records of the family. They
gave us the names of two
daughters who live locally and
a son in California.
"I called one daughter and
explained the situation — she
was very leery having a
stranger show up suddenly
from Israel, wondering what
he might want from her. But
she agreed to see him. We
made a reservation for him in
a motel, and one of the
volunteers drove the man and
his daughter there. They saw
the woman that night. It was
a thrilling meeting. They
made a conference call to the
brother in California. They
were all thrilled. So was I."
Volunteer Ida Lowe's most
memorable case at the Jewish
Information Service called for

Barbara Lefton and Norma Silver check reference lists.


FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 1989

Ida Lowe helps a caller.

the skills of a social worker.
She received a call about an
88-year-old retired member of
the Detroit Symphony Or-
chestra who lived in an area
of Detroit which left him
isolated from the Jewish com-
munity. A realtor in the city
had offered him only $12,000
for his house and he could not
afford to move.
"We had three problems,"
Lowe said."We had to get rid
of the house. We had to find
him a place to live. And we
had to help him pack and
move. He had also just lost his
driver's license, and he wanted
us to help him get it
reinstated — but that was one
problem we couldn't solve."
Volunteers at JIS brain-
stormed the problem. One
knew of a Jewish realtor who
sold homes in Detroit. She got
the man $18,000 for his house.
The JIS resource file contain-
ed the name of a woman who
packed and moved people for
a living. She had called JIS to
offer her services only the
week before.

Glenn Triest

"Finding him an apartment
was a problem," Lowe said.
"He had an income of only
$750 a month, so his apart-
ment couldn't be too costly. He
didn't want to move to Federa-
tion Apartments because he
loved to cook, and at Federa-
tion they must eat dinner in
the dining room. We moved
him into Highland Towers."
Lowe's work brought the
man from isolation back into
the Jewish community. It was
the type of occurrence that
keeps her at the phones at the
Jewish Information Service.
"It was a wonderful feeling,"
Lowe said. "A lot of the calls
we get are cut and dried.
Every once in a while, you
have one that really hits
home. Helping those people
brings such nachas. I've been
blessed so many times, it is
wonderful to give something
Some 10,000 calls have been
handled by volunteers and
staff since April, 1985, when
the JIS number was initiated
— 967-HELP. The office is

staffed 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Monday through Friday.
JIS was formed by the plan-
ning department of the Jewish
Welfare Federation as the
result of a task force which ex-
amined the need for
community-based support to
help the elderly in the com-
munity remain independent.
The task force recommended a
central point in the Jewish
community that people could
call to find out what resources
exist and get referrals to the
correct places for help.
It is staffed by Executive
Director Norma Silver, Ad-
ministrative Assistant Bar-
bara Lefton and 14 volunteers
who answer the phones in
shifts. Many of the volunteers
work two to four hours per
week at JIS.
For the most part, volun-
teers are retired people like
Aronsson, formerly executive
director of Congregation Beth
Shalom, a certified public ac-
countant and former treasurer
and controller of a manufac-
turing company; and Lowe,

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