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October 27, 1989 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-10-27

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Detroit Jewish Demographic Status As A Kehillah


Editor Emeritus


emography, education, aid for
the elderly and the handi-
capped, the synagogue, scores of
other social services, studies of which
are now undertaken, may prove to be
among the most important tasks in the
history of the Detroit Jewish Welfare
Federation since its founding in 1925.
Leadership here has undertaken
embodiment in its own kehillah of all
the principles inherent in the age-
tested communal principle. The most
tested of all kehillot was the one that
was organized in 1908 under the direc-
tion of Dr. Judah L. Magnes who later
became the president of the Hebrew
University in Jerusalem. The New York
kehillah lasted until after World War I.
It had its periods of criticism, in many
circumstances self-imposed, because the
many challenges always demand self-
examination and self-criticism. When it
was dissolved in 1918 it was not to the
total glory of the eminent Dr. Magnes.
It was split into many kehillot. But the
ideal left its many lessons worth
The directors of the new studies in-
troduced here will do well to learn the
kehillah lessons from the Magnes ex-
perience of more than 70 years ago. It
has much to teach every generation.
In the local initiative, which com-
mences with the population research,
there are immediate admonitions. Some

Dr. Judah I. Magnes

will recall that some decades ago there
were the suggested exaggerations that
the Detroit Jewish population
numbered 100,000. Now there are the
possible underestimates that it could be
as low as 60,000. It is therefore worth
examining the published figures.
The American Jewish Year Book of
the Jewish Publication Society lists the
population figures as follows: For 1950,
90,000. In 1960 the number is listed as
89,000, and in 1980 it dropped to
75,000. Interestingly, Detroit figures
are combined with those for Ann Arbor

for a total of 74,000. They are divided
again for 1987 with 70,000 for Detroit
and 4,500 for Ann Arbor.
How the correct figure can be
established is a matter for conjecture.
The administrators of the new kehillah
studies have made population a first on
their agenda and their findings will be
most interesting on all of the objectives.
If there is one great concern it is the
subject dealing with education. Here we
deal with a serious problem.
The demands, on the local basis,
during all fundraising campaigns, have
been and remain priority for the
schools. Only in exceptional cases has
there been the admission that the
schools' major need, the proper teaching
staff, is approaching a colossal failure.
It has not been denied that the secur-
ing of the ablest teachers is vital to the
entire system of education. But the
basic problem remains ignored.

On this page there was no hesitan-
cy to express concern over the anxiety
to bring Hebrew teachers from Israel.
It has always been my concern that
Israeli teachers may prove unqualified
for such duties because some may not
fit temperamentally with American
children; that the language obstacle
may meet with rejection from the
children; that there may even be a
limited commitment to duty by
teachers coming here to benefit
economically in the U.S.
It is not out of order to ask whether
an Israeli, who is vitally needed in

Israel where there is also a shortage of
teachers in the country's schools, should
be encouraged to penalize his or her
country by coming here.
Therefore the agonizing admission
that we have failed to encourage able
American youth to pursue profitably
the Hebrew teaching profession.
This serious problem is treated
frankly and with great seriousness by
Asher Rivlin, director of the depart-
ment of culture and education of the
World Zionist Organization, in an arti-
cle on teaching Hebrew in America.
Writing in "Five-Fifteen," the new
publishing organ of the WZO, in New
York, Rivlin calls attention to the pro-
blem in this challenge of the state of af-
fairs in the schools in this country:

During the last two decades,
everyone concerned with the
subject of teaching Hebrew in
America has expressed his or
her dismay about the decline of
the Hebrew language in the
Jewish community in general
and the Hebrew schools in
Generally speaking, Hebrew
fares well in a very small
number of Jewish schools in the
United States. These few may
act as models for more schools
and they justify all our efforts in
trying to improve the situation
and to halt the dangerous pro-
Continued on Page 50

Media Message Must Not Harm Peace


nder the title "The Media, the
Message and the Middle East,"
a national conference will be
held Sunday afternoon in Boston. "How
and Why the Media Ignore Essential
Contexts and Distort Middle East
News . . . Betraying Public Trust in a
Nation Where Public Opinion Shapes
Public Policy," is the guide for discus-
sions at an event that is intended for na-
tionwide and not limited to Boston
discussion. The list of prominent
discussants lined up for the planned
sessions attests to the importance of
this evaluating program.
The importance of such a challeng-
ingly important organized event
becomes apparent in the debate over
the peace disputes. So much confusion

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Vol. XCVI No. 9


October 27, 1989


has been fanned into the debates in
both the diplomatic and media spheres
that the productive approach is being
ruined. So many disputable and un-
provable matters have been interjected
that more harm than good has been
Out of the day's deliberations will
hopefully develop a message that will
avoid distortions and obstacles to the
desired peace. The urgency of
establishing an accord that will mean
realism for peace is being greatly in-
terfered with by the fanning of
animosities rather than a dedication to
basic facts and an acknowledgement of
the right to self-protection by Israel.
That's where media can be helpful and
in too many instances the commen-
taries and news reports are filled with
suspicions and the resort to the "Blame
Israel first" mentality, as it was recent-
ly worded by a responsible Republican
Significance must be given to an in-
dictment of the press in this matter in
an address at the recent convention of
AIPAC — American Israel Public Af-
fairs Committee — in Washington. In
discussing "Human Rights in Perspec-
tive," Harvard Law School Prof. Alan
Dershowitz presented an accumulation
of facts in this excerpt from his address:
I get angry — and I think I
have a right to complain as a
student of human rights — when
I read the recent State Depart-

Alan Dershowitz

ment report on Israel which re-
quired the United States to issue
the following retraction after the
media covered the State Depart-
ment report on Israel. This is a
little headline in the Boston
"U.S. Says Israel Not Worst
And a headline in the New

York Times, Letter to the Editor
"Israel Isn't The Worst
Human Rights Offender."
Do you know what tells
students and other citizens
when we have to say that Israel
is not the "worst" human rights
offender? Israel doesn't even
belong in the same volume as
the major human rights of-
fenders, the 150 worst human
rights offenders.
The idea of even comparing
Israeli over-reaction in the West
Bank — and I think Israel has
been provoked into overreaction
— but in comparing overreac-
tion to stone throwing and
Molotov cocktail throwing and
recently the use of automatic
weapons — when one compares
that to the use of poison gas by
Iraq against the Kurdish minori-
ty or the use of bullets and guns
to kill thousands of people by
Syria or the use of other
weapons of civilian genocide
when used by the Iranians — the
idea that we would even include
Israel as a substantial violator
of human rights and allow peo-
ple to believe that Israel "may
not be the worst violator or one
of the worst violators" — but is
up there with the other violators
Continued on Page 50

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