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February 16, 1990 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-02-16

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Mark Schlussel
is the first
observant Jew
to become
president of the
Jewish Welfare




1111 ark Schlussel
doesn't fit the mold
of Federation presi-
dent. He is Orthodox, does
not belong to Franklin Hills
Country Club, and his an-
nual Allied Jewish Cam-
paign gift is in five figures
rather than six.
Yet Schlussel is president
of the Jewish Welfare Fed-
eration of Detroit and says
that fact alone proves the
point that Federation
leadership is not an ex-
clusive circle reserved only
for the rich and well-
"Wealth alone is not a lit-
mus test for leadership in
this community," says
Schlussel, a handsome and
serious man of 48. "It never
has been and never will be.
"I hope that other com-
munities will see, through
me, that federation is an
open process that includes
various religious ideologies
and is genuinely interested
in what's best for the com-
munity at large."
In any federation, he says,
you need people with finan-
cial resources, people with
time resources and those
with intellectual resources."
There are many who feel
that Schlussel meets all
three requirements. Though
he is president and founding
partner of a major law firm,
he manages to spend 30




hours a week and more in
his volunteer role as presi-
dent of the Federation dur-
ing what he sees as a unique

ox Approach

Soviet Jewish resettlement
in Israel, the local Federa-
tion is committed to raising
some $16 million over the

In practical terms, he ac-
knowledges that the Jewish
community will have to

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 111 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

"There is no higher priority than the preservation
of Jewish life and we are faced with a (Soviet)
Jewish community in jeopardy."
Mark Schlussel
111 • • • • • • • • • • • 111 • • • • • • • • • 6 11 111 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 111 • • • • •

moment of opportunity in
Jewish history.
"My basic assumption is
that this is a time when Jew-
ish people will be tested to
dig deep and provide the
resources for this historic
emigration." He is speaking,
of course, of the record
emigration of Soviet Jews
from the USSR to Israel and
America, and he is deeply
concerned about reports of
increased anti-Semitism
among Russian nationalists
and threats of pogroms in
the Soviet Union.
"The threat to Jewish life
is every bit as real as during
the Yom Kippur War,
though not as dramatic," he
says, and emphasizes that it
is his and the Federation's
task to transmit that sense
of urgency to the Jewish
As part of a national effort
to raise $420 million for

next three years as part of
the Operation Exodus, the
new national emergency
campaign organized by the
United Jewish Appeal and
federations. Schlussel says
the local effort will be
difficult but successful be-
cause there is no alternative.
"There is no higher priori-
ty than the preservation of
Jewish life," he says, "and
we are faced with a Jewish
community in jeopardy."
Schlussel sees this
challenge as a kind of second
chance, after the tragedy of
the Holocaust, for the world
Jewish community to
mobilize its efforts and help
save Jews in danger.
"This issue is number one
through five on our priority
list now in terms of world
Jewish impact and our effort
to respond," says Schlussel,
who notes that "this is not
business-as-usual here" at

undergo "some belt-
tightening." A committee
headed by former Federation
president Dr. Conrad Giles
is currently determining
which local Federation-
funded programs and ser-
vices can be deferred over
the next two years.
Schlussel emphasizes that
critical local services will be
maintained while non-
essential programs will be
postponed. "It's sometimes
tough to balance," he says,
"but it's important."
Schlussel is not afraid to
make tough decisions. In his
brief tenure as president he
has already received high
marks for his role in the
Federation's decision to pur-
chase Congregation B'nai
Moshe's building in Oak
Park. The decision boosts
the Neighborhood Project
effort to attract Jewish
families to Oak Park and

Southfield and gives new op-
tions for expansion plans for
the Ten Mile Campus of
Ferderation Apartments and
the Jewish Community
Federation needs to be
more pro-active and not just
reactive, says Schlussel, who
notes that the B'nai Moshe
decision was a consensus
one, motivated in part by the
fact that some 300 Jewish
families have moved into the
area in question. But he
adds that Federation is not
going to put itself "in the
synagogue-purchasing busi-
ness," and says the B'nai
Moshe incident is "a clue for
synagogues to take note and
recommit themselves."
A member of the Young
Israel of Southfield,
Schlussel is described by his
rabbi, Elimelech Goldberg,
as a role model for many Or-
thodox Jews. "Mark proves
that you can be a Torah
observant Jew and involved
in the larger Jewish com-
munity — it's not a matter of
one or the other," says Rabbi
Goldberg, who credits
Schlussel with helping to
make Jewish education a
real priority rather than a
slogan for the Detroit Fed-
"He is a serious, com-
mitted Jew who has spoken
out" on behalf of increasing
the level of Jewish education
for lay leaders as well as
Schlussel served as presi-
dent of the Jewish Educa-

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