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February 16, 1990 - Image 25

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

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From his Southfield law office, Mark Schlussel ponders the problems of the Jewish community.

tional Service of North
America (JESNA), a nation-
al organization, for three
years and says he is not a
subscriber to the gloom-and-
doom theory of Jewish edu-
cation critics. "I've seen a
good deal of seeking among
young adults and adults,
people looking for Jewish
educational enrichment, and
that's a very positive sign,"
notes Schlussel, whose mid-
dle son, Jeffrey, includes
Jewish studies as one of his
two majors at the University
of Michigan.
Education and community
involvement are common
themes for the Schlussel
family. Mark's wife, Rosie, is
active in a variety of Jewish
community activities, in-

cluding National Council of
Jewish Women, Sinai
Hospital, Meals on Wheels
and Detroit Friends of Bar-
Ilan University.
Daughter Ellen, 24, is a
teacher in Southfield and ac-
tive in Federation; Ira at-
tends Georgetown Law
School in Washington, hav-
ing graduated from the Uni-
versity of Michigan; and
youngest son, David, who at-
tended local Jewish day
schools, plans to attend the
University of Michigan next
Schlussel sees himself and
his family as part of the con-
tinuum of Jewish educa-
tional heritage. His late
father, Irving, was a leader
of the Mizrachi religious

Zionist organization and a
founder of the Young Israel
movement in Detroit.
"Growing up, our Orthodoxy
was very centrist and very
thoughtful," recalls
Schlussel. "In our house, we
abhorred the extremes of the
far left and the far right."
While Orthodoxy has mov-
ed sharply to the right in the
last decade, Schlussel main-
tains his centrist outlook. He
disdains the sense of what he
calls competitive piety found
among some practitioners
who, says Schlussel, may
place form over substance in
judging others by their out-
ward appearances.
He says Federation has
made strides in becoming
more sensitized to Orthodox

concerns, from financial
support for day schools to in-
volvement in the Neighbor-
hood Project, and he would
like to see more Orthodox
Jews become involved in
organized Jewish communal
But then again, Schlussel
would like to see all types of
Jews participate in the ac-
tivities and concerns of Fed-
eration. He believes that
Federation is "losing its
sense of insularity," and
that the more varied the
concerns and ideologies of
the people involved in Fed-
eration, the more responsive
Federation will be. Because
Federation IS its members,
Schlussel asserts.
He is well aware that large
numbers of Jews "still feel
that the Federation doesn't
speak to them," but he says
that perception is inaccurate
and he is striving to change
that viewpoint.
Martin Kraar, former ex-
ecutive director of the local
Federation who now heads
the Council of Jewish Fed-
erations in New York, says
Schlussel has a passion to
bring his own sense of Jew-
ish commitment to others,
but not in a heavy-handed
way. "Mark visited the
Soviet Union a few years ago
and came back with a desire
to find the right mechanism
to bring Jewish culture to
Russia,"recalls Kraar. "He
always takes a constructive,
sensitive approach and
manages to be an Orthodox

Jew AND a communal Jew."
That, says Kraar, is a leader.
Schlussel's leadership
abilities are being put to the
test at this critical moment,
when world Jewry is striv-
ing to pool its resources and
sense of commitment on
behalf of the Jews of the
"They're prepared to
leave, but we just can't get
them out fast enough," says
Schlussel, who believes the
influx of Soviet Jews into
Israel will provide a boost to
society there. He is hopeful
that there will be a positive
Catch-22, with the influx of
emigrants stimulating the
sluggish job market and
creating a demand for jobs.
But he is also aware of the.
incredible financial strain
being placed on Israel. Part
of the American Jewish
community's contribution,
he says, is to provide "good
old American know-how in
terms of housing develop-
ment," with plans now being
explored to provide advanc-
ed modular housing for the
new immigrants.
Whatever it takes,
Schlussel is committed, and
he says he feels "blessed" to
be serving the Jewish com-
munity at this "momentous"
time. For all of the long
hours and hard work in-
volved, he says, "the
rewards are sufficient unto
themselves," adding, "I
mean that sincerely."
No one who knows him
well has any doubts.



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