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August 31, 1990 - Image 6

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-08-31

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Painful Progress

The Jewish Welfare Federation board of
governors' endorsement of moving Federa-
tion offices to the suburbs was a painful
Few of the governors argued on Tuesday
that the move was unjustified. Federa-
tion's location in downtown Detroit has
become a liability. It is too far from the
people and the agencies it represents and
has become a deterrent to volunteerism, to
an informed constituency being actively
involved in meetings and decision-making.
The Federation has recognized these
issues in a de facto sense by scheduling
morning and evening meetings at the
United Hebrew Schools building and at
area restaurants closer to the core of the
Jewish population of Detroit. But these
locations are hardly conducive to proper
decision-making, bereft as they are of
proper staff and resources.
The major arguments against moving the
Federation offices are cost and image. Is
the cost of a new building, or moving into

leased suburban quarters when demands
for communal resources are so high,
justified by the gains in access to the com-
munity? We think so.
There will be public relations fallout. To
ease concerns in the black community, the
Federation intends to keep its outreach
arm — the Jewish Community Council —
in Detroit offices. It's appropriate that the
JCCouncil, the major contact with the non-
Jewish community, remains in Detroit.
We also think it appropriate for the Fed-
eration leadership to continue discussion of
location for the new offices. At a time when
Federation has spent significant sums and
made countless policy decisions to support
the Jewish presence in Oak Park and
Southfield, we find it surprising that a
Farmington Hills location is being given
Oak Park or Southfield should be the
central address for Federation . . .and the
Detroit area's Jewish community.

Practicing Jews

History will look back on this period as
the Mass Emigration from the Soviet
Union. We have become accustomed to the
daily miracles of Soviet Jewish families ar-
riving here and our community efforts to
help them find their way and begin new
But will the tens of thousands of Soviet
Jews coming to the United States pass on a
Jewish heritage to their children and
That is the question behind the Ameri-
can Jewish community's Jewish accultura-
tion effort, described in this week's cover
story. Experts acknowledge that it is an
uphill battle.
Many of the Soviet Jews who came in the
early 1970s were lost to Judaism,
assimilating into the mainstream Ameri-
can secular culture. And the Soviet Jews
coming to the United States now are far
less "Jewish" than the previous immi-
grants. Those arriving in 1990 have vir-
tually no knowledge or attachment to
Judaism —being Jewish in the USSR was a
negative factor, another cause for hard-
The effort to bring a sense of Jewish his-
tory, heritage and identity to the
newcomers is admirable, and of vital im-
For many American Jews, Jewish identi-

ty is based on a nostalgia for ritual and
tradition that the arriving Soviet immi-
grants do not have. For large numbers of
American Jews, affiliation with the Jewish
community means joining and supporting
one or more volunteer organizations — a
concept alien to the newcomers from the
What kind of Jews, then, do we want
these Soviet immigrants to be in the
United States? Do we want them to be
more religious than we are? Do we teach
them that in America, being Jewish means
writing a check for Jewish causes?
These questions provide a litmus test for
our own Jewish expression.
Synagogues, religious institutions and
interested individuals must take an active
role, and not just rely on Federation. It is
important that any and all outreach pro-
grams that provide positive contact bet-
ween American Jews and Soviet Jews be
encouraged. In a pluralistic society, there
is no one way to success. Also, outreach
efforts must be ongoing. We must not
assume that if a Soviet Jewish family
shows no interest in synagogue or organ-
izational involvement the first year or two,
it is pointless to contact them again. We
must continue to reach out to these
families three, five and even ten years
after a family has arrived.

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Incidents Show

It is important to make note
of three separate incidents
that are sad reflections on the
current state of anti-Israel
and anti-Semitic sentiment
as well as pure self-serving
The first concerns a group
of Ann Arbor Jews who,
together with a small group
of Arabs, composed a letter, in
the safety of their own homes,
which was recently printed in
the Detroit Free Press and The
Jewish News. Their letter
concluded that if Israel is to
have peace, it must settle on
terms dictated by the Arab
world. Never in the history of
the world have the losers of
wars dictated the terms for
peace to the victors. Why
should Israel become the
first? Let this group from Ann
Arbor speak to the parents of
the slain Israeli teens, or the
families of the tortured or
slain, or the suspected Arab
Unfortunately, it is equally
important to consider the
case of anti-Semitic stereotyp-
ing displayed in the new
Spike Lee movie Mo' Better
Blues. The blatant stereotyp-
ing cited by the Anti-
Defamation League, and Mr.
Lee's lack of apology in light
of his self-proclaimed role as
a black movie producer/direc-
tor/actor to eliminate racial
stereotyping is injury enough.
However, when the distribu-
tors of the film, Jewish movie
studio executives L. Wasser-
man and Sidney Sheinberg,
defend Mr. Lee's right to
stereotype Jews under the
guise of artistic freedom, it
truly rubs salt into an open
and festering wound. Would
these two executives also
have distributed the pro-
paganda films of Goebbels

and Hitler with such flimsy
reasoning if there was money
to be made?
Finally, yet another current
event should not escape our
scorn. This is the case of the
Israeli landlords who doubled
the rents of their Soviet
tenants to take advantage of
government subsidies to
Soviet immigrants. These
Israeli Jews are also sadly in-
fected by the powerful and
destructive disease called
If we are to survive as a peo-
ple, and Israel is to live on as
a nation, we must not let self-
serving and blind-sighted in-
cidents such as these go un-
marked. Our voices must
strongly reject this dangerous
undercurrent by this small
yet loud group of anti-Semites
amongst us.

Bert Kriechman
Farmington Hills

Maccabi Games
Were Terrific

My husband and I
volunteered to work for the
Maccabi Youth Games.
We were designated to be
greeters at the Ramada Inn.
We were overwhelmed by the
graciousness of the visitors.
The families of the Maccabi.
participants were polite and
charming. It was a lot of fun
being greeters.
The next job as a volunteer
was to serve lunches for three
different days. The hours flew
and the athletes and
associates were patient and
behaved as if they were one
person, instead of hundreds of
people (of all ages, countries
and languages). I was over-
whelmed with wonder at
their gracious behavior.
I commend these charming
and wonderful young people.
Continued on Page 11

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