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March 22, 1991 - Image 28

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-03-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Bob Kaplan: "Where we've made
a conscious effort to adapt our
basic philosophy to younger
people, it works."

Michael Barge drops David off at school.

28

FRIDAY, MARCH 22, 1991

do we keep it that way? We
emphasize the Jewish am-
biance. When you enter
one of our schools, it's clear
it's a Jewish school. And
when parents enroll their
children, it's clear their
purpose is not to diminish
the Jewish content."
Mr. Kaplan oversees
the organization's 180
chapters in the United
States and Canada. A
photograph showing his
grandmother, mother, Mr.
Kaplan, his children — all
members of Workmen's
Circle — hangs in his New
York office. Mr. Kaplan
himself recently became a
grandfather; he wants
Workmen's Circle to be
around for his grand-
children.
A central focus of
Workmen's Circle today is
rebuilding the schools,
he says. An increasing
number of members — Mr.
Kaplan estimates 50 per-
cent —belong to syn-
agogues and temples. Eng-
lish programs are now held
where once only Yiddish
was accepted. Last year,
the Workmen's Circle
voted to increase the size of
the national board to let in
new members.
"Where we've made a
conscious effort to adapt
our basic philosophy to
younger people, it works,"
Mr. Kaplan says.
Five years ago, the
Boston chapter of
Workmen's Circle began a
campaign to draw men and
women aged 35-40 to the
organization. Today, about
50 percent of its member-
ship comes from that age
range.
Mr. Kaplan expects
Detroit and Los Angeles to
similarly increase in the
next several years. His
biggest concern is New
York, where the vast
majority of members are
65-70 years old.
"Only 25 percent of our
membership comes from
outside New York," he
says. "Ultimately, we've
got to do something here."

This move to bring in
young Jews with new ideas
hasn't always set well with
some of the older
Workmen's Circle mem-
bers, Mr. Kaplan admits.
"It's hard for those
who've been here for years
and years to stand aside
and let somebody else play
a major role," he says.
Eugene (Yosil) Broder
disagrees. A longtime
Workmen's Circle activist
locally and a "dyed-in-the-
wool secularist," Mr.
Broder says he welcomes
the new Workmen's Circle
leadership.
"If the young don't in-
herit the wind, who will?"
he asks. "As lorig as
they're teaching Yiddish
culture and history, I don't
care who is doing it."
A former chairman of the
Workmen's Circle school
board and now financial
secretary and manager of
the cemetery, Mr. Broder
says he feels Workmen's
Circle still has an impor-
tant place in the Jewish
community.
"Who else is teaching
Yiddish and Yiddishkeit?"
he asks.

A

mid piles of insur-
ance forms and a va-
riety of multicolored
brochures, Ellen Bates-
Brackett is looking into the
Workmen's Circle's future. A
calendar across from her,
desk charts plans and
nd
programs through August
1991.
It's not exactly glorious,
serving as director of the
Detroit Workmen's Circle.
Mrs. Bates-Brackett has a
tiny, makeshift office at
the back of the building on
Coolidge in Oak Park. It's
cold in the winter, warm in
the summer. She's on a
constant search for funds:

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