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April 05, 1991 - Image 68

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-04-05

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il..sistant Editor


y 8 a.m. every day,
Neil Kalef and his
friends have solved
just about all the problems of
the world.
After the morning minyan
at Congregation B'nai
David, the men meet for
breakfast where each offers
a blueprint certain to bring
world peace and resolve
economic woes.
But talk carries Neil Kalef
only so far. After breakfast,
and a daily three-mile walk
around the neighborhood, is
when Mr. Kalefs real work
Among his regular pro-
jects: delivering Meals on
Wheels to home-bound
seniors, hosting widowers
for Shabbat and volunteer-
ing twice weekly at Sinai
Hospital, where he visits
with patients in the
psychiatric ward.
And somewhere in-
between he went to Israel for
three months as a volunteer,
is active at his synagogue
and in B'nai B'rith, says
yahrtzeit for 20 relatives,
and has time for anyone who
comes to his door.
"The most inspiring and
impressive aspect that Neil
Kalefs many accomplish-
ments have taught us is that
our senior years can be a time
of giving, renewal and vision,
and service to God, to Israel,
to the synagogue and to our
fellow man," said Rabbi Mor-
ton Yolkut of Congregation
B'nai David.
"Neil never retired from
Jewish life. He continues to
exemplify the very finest
qualities of Yiddishkeit and
menschlikeit. He is a bless-
ing, an inspiration and a role
model to his synagogue
family at B'nai David and
indeed to all in our commun-
ity who know, admire and
respect him."

R Neil Kalef:
"He is a blessing, an inspiration and a role model."

Hard work is a Kalef fami-
ly tradition. Neil's father, a
rabbi, in 1914 left the

Ukraine and settled in
Canada. Rabbi Kalef, his
wife and six children, in-
cluding 10-year-old Neil,
were on the last ship to leave
Russia before World War I:
The Kalefs joined 70 Jewish
families in Saskatoon, where
to encourage settlement
land was given away.
Rabbi Kalef was to serve
as the town's "rabbi, shochet
(kosher butcher), mohel and
teacher — with a good sing-
ing voice," Neil Kalef says
today. "He was a one-man
At 19, Neil went off to
California. He stayed with
family in Los Angeles and
studied at night at UCLA.
Then the letters began ar-
riving. Neil's sister had
married and moved to
Detroit. She sent her brother
long, tear-stained missives
telling of her loneliness.
"She begged and begged
and begged until finally I
came to Detroit," Mr. Kalef
Neil Kalef decided to stay
in Detroit, where he met his
future bride, Esther, who
also had been born in
Russia. "I got to meet her on
a blind date and that's the
way it started," he says.
They had two sons, Ray
and Maynard, and numerous
grandchildren, each of whom
Mr. Kalef swears is perfect.
To support his family dur-
ing the Depression, Mr.
Kalef worked all week at
Briggs Manufacturing,
which made auto bodies, and
on the weekends at a super-
market. He was often able to
secure leftover fruits and
vegetables which he brought
home for friends, many of
whom had no jobs.
Briggs was later sold to
Chrysler, where Mr. Kalef
worked in cost accounting
until his retirement in 1966.
That retirement lasted three
months; then he took a job
with the National Wholesale
Drug Co.
The synagogue, B'nai
David, was central in the
Kalefs' lives. Mr. Kalef
served several times as pres-

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