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July 05, 1991 - Image 6

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-07-05

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Future Of Southfield
After Beth Achim

Beth Achim's possible merger with B'nai
Moshe and possible move to West Bloom-
field is not only significant for the con-
gregations it involves, but it could also
carry with it an impact of major propor-
tions for Southfield's Jewish community.
Indeed, demographic studies have al-
ready indicated that some young profes-
sional Jewish families are at least con-
sidering an exodus from the city. The most
prominent reasons given are an incorrect
perception of a decline in the quality of
public education.
Beth Achim is moving out because its
congregation is aging, and its membership
numbers are on the decline. A Beth Achim
official said the move was not a nail in the
coffin of Southfield's Jewish community
caused by the synagogue. Instead, the nail
in the coffin came from Southfield Jews
who chose not to affiliate with a syn-
agogue, especially not a congregation
within Southfield.
The Jewish Federation, meanwhile, is
seeing continued success within Southfield
when it comes to Neighborhood Project
loans. The number of loans to Southfield
residents now far outdistances loans going
to the Oak Park area. And Jewish institu-
tions in Southfield continue to thrive. Just
200 yards west of Beth Achim on 12 Mile
Road, the United Hebrew Schools building
serves as a typically busy community
meeting place.
So whether or not the Beth Achim facili-
ty is a synagogue or a community center or
even a church, there is still vital Jewish in-
terest in Southfield. However, when it
comes to neighborhoods, Jews in this area
and in similar areas all over the country
are perhaps the nation's largest group of
panic movers. Be it the picture of a black
family moving next door or now an aging

synagogue going out because of the hopes
and dynamics that the outer suburbs offer,
image seems to play a role.
If Beth Achim moves, it's easy to say
Southfield would be at a loss. But the truth
is, it doesn't have to be a complete setback.
Indeed, not everyone now affiliated with
Beth Achim is going to be in a position to
move out to West Bloomfield. Also, there
are most assuredly those who want to
make their worship part of their Southfield
living experience. We know that a syn-
agogue building is symbolically represent-
ative of an entire congregation. But we
recommend for those who stay behind that
they look into starting their own congrega-
tion. It doesn't have to be in a synagogue
building, it can be in a house, office space
or even at United Hebrew Schools. It can
be for 20 families, not 200. But it's impor-
tant to show the community that not
everyone goes along with the exodus, and
that even on a smaller level, there's some-
thing here for Jewish Southfield.

We urge the community to watch this
issue closely. First, we need to see what
Beth Achim's membership votes to do.
Then the Federation needs to work with
Beth Achim leadership, helping them to
keep the synagogue within a Jewish con-
text. It is not Federation's role to purchase
every piece of property in danger of becom-
ing a church, such as the B'nai Moshe
facility in Oak Park which will re-open in
September as the new Bais Yaakov.
However, Federation, with its influence,
can and should somehow play a role.

The rest of us should not put up the "For
Sale" signs. Southfield still offers great
schools, great parks and library, great
location and services, and the largest Jew-
ish community in metropolitan Detroit.

Yavneh's Message

This is a community that has a national
reputation for responding to crisis. We
raise millions of dollars on short notice to
settle Soviet Jews in Israel. We rally by the
thousands to express solidarity for Israel
when it is under Scud missile attack.
There are countless domestic issues that
come from all directions in the community.
Last week was a case in point when Temple
Israel announced it will offer itself as a
shelter for the homeless.
But what about the Yavneh Academy?
Who will rally for a Reform day school in
this community?
Yavneh's headmaster, Dr. Margaret
Eichner, said that when a school like
Yavneh is community-owned, nobody takes
responsibility for it.
But Jewish values and holidays that
many of us overlook at home certainly are
not going to come from the public schools.
That's not their job. When questions of


FRIDAY, JULY 5, 1991

intermarriage and assimilation show up in
our children, we'll wonder why we don't
have the answers. Yavneh was one of those
Once again, Temple Israel is coming for-
ward to offer day school education to the
Yavneh students. We urge the Reform
leadership to come together and think
about what it wants in the day school
arena, if it wants anything at all. If there is
ever a call for a community-wide Reform
day school in the future, then the planners
need to learn from the Yavneh experience.
The classroom experience at Yavneh was
joyous to behold. But perhaps the commun-
ity politics that go into the formation of a
school and the marketing philosophies
need to be examined for the future. And
hopefully behind the strength of commun-
ity leaders such as Temple Israel, three
years of Yavneh will lead to generations of
Reform day school education.


Documented Proof
On Peter Jennings

My colleagues and I
documented the biased repor-
ting of Peter Jennings in a
Detroit Zionist Federation let-
ter to ABC News Sept. 21,
1989. The evidence was
Recently, the editor of the
Jerusalem Post, David Bar-
Ilan, presented current in-
stances of half-truths and
distortions, innuendos and
cunning devices to discredit
the government of Israel.
While no one disputes Mr.
Jennings' right to express
contrary opinions, he has no
right to manipulate the news
— in an unethical and un-
professional manner.
We were therefore astound-
ed to read the "lukewarm"
criticism of Peter Jennings by
Arthur Magida (May 31) that
bordered on acceptance of his
insidious undeclared war on
Israel's integrity, and the Jen-
nings defense by Howard
Gofstein (Letters, June 14).
I believe the Jewish com-
munity should organize a
panel of impartial academic
people to review and report
the truth about Peter Jenn-
ings' recorded statements.

Dr. Milton J. Steinhardt


Military Service

In reply to A.M. Silver-
stein's letter (June 14) concer-
ning equal funding for
yeshiva and university
students in Israel:
There is one very critical
difference between yeshiva
students and university
students. The typical Israeli
university student, if male,
has served three years in the
military and, if female, has
served one year or more in the

military or in national ser-
vice. Furthermore, males give
a month or more per year for
military service until age 55.
Israeli society funds univer-
sities, in part, as its end of the
social pact to reimburse its
citizens for mandatory
military service.
Typically, haredi yeshiva
students do not serve in the
military though they still
want equivalent funding.
Since these yeshiva students
fail to perform their military
duty and thereby force addi-
tional reserve duty on their
fellow citizens, they are not
entitled to make a funding
demand on the society.
It is important to differen-
tiate between haredim who
opt out of their military
obligation and datiim who
serve either in regular Zahal
units, or who combine their
yeshiva studies with military
service over five years
through the Yeshivot Hesder
program. They fulfill all of
their military obligation and,
therefore, are entitled to
subsequent funding in either
universities or yeshivot.

L.S. Forst


Israel Needs
Our Support

I have just returned from a
trip to Israel. Even though it
was my ninth trip, I still re-
joice in the miracle of Israel's
birth and survival against all
odds. I was asked many times
when more American Jews
will start visiting Israel again
and I told them I hope very
I feel more strongly than
ever that now is the time for
the New Jewish Agenda and
the Old Jewish agendas and
all the agendas in between to
put aside whatever disagree-
ments they may have with

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