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July 05, 1991 - Image 61

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

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When Rabbi Bruce Aft came to the Agency for Jewish Education three
years ago, to sit at the helm of the Midrasha-College of Jewish Studies and
the Community Jewish High School, he clarified his goals and then set out
to achieve them.

High on his list of priorities were: building the High School program and
enhancing relationships between students and faculty, himself and the
administration. He hoped for it to become more of a communal High
School, one which would provide programming for other institutions,
synagogues and youth groups. Rabbi Aft is satisfied with the successes
achieved in these areas, particularly the latter one, which resulted in his
helping to establish the Robert Kornwise Judaica Weekend, which attracts
teens from a wide spectrum of the Jewish Community. Among other
successes are the family education events, including the very successful
Family Living Room that Rabbi Aft instituted.
It was his further intention to work to sustain this successful growth, and make the programs accessible
to as wide a variety of students as possible, as well as to provide a wider range of programs because,
Rabbi Aft notes, "For all the students we're now reaching, there are probably twenty times as many that
we've yet to reach."

As Rabbi Aft plans to relocate, these hopes of sustenance and expansion become his legacy to his
successor, the new Director of the Community Jewish High School, Ms. Judy Silberg Loebl. On the
Midrasha level, there were also goals which have seen fruition during Rabbi Aft's tenure. He and his
colleagues sought to make the Midrasha programs accessible to the community by going "people to
people." This resulted in a series of partnerships between the Midrasha and various synagogues,
organizations and other institutions, in the co-sponsoring of programs. Dr. Helene Cohen, who will take
over as Director of the Midrasha College of Jewish Studies, will continue to focus on community
partnership programs and ongoing adult educaiton.

Known for his exceptional rapport with this teenage students, Rabbi Aft recalls becoming a rabbi and
the words spoken to him then by Mordechai Kaplan: "The key thing to remember is always have
integrity." Keeping in mind that kids can judge a person's "authenticity," Rabbi Aft is careful to convey to
youngsters his sincerity.

Through all of his teaching experiences, Rabbi Aft feels certain these programs have made a difference
for many teens. He has made himself available to his students at difficult times, as well...when parents are
going through a divorce, when families need emotional support, when there are communication
problems between a youngster and family, when a teen is contemplating suicide or facing illness. Again,
Rabbi Aft is confident when he says, "We've changed a lot of lives."

Looking back on his three years in Detroit, Rabbi
Aft's most special moment was when he was able to
meet with Dr. and Mrs. Kornwise to tell them that the
Robert Kornwise Judaica Weekend was taking shape,
and then, that it had happened. "I was able to tell
them that this experience had made an impact on the
lives of the students who had participated in the
weekend, which was a great tribute to Robert's

Throughout the community, among rabbis,
professional educators, lay people, and students, there
are many who wish Rabbi Aft well even as they regret his
departure. It is hoped that our paths will continue to cross
with his and that his move will bring him and his family
health, happiness and success.

Participants at Robert Kornwise Judaica Weekend.

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