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October 04, 1991 - Image 84

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-10-04

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



▪ •

PROFILE

FENBY STEIN

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face the Detroit side, and
while the Southfield side
looks bad, the Detroit side
looks even worse," he said.
"We're trying hard to put a
new face on Southfield."
Mr. Robinson feels one
way is to encourage busi-
ness and industry. South-
field, called the office
capital of the Midwest, is
home to two research science
parks. A third is on the way.
Another way, he said, is to
develop a proper downtown.
"Southfield needs more
people places," Mr. Robinson
said. "We need the kinds of
places where people can
have lunch, dinner or coffee
after work. We have too
many people who just come
to work in Southfield. Years
ago, Zelda and I would walk
outside and around Nor-
thland mall after dinner."
In 1954, Northland was
the first major shopping
center in the country.
It was before that time
that the Robinsons met over
a cup of coffee at B'nai B'rith
Hillel when they were
students at the University of
Michigan. Mrs. Robinson
was studying at the univer-
sity's teachers' college and
Mr. Robinson was working
on his master's degree in
economics.
Born in Detroit, Mrs.
Robinson grew up near Dex-
ter and Davison. An only
child, she attended
Roosevelt Elementary and
Central High School. Her
parents, a jeweler and a
bookkeeper, later moved to
Seven Mile and Livernois.
Mr. Robinson, born in New
York, grew up in Worcester,
Mass. His father became a
paint salesman after the
Great Depression shut down
his parking garage in the
Manhattan theater district.
Mr. Robinson's father, the
son of a rabbi, left Vilna at
16 to avoid the. Russian
army. He worked his way
across Europe on foot.
"That's why it was ironic
my father advised me to join
the U.S. Army," Mr. Robin-
son said. "He said it was the
best way to make it in the
United States."
Since Mr. Robinson had
poor eyesight, he joined the
air force in 1944 with a
waiver signed by his father.
He served two tours, one in
Europe and North Africa
and another in Korea. When
he returned, he completed
his bachelor's degree at the
City College of New York
and moved to Michigan.
"Education and political
dialogue was always impor-
tant to my father," Mr.
Robinson said. "There were
always lively, political

Zelda Robinson:
Schools veteran.

discussions in my house
growing up."
The same issues were im-
portant to Mr. Robinson
when he was older. He
entered Southfield politics
shortly after he and Mrs.
Robinson moved to
Southfield in 1966.
"It started as a dare," Mr.
Robinson said. "I said to
someone, 'If you don't run
for city council, I will.' "
That year, there were 22
candidates competing for
four seats on the city council.
"I made the primary, but I
lost the run-off," he said.

"The trick isn't
finding time. The
trick is finding free
time at the same
time."

Eli and Zelda Robinson

"Instead, I was appointed to
administer a civil service
commission."
About eight years later,
Councilman Jim McDermott
resigned.
"There was a vacancy cre-
ated, and I ran and won the
primary," Mr. Robinson
said. "Then I won the gen-
eral election on my own
name."
Mr. Robinson is running
again this fall.
Mrs. Robinson, active in
others' campaigns, didn't
realize she'd won her first
race for school board until
after she admitted defeat.
"One year, I decided to
take a crack at it," Mrs.
Robinson said. "I'd worked
so long on congressional
campaigns."
"I went to bed thinking I'd
lost by 64 votes," she said.
"But we had a party
anyway."
Mrs. Robinson got a call
the next morning.
"I was told there'd been an

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