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December 20, 1991 - Image 23

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-12-20

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

SOUTHFIELD:

AT RISK?

Neighborhood integration does
not happen naturally.

TALES OF FIVE CITIES

T

KIMBERLY LIFTON

Staff Writer

hanks to a Jewish commun-
ity loan program, busi-
nessman Boruch Levine
purchased a home in the
Upper Park Heights com-
munity of Baltimore.
Without the loan, he said,
he and his family would still
be living in an apartment.
Because of the Neighbor-
hood Project, a similar inter-
est-free loan program in

ANALYSIS

metropolitan Detroit, Cheryl
and Arnold Berlin, both
computer engineers, pur-
chased a starter home in
Southfield.
The upwardly mobile cou-
ple hopes to move into a
larger home further nor-
thwest within the next five
years.
With the assistance of a
21-year-old Jewish commun-
ity project, thought to be the
first Jewish community loan
assistance program, news-
paper editor Michael Ben-
nett bought a home in
Cleveland Heights, Ohio.
These financial incentives
have provided success
stories for the Jewish com-
munities of Detroit,
Cleveland and Baltimore.
Each community launched
loan programs to encourage
Jewish families to buy

SOURCED:

AT RISK?

This is the second of a
three-part series. Next
week, we will discuss the
future of the Jewish corn-
munity in Southfield and
northwest migration.

homes in older neighbor-
hoods that were losing Jews
to blacks and other
minorities.
Yet visits to Cleveland and
Baltimore, as well as to
Philadelphia and Chicago,
show clearly that com-
munities — no matter how
successfully integrated —
have a long way to go before
they achieve racial har-
mony.
In the second of a three-
part series on Southfield and
the future of the Jewish
community, The Jewish
News takes a close look at a
few of the nation's integra-
tion and Jewish revival pro-
jects.
When looking at incen-
tives, Detroit, Baltimore and
Cleveland had much to con-
sider. Each housed many
Jewish institutions, con-
gregations and educational
facilities. Each community
faced similar histories. Jews
move continuously, leaving
behind building after
building for newer, bigger
and better.
Although their com-
munities historically never
moved back to older neigh-
borhoods, Jewish leaders
believed financial incentives
might make a difference.
And they did.
Detroit's Neighborhood
Project has granted 461
loans since its inception in
1987. Neighborhood Project,
in fact, provides the best in-
centive: free money toward a
down payment. It is the
only interest-free program.
Cleveland's Heights Area
Project, used as a model for
Jewish communities
throughout the United
States, has granted 400
loans in its 21 years — far
fewer loans than Neighbor-
hood Project. Yet it is part of
a larger integration program
— one that includes Shaker
Heights, government funds
and praise from the White
House.

.

Baltimore's Comprehen-
sive Housing Assistance Inc.
(CHAI) has helped 450
families buy homes, and has
counseled over 1,400 clients
since its inception in 1983. It
is credited in part with
stabilizing an area in tran-
sition. The Jewish institu-
tions were located there, and
the residents were getting
older.
They wanted to bring in
younger Jewish families,
and they wanted to make the
area attractive to middle
class whites and blacks.
They didn't get what they
planned, but CHAT leaders
are happy with their results.

Because of an unplanned
and still-growing influx of
Orthodox families, the com-
munity has become
predominantly Orthodox
and black.
Two of the places profiled
— Oak Park, Ill. and Mt.
Airy, Pa. — provide
scenarios much different
from the others. Each has
earned national praise be-
cause they are integrated by
choice, meaning hard work,
little or no public money and
grass-roots efforts on the
part of a few visionaries.
Oak Park, Ill. and Mt. Airy
attract smaller numbers of
Jews than Southfield,
Shaker Heights-Cleveland
Heights and Upper Park
Heights. They are mostly
liberal-minded, and many
are unaffiliated religiously.
In Oak Park, Ill. and in
Mt. Airy, whites and blacks
live harmoniously and work
together to maintain safe
neighborhoods and vibrant
schools. Yet integration in
all of these cities didn't
happen naturally.
Living together, working
together and fighting
together for safe neighbor-
hoods and schools is a step in
the right direction. Yet this
does not underscore the
issue of racial tensions. In

most of these cities, grass-
roots efforts and financial
incentives haven't dis-
counted long-standing
biases.
In most communities, For
Sale signs still pop up when
blacks and other minorities
buy homes. Jews living in
Southfield, and those who
have moved away, say they
leave when blacks and
Chaldeans become their
neighbors. They say they are
scared.
Families of different
backgrounds in these com-
munities rarely socialize
with those living next door.
Perhaps bigger homes,
private garages and larger
lots have contributed to a lost
sense of neighborhood.
Or perhaps Jews, whites,
blacks, Chaldeans and
others don't really want to
be integrated.
Even Mt. Airy, which on
the surface appears to be
utopia for ethnics and other
minorities, has its problems.
A photographer's visit there
a week before publication
revealed a new twist.
Several For Sale signs were
posted along a popular street
in the community touted as
a national model for integra-
tion.
No loan program alone can
change perceptions. But
understanding and edu-
cation will help. There are
no financial incentives in
Mt. Airy; there are some in
Oak Park, Ill.
People like Barbara Talley
and Ann Wettlaufer, who
run the Oakland County
Center for Open Housing,
are on the right track.
The center hopes to pro-
mote racial harmony
throughout Oakland Coun-
t y , one of the most
segregated counties in the
country. They want to per-
suade whites to move into
areas with larger concentra-
tions of blacks, and vice versa.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

23

C

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