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December 20, 1991 - Image 29

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?

SHAKER HEIGHTS

HOUSING OFFICE
6EPARTMENT

----.

OF

COMMUNITY SERVICES

achievement, even some
gang violence — Shaker
schools routinely win
awards and accolades.
In 1986, Town and Coun-
try magazine rated Shaker
Height's high school one of
the nation's best. Over 50 per-
cent of the class of '91 at-
tends an Ivy League or other
selective college.
Shaker Heights is a
wealthy community, and
taxes itself heavily to sup-
port the schools. Even with
successful schools, many
Jews and other whites left
the city for the newer
suburbs of Pepper Pike and
Beachwood.
That exodus, already- 30
years old, has left its scars.
But Shaker Heights, with an
impeccable reputation
locally and nationwide, will
always attract newcomers.

Shaker's Neighbor
Still Struggling
Neighboring Cleveland
Heights, on Shaker's nor-
thern border, has struggled
with the exodus. The Jewish
community has kicked in
with a low-interest loan pro-
gram of its own.
In 21 years, the Heights
Area Project, which services
both Cleveland and
neighboring University
Heights, has issued about
400 loans to Jews who wish
to stay in a community
which once thrived with
Jewish life.
Now, Cleveland Heights'
Jewish community is
centered on Taylor Road,
which hosts Metro
Cleveland's Orthodox Jew-
ish community. In this
community, integration is
not as important as preser-
vation. The Jewish commun-
ity owns about $50 million
in real estate and buildings
in the area.
"It was clear that some-
thing had to be done," said
Mrs. Gray, the community
relations president. Already,

several Jewish institutions —
including a newly built JCC,
a major Conservative con-
gregation and a Jewish nurs-
ing home — have moved fur-
ther east.

While the Orthodox com-
munity has thrived with the
Jewish community's loan
program, Cleveland Heights
may still be a community at
risk of losing its Jewish
identity. Few Jewish com-
munal events take place
there, and non-affiliated
Jewish professionals com-
plain that their needs are
ignored.
Michael Bennett, a news-
paper editor and a Cleveland
Heights resident, took ad-
vantage of the Jewish com-
munity's loan program to
buy a home in Coventry
Village, a neighborhood
bordering East Cleveland.
Now, he serves on its ad-
visory board — which hasn't
met in a year.

Cleveland Heights, he
said, is a forgotten commun-
ity. Unaffiliated with any
synagogue, Mr. Bennett
must travel east for almost
any Jewish activity. That,
he said, symbolizes the
substantive end of the com-
munity.
And while Cleveland
Heights city officials are
proud of the city's rich mix of
minority groups, coexistence
has not always been easy.
Jewish merchants on
Taylor Road frequently
complain about black
students from a neighboring
high school who, they claim,
menace them and their
patrons.
When blacks first moved
into Cleveland Heights, they
were greeted with a
firebombing. The city
stepped in with its own office
to promote the city's in-
tegration. The office has
served both as a watchdog
and a real estate agent,
offering a low-interest loan

program similar to the
Shaker Heights' program.
The Jewish community
now emphasizes community
relations over the mortgage
program.
"The age of dialogue is
past," said Alan Ronkin,
who heads the Heights Area
Project. Striving to share in
certain goals, like rallying
support for school tax levies,
brings the Jewish and black
communities together. But it
is an uneasy alliance, prac-
ticed at coffee klatches but
not on street corners or in
neighborhoods.
"Integrated has no mean-
ing," said Eleanor Berns-
tein, a Shaker Heights resi-
dent and volunteer at the
city's housing office. "It
means there's a lot of
blacks."

Without tolerance, she
added, integration is smoke
and mirrors, a fantasy of
coexistence that really
masks white flight.

Donald DeMarco,
director of the
city's housing
office.

"We face the same prob-
lems that other communities
do — we just have more
practice dealing with them,"
said Mr. Freeman, the school
superintendent.

Mr. Freeman said the
Heights communities are
the ones dealing in reality.
As upwardly-mobile blacks
look to the suburbs for better
schools and services, white
and black families will be
forced to learn to live side-
by-side, he said.
"Things are not what they
used to be," said Mr.
Freeman. "People need to
understand that." ❑

MAYFIELD RD.

3221

CEDAR RD.

cc
i-
z
w

a

CC

w
w

_J

FAIRMOUNT

SHAKER

WOODLA ND RD.

SHAKER BLVD.

HEIGHTS

I`ilvsmAN RD.

CHAGRIN BLVD.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

29

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