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August 06, 1993 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-08-06

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Community Views


School Elections:
What Did We Learn?

The Jewish Response:
Reaching Out



Our communities
came together on
June 14, 1993,
and voted for
progress in pub-
lic education.
These are trying
times for public
schools in Michi-
gan and in fact
across the United States, where
voters are angry, budgets are
being cut, pink slips have been
sent, contract negotiations have
begun or are continuing, mill-
ages have gone down to defeat;
our July 1 fiscal year in Bloom-
field Hills, for example, will like-
ly begin with an additional,
unpredictable shortfall created
by an eleventh hour Robin Hood
raid from Lansing.
Added to this unhappy scene,
repeated with slight variance
from district to district, there is
growing disenchantment with
public schools, a favorite topic
of media people and politicos.
It then becomes especially
gratifying to realize that in
many cases our communities
appeared at the polls on voting
day this year in uncharacteris-
tically large numbers to show
their support for well-qualified
school board candidates, to over-
ride the Headlee amendment
\__ and to renew important milLage
,--' requests.
What made this year differ-
ent? What impelled people to ac-
tion? Four communities in
/- particular: Birmingham, Bloom-
7 ` J field Hills, Southfield and West
Bloomfield, came together in an
,̀=--, unprecedented networking ef-
In each of these districts, even
11 with an unchallenged election
(Th in West Bloomfield, there was

shared concern among Chris-
tians and Jews that there was
\ - _, well-organized,
w .
right-wing opposition. We
) shared information, compared
notes and crossed district lines
• in order to support school board
candidates that best upheld aca-
demic freedom and continued
\ _) , i improvement
in public educa-
ton. In these four communities,
this year, we were 100 percent
If you look at the voting mar-
gins in each of the suburban dis-
tricts where significant
challenges occurred, there are
some easily detectable and con-
sistent patterns. The victories
were statistically small, when
held up against the total num-
ber of potential voters, and in
many communities "new right"
candidates garnered significant
percentages of the vote. Their
only decisive victory was one

seat in Rochester.
The "high" voter turnout in
Birmingham and Bloomfield
Hills comprised only 13-14 per-
cent of the voting population,
and in Bloomfield Hills there
was a significant money issue
on the ballot. Money issues typ-
ically draw greater numbers of
voters than board candidate
The high turnout in Birm-
ingham is directly attributable
to both sides of the very hotly
debated issues working hard-

ucation process.
As candidates we were in-
formed in a letter dated May 24,
1993, and attached to the ques-
tionnaire, that our answers
would "be published in The Jew-
ish News prior to the election."
The article that appeared in the
June 13 issue presented a grid,
with three responses selected
for each of the six questions
asked. In all, 18 candidates'
views were presented on the
grid, with four being cited in
small print at the bottom, in-




Mindy Nathan is a school
board member in Bloomfield

Artwork from Newsday by Anthony D'Adamo Copyright. 1990, Newsday. Dtstranned by Los Angeles Ttmes Syndscate.

er than ever before — hence the
relatively narrow win of around
800. votes. With approximately
8,200 people voting out of a po-
tential 55,000 registered, this is
not a safe margin.
What this means to all of our
suburban Detroit communities
is that even with our increased
efforts at mobilizing supportive
voters, we must do more. Not
enough of our communities are
voting in school elections. The
organized opposition, which is
growing, knows that there is a
huge hole out there.
How can we keep our com-
munities together, focused on
positive support of public
The question is really one
about effective advocacy for ed-
ucation, and there are clues to
be found in exposing the oppo-
sition's platform. This year the
Jewish Community Council pro-
duced a detailed questionnaire
for 43 candidates in 11 districts,
probing for basic beliefs about
the purpose of the American
system of education, as well as
attitudes regarding the separa-
tion of church and state, the role
of school boards and the roles of
parents and educators in the ed-

eluding my own, for timely re-
sponses but no representation
in the limited display.
The attempt to educate the
readership of this newspaper
about 11 school elections and 43
candidates was a lofty, ad-
mirable and important under-
taking, if not perhaps lacking in
adequate follow-through.
I know that as a candidate,
I took great care and time to an-
swer the questions, particular-
ly since for me personally, it was
energizing and exciting to see
such interest in the campaigns.
I, along with several other
candidates, was very disap-
pointed in the resulting cover-
age. Certainly a key piece of
information was clearly over-
looked: ifonly 22 candidates in
all responded to the Jewish
Community Council, who were
the 21 who did not? This would
have been important informa-
tion, to be included in the grid,
so that the Jewish community
would have clear, complete facts
from which to make their deci-
It might also have been more
instructive, if space was the lim-
iting concern, to choose one par-


Geri Levit was
about to begin
taping "A Right-
eous Gentile" at
Continental Ca-
blevision for cable
TV when I corn-
mented on the ti-
tle. We, at the
Ecumenical In-
stitute, no longer use the ex-
pression "Righteous Gentile"
(and Christian anti-Semite). We
feel if anti-Semites are Christ-
ian, the righteous also deserve
to be called Christians.
Small thing, right? Not to
Christians. So, Geri decided to
re-title the tape "Ecumenical
Men." With that settled, we be-
gan the interview and I was
floored with Geri's introduction
of the Rev. James Lyons.
Many Jews know about
Lamed Vovnicks — 36 people in
the world for whose goodness the
world exists. When one dies, an-
other one is born — so, there are
always exactly 36. Two times
Chai (18) equals 36. Chai is life.
It's a great story. No one knows
who they are, even, especially,
they themselves.
Geri began by saying that we
Jews assumed, of course, that all
Lamed Vovnicks are Jewish.
This is a misconception. Just as
the righteous of all nations have
a share in "the world to come,"
apparently this is also true of
Lamed Vovnicks.
She then continued by telling
of Jim's work in Jewish and
Christian studies, the Ecumeni-
cal Institute, Jim's travels, hon-
ors and recognitions — and,
continuing with the greatest of
all compliments — revealing
that Jim Lyons is a true Lamed
Vovnick. This is the highest trib-
ute anyone can pay — to anyone.
The taping started with Geri
asking Jim about himself, his
youth, education, and how he
came to the dedication to build-
ing bridges between Jews and
Christians — and the two com-
munities. Jim grew up in a Bap-
tist home, went to Wayne State
University, met people of all per-
suasions and walks of life — and
— met nice Jews.
The questions weren't neces-
sary. Jim just kept telling the
story — how he left his comfort-
able position at Pine Hill Con-
gregational Church — with no
job in mind, met with Dick
Lobenthal and confided that he
wanted to found an institute to
dispel stereotypes and preju-
dices, to learn the truth about
each other through dialogue and
honest exchanges of ideas with

mutual respect and trust; how
Dick got a call from a friend who
knew of a foundation with a
grant, looking for a worthy place
to "invest" a grant. It all hap-
pened by chance. Fate made it
all fall into place.
Jim continues the story—
everyone in the studio dropped
everything — they were so en-
grossed with every word, every
story Jim told. It was a magnif-
icent experience for us all.
I've watched Jim for almost
10 years now, since Florence and
I went on Jim's first conducted
tour to Israel. It was an adven-
ture. We had been to Israel be-
fore, but now the country and
every spot came alive as we saw
the same places through Jim's
eyes. It was exciting. I go every-
where I can to see and hear Jim
in action. He is inspiring and ed-
ucational. He has reinforced my
Jewish belief as we discuss the-
ological details with openness,
honesty and respect.
The article in the July 2 Jew-
ish News is confirmation that the
world is changing, "Vatican-Is-
rael Ties Seen in a Year." Car-

Israel came alive as
we saw it through
Jim's eyes.

dinal O'Connor made this
statement in a speech to the
New York Board of Rabbis. The
official commission consists of
foreign ministry representation
from Israel and the Vatican. The
International Liaison Commit-
tee of the official Catholic-Jew-
ish dialogue has scheduled its
next biennial meeting in
Jerusalem in May 1994. Would
you believe?
Jim just returned from Israel
with an entourage of Christians
( the Jewish participants were
on the Miracle Mission). He's go-
ing again next spring — don't
miss it.
Several series of letters fol-
lowing Jim's articles in The
Jewish News revealed how nec-
essary this effort is. If you'd like
a copy, just call the Institute at
353-2434. There is a Jewish re-
sponse to anti-Semitism. It was
a natural. We are human. Now
that some — many — Christians
are reaching out to us with sin-
cere friendship, let us reach back
with the hope and expectation
that we can go forward togeth-
er. Nothing happens by itself.
We can change the world, start-
ing at least with our little corner.
Jim and the Ecumenical In-
Arnold Michlin is president stitute are effective locally, na-
of the board of trustees of the Ec- tionally and internationally. We
umenical Institute for Jewish - just need more people — more
support. Join us. CI
Christian Studies.

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