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August 20, 1993 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-08-20

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Community Views

Editor's Notebook

Life In The City Of Detroit
Has An Effect On All Of Us

Appreciating A Family
Vacation Of Memories


When I arrived
in Detroit five
years ago, I en-
countered many
people — Jewish
and non-Jewish
— who spoke
with pride of the
number of years
since they were
"south of Eight Mile Road."
Friends and neighbors asked
me how I "survived" a job that
requires weekly, if not daily
meetings downtown.
While many other metropol-
itan areas wrestle with issues
that pit the city against its sub-
urbs, Detroit seems to have an
advanced stage of city-suburban
rancor. Surely the 1967 riots,
now more than 25 years in the

In the meantime, the city of
Detroit has undergone an eco-
nomic and social decline un-
paralleled by most other large
American cities. The image we
see of Detroit on the front pages
and evening news are of aban-
doned buildings, burned homes,
murdered children and unem-
ployment lines.
Have we, as suburban
dwellers and Jews, given up on
the city of Detroit? Can we af-
ford to do so?
There are several indicators
that members of the Jewish
community remain connected
to Detroit. A few thousand Jews
still live in the city.
Many thousands more com-
mute into the city each day for
our jobs in law firms, financial


ed above, we as Jews must not
delude ourselves by thinking
that we will be secure as long as
the city's problems are con-
tained south of Eight Mile Road.
Our security ultimately rests
on living in an area where divi-
sion, conflict and vast dispari-
ties are diminished. For
self-serving and altruistic rea-
sons, we have a Jewish obliga-
tion to work toward the goal of
reconciliation, cooperation and
the alleviation of the problems
besetting Detroit.
All of the aforementioned is
the basis for Jewish interest in
the mayoral election in Detroit
this fall. The next mayor of De-
troit will have the awesome task
of leading a city with many
problems. He or she will need

A vacation to ok Jews are only three percent of
our family aw ay the world's population. When it
from Detroit t wo comes to family histories,
weeks ago to though, most Jews can recount
Scottsdale, Ari z., stories of relatives "lost" in Eu-
home of my wif e's rope. The word "lost" means
murdered in the Holocaust. This
There, for a video that we did of Nathan was
week, we spe nt the first time we had really
time in the swim - tapped his memory this way. He
ming pool to escape the 110-d e- was more than willing to re-
grees of dry, but still oppressi ve spend, talking until he became
heat. We saw the beautiful r ed too tired.
mountains, desert cacti an d
Interesting was how he talked
enough sites to warm, us durin g of all of his relatives in a spiri-
the winter. At night after th e tual sense. Looking at us, he told
kids went to bed, we sat aroun d of how "you wouldn't have been
and exchanged family stori es able to even enter Aunt Bessie's
with my in-laws and my wife 's house unless you had a kippah
grandfather. My wife is fort u- on your head." There were oth-
nate that her grandfather is ers too that he spoke about with
alive, healthy and also living in reverence for their observant
One of the conversations w e
The history, the human touch
had was perhaps the mos t of Nathan's narrative was won-
telling. When I think of our va - derful to experience. There were
cation, I won't remember it by a other topics he touched on, his
souvenir or a place we saw o ✓ love of baseball, the days driving
even a postcard of Cambelbac k the cab or welding at the ship-
Mountain. Instead, it will be th e yards. But the common thread
issues of living Judaism tha t was the Jewish angle, be it a
came up for our family.
subject of symbolism or a rela-
My wife's grandfather ,
Nathan Rothschild, was asked
to tell us (while we recorded on
videotape) as much as he could
about his descendents as well as
his deceased wife's family. The
discussion went something like
this: "Aunt Esther came over
from Poland. She was Orthodox. tionship. Nathan does not wear
She used to grind her gefilte fish a kippah, nor does he attend a
from scratch. She was more re- synagogue with any regularity.
ligious than you ever were. She He does wear, however, his Ju-
came over here with her younger daism.
brother. Everyone they left in
So many times we hear that
Poland was never heard from when the current generation of
Holocaust survivors dies out,
Then there was a grandpar- we'll have only our memories,
ent lost in Germany, a missing our photos and our writings. Will
set of cousins also in Poland. The we have to prove that the Holo-
names continued and continued. caust was real?
Behind us on the wall was a
These are quite literally the
framed brass family tree with lit- war stories, a time of pain, loss,
tle colored jewels set next to the heroism and valor by ordinary
names of the members of my people who make up our Jewish
wife's side of the family. The tree families. If the six million didn't
started with grandparents perish, my in-laws' hallway wall
Nathan and Pearl Rothschild. It wouldn't be big enough to hold
continued all the way down to all of the photographs.
their great-grandchildren. But
All of us need a family wall of
as Nathan painfully recounted, photos or an audio or videotape
the family tree didn't begin with of our older family members.
he and Pearl. Its branches would There's a continuity that we pray
have gone off the gold frame, its will continue. To feel and touch
roots would have touched the the hand of a survivor while he
floor. All around the framed fam- or she still lives, to hug grand-
ily tree were photos of men, parents or great-grandparents
wearing kippot and staring and to listen to what they say.
ahead seriously, with their That's one of our best sources of Cr)
wives. Nathan knew who most education, human emotion and
of these people were. Across the lessons of life.
hallway wall the older black and
In one quick week in Arizona,
white photos of past generations whether it was taping Nathan,
became colorful reproductions of hugging my mother-in-law, or
my in-laws' younger days — all hearing a story of "Grandpa co
the way through three weddings Dave," whose picture was on the
and seven grandchildren.
wall, we got to visit, once again,
It dawned on all of us that the whole family.

There's a
continuity that we
pray will continue.

Artwork from the Los Angeles Times by Catherine Kanner. Copyright* 1993, Cathe

past, made a lasting impression
on the collective psyche of sub-
urban Detroit, particularly of
those who moved from Detroit
m the late 1960s and 1970s.
Politicians on both sides of
Eight Mile Road have capital-
ized on the resentments and
have inflamed them, as have
e news media. In recent
years, "talk radio" has given
oice to black and white bigots
who use the airwaves to spew
their venom back and forth
,cross Eight Mile Road.

,David Gad-Harf is the execu-
tive director of the Jewish Com-
munity Council of Metro Detroit.

institutions and other busi-
nesses. Still thousands more of
us spend much leisure time in
the city's cultural, sports and
entertainment facilities.
Those of us who do not live,
work or play there still depend
on it because the suburbs are in-
extricably connected to Detroit.
Suburban businesses rely on
city workers, clients and cus-
tomers. Metropolitan services
(e.g., airports, the water system,
etc.) would disintegrate without
a sizable urban base.
The bottom line is that we
cannot and should not turn our
backs on Detroit. In addition to
all of the pragmatic reasons cit-

rine Kanner. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate.

the support of not just Detroit
residents, but of the entire met-
ropolitan citizenry.
From our standpoint, it is im-
portant that whoever is elected
this November has supporters
from the Jewish community. It
is important that all of us be-
come informed about the can-
didates and their agendas.
Hopefully, as we reach out to
the new mayor, he or she will
reciprocate by genuinely seek-
ing to collaborate with subur-
ban Detroit. Perhaps many of
us will even begin to boast about
the number of times we've re-
cently had the chance to be in
the city. ❑



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