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November 26, 1993 - Image 95

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-11-26

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Professor George Alcser, Professor Lynne Kogel,
and the Rev. Edward Farrell.

Rabbi Daniel Polish

Understanding through dialogue.


For over 50 years, the Round Table has been working
to strengthen relations in and around Detroit. Yet
it remains one of the best-kept secrets in town.


111hirty years ago,
Southfield resident
Corrine Oppenheim
wanted people with dif-
ferent backgrounds to
learn to live together. So
she got involved with the
Greater Detroit Inter-
faith Round Table of the
National Conference of Chris-
tians and Jews.
"We've done a lot of good, in-
cluding helping people get to
know each other," she said.
"This has really benefited the
Jewish community because oth-
ers involved in the Round Table
have become advocates for Jew-
ish issues."
Through diverse program-
ming and dialogue, the Round
Table works to strengthen
racial and religious under-
standing and respect in the
metro Detroit area, according
to its director Robert Arcand.
Said Jack Robinson, the Jew-
ish chairperson at the Round

Table, "This is an excellent or-
ganization which creates un-
derstanding and takes people
from different backgrounds and
puts them in a comfortable po-
sition to discuss different is-
sues." Leonard N. Simons, one
of the Round Table's honorary
chairs, agrees. "We have to live
together and be one big family
or we're always going to have
strife," he said. "We're not dif-
ferent. We're all the same peo-
Mr. Simons, who has been in-
volved with the organization al-
most since its beginnings in
Detroit over 50 years ago, said
the Round Table has helped
Jews gain respect and accep-
Nationally, the organization
was established in the 1920s
when the Klu Klux Klan and
other hate movements started
to gain momentum.
Now housed in clothing re-
tailer B. Siegel's former Detroit

mansion, the Round Table has
been working to build bridges
between various racial, ethnic
and religious groups in Detroit
since 1940.
In the early 1980s, a handful
of Round Table members and
others formed the American
Arabic and Jewish Friends to
strengthen relationships be-
tween local Jews and Arabs.
While the Round Table
draws significant support from
the Muslim, Christian and Jew-
ish communities and to a less-
er extent the Hindu and
Buddhist communities, until re-
cently it wanted to maintain a
low profile.
"Before I came here 15 years
ago, there was an effort to keep
us quiet and put ourselves in
the position of a mediator," Mr.
Arcand said. "When I became
director, we talked about mak-
ing some changes. It's been slow
but I feel it's critical for people
to know who we are."

Mr. Arcand would like to see
the Round Table draw enough
public support to fill a stadium
for an event. He is not com-
pletely satisfied when 500 or
600 attend one of its major func-
"I would love to fill Tiger Sta-
dium for our programs," he said.
"We should be able to attract
50,000 people and unleash an
army of goodwill all directed to-
wand improving understanding.
When you add up all the num-
bers, we're still not making a
huge impact because we're not
able to draw a crowd like the Li-
ons or Tigers."
Mr. Robinson, who has been
a member of the Round Table
for over a decade, said when
sensitive issues arise it is es-
sential for community leaders
to get involved.
"It's important for those of us
who are known in the commu-

BRIDGES page 96

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