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April 22, 1994 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-04-22

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Community Views

Editor's Notebook

New Gathering Points
To Promote Judaism

Knowing Continuity
At Akiva, Hillel



I encountered my
Chaverim in western Wayne
old college room
mate, Marc, the
Two strategies are represent-
other day after a
ed among the three groups. The
lapse of two
Grosse Pointe Jewish Council de-
decades. Marc,
veloped from a group of families
from a Reform
who wanted to communally cel-
Jewish back-
ebrate Jewish holidays. The or-
ground, grew up
ganization grew through an ever-
in Chicago's
expanding network. Only later
North Shore. Dining our college
did the group consider holding
years in St. Louis, Judaism and
formal religious services.
Jewish student organizations
By contrast, Shir Tikvah and
were peripheral for both of us.
Beith Chaverim evolved from
Marc's employer recently trans-
groups who wanted a vibrant re-
ferred him to this area, and he
ligious community near them.
now lives in northern Oakland
The unifying force initially draw-
County. Over cups of coffee, we
ing the goups' participants to-
filled in the missing 20 years.
gether was the desire for a
Marc told me of marrying
shared religious experience.
Julie, a non-practicing Protes-
The three groups offered dif-
tant. They have one child, Beth,
ferent answers to Marc's problem.
who is about to enter kinder-
garten. Marc remarked that he
and Julie had decided to
raise Beth as a Jew. The
IAIUe"..1.1 *14
problem, Marc dis-
covered, is their •
choice of resi-
dence meant .

f e w
Jews in
the immedi-
ate area — let
alone being miles
from the nearest
Marc's predicament is
one that is increasingly com-
mon. The dispersion of the Jew-
ish community throughout the
metropolitan region means few-
er Jewish institutions in close
proximity and a greater effort re-
quired to create the feeling of a
Jewish identity.
When confronted with a sim-
ilar dilemma, local Jews sought
grass-roots solutions to the prob-
lem. The answers which
emerged are typified by the for-
mation of Congregation Shir Tik-
vah in Troy, the Grosse Pointe
Jewish Council and Beith
Laurence !merman is a Birm-
ingham attorney.

The organized Jewish communi-
ty could provide yet another.
A friend active with the Ten
Mile Jewish Center described the
institution as a "gathering place"
-- for Russian immigrants, for
the Orthodox, for the elderly. The
Center functions as might a vil-
lage square by supplying a loca-
tion where people can meet and
I experienced the same feel-
ing when I attended a Friday
evening service in a small Re-
form congregation in Petoskey
years ago. At the Oneg following

the liturgy, it seemed as though
every Jew for miles around had
come to celebrate the Sabbath.
Everyone was "meeting and
The occasion provided a
chance for Jews scattered across
many square miles of the north-
ern Lower Peninsula, and whom
some might consider as on the
edge of assimilation, to gather
with their fellow Jews and feel
Jewish. Without the existence of
the synagogue, the clustering of
Jews might not have happened.
We need, as a community, to
create geographically accessible
satellite mini-centers — gather-
ing points offering family ori-
ented programming, experts on
community building and reli-
gious education for children and
adults taught by a variety of
groups. Instead, we have taken
the opposite tack by con-
centrating resources at
specific sites and in
the hands of a
few agencies.
This strafe-

gy may
be logical
when serv-
ing the core
However, the ap-
proach does not ade-
quately serve those living
outside the core like Marc, Julie
and Beth.
A new tactic means the Jew-
ish Center and Jewish agencies
would become essentially
mary centers. The trained per-
sonnel and resources would
support the satellites serving
the dispersed population as well
as the concentrated Jewish pop-
ulation in the core areas. The
goal is a simple one: to establish
as many "village squares" as
possible with the aim of
strengthening Jewish identity
among those who visit the gath-
ering points. CI

Two events, two Johnny Carson monologue joke,
important m e s- the situation of the 22 families
was the loudest, most important
So many times comment some heard.
we go back to the
The money was quietly raised.
words we heard, This is (F1 key). Robert
the directions we Schostak, a Hillel graduate, was
recorded at the announced as the new president.
November Coun- We don't need a conference in
cil of Jewish Fed- Montreal to understand this. It's
erations General Assembly in (F1 key again).
Montreal. There, as at other lo-
On Sunday, Akiva will cele-
cations and in other years, the brate its 30th anniversary with
message was basically the same: a banquet at Congregation
Continuity is the answer.
Shaarey Zedek. Flo Ziffer, tru-
We're so numb about this ly one of the best-ever teachers
word continuity. We wonder how to serve Akiva and the entire De-
it will take us into the next gen- troit Jewish community, will be
eration and how we will redefine honored along with her husband
it as more and more young Jews Larry, Federation's highly re-
choose an assimilated lifestyle, garded planning director, with
as fewer and fewer Jewish fam- the school's Community Chesed
ilies are defined in terms of two
live-at-home parents, two chil-
dren you know the rest.
Maynard I. Wishner, CJF
president, in town several weeks
ago, said that continuity would
go a long way if more and more
children received day- school ed-
ucations and if more and more
children had an Israel experience.
Continuity. Not a new word,
certainly something we repeat
over and over again. My com-
puter should have a function key
that when pressed would auto-
matically type the word. In fact,
let's program this computer and Award. The Ziffers are prepar-
hit the Fl key when we want to ing to move to Baltimore where
write continuity.
Rabbi Ziffer will be taking over
Something jumps out though, as vice president for community
at least in Detroit, while keep- development at the Associated
ing Mr. Wishner's words in Jewish Community Federation.
Equally important will be the
Last week at the home of honoring of Dr. Allen Platt. Here,
Lazar and Jenny Dorfman, over again, the "C" word comes in. Dr.
200 Hillel Day School support- Platt is a 1976 Akiva graduate
ers came to hear Wolf Blitzer, in a graduation class comprised
CNN's senior White House cor- of six students. The Alumnus of
respondent, speak. Mr. Blitzer, the Year Award will be present-
the former Washington corre- ed by two of the school's
spondent for the Jerusalem Post founders, Fayga Dombey and
and contributor to this newspa- Ithamar Koenigsberg.
per, had the audience riveted
Arleen and Dr. Allen Platt
with stories of his Persian Gulf have two daughters, Danielle and
War experiences.
Hallie, who attend the schooL Dr.
Then there was the hard news Platt, who is probably more com-
to deal with. Outgoing Hillel fortable being just "Al" to his
President Marty Gene talked friends on the hockey rink, has
from the podium about Hillel's been known to talk openly of the
need to raise its tuition to main- feelings he gets walking into Aki-
tain its quality of education. As va with his girls in hand. Again,
part of that, Mr. Gene said there the F 1 key please. Not the kind
were some 22 Hillel families who we hear in speeches or theory, but
might not be able to afford the real (hit the Fl key). When Allen
minimum $1,000 necessary to Platt approaches the podium on
send their children to Hillel. Sunday, he'll see his parents, his
That was all that was said.
friends, maybe his mentors and
But there was this word — I teachers. But most importantly,
almost forgot — hit the Fl key. he'll see Danielle and Halite, an-
This time it went unsaid. Yet, by other Akiva generation. Can
the end of the evening, individ- there be a greater message of (hit
uals stepped forward without Fl)? Wait a minute. Let's un-
hearing it. Because even with program our computer and spell
all the talk of what life was like it out one more time — continu-
covering the White House and ity.
the laughter about Mr. Blitzer's
Now, let's program our-
hearing himself the focus of a selves.

My computer
should have a
function key
that would
type the word

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