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March 24, 1995 - Image 41

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-03-24

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ichigan Gov. John En-
gler has crafted his
share of political "lan-
guage," be it the pro-
posal of a bill affecting
taxes or a speech on
welfare reform.
The power of lan-
guage last week took a
different turn for the
second-term governor, when he met with
seven Israeli mayors visiting the state as
part of a Federation-sponsored Partner-
ship 2000 visit. The language the gover-
nor heard was Hebrew.
The words were foreign, but the gover-
nor held in his inside suit pocket the card
of understanding — the one that took the
routine out of the morning. It was a pho-
tograph of his baby triplets. The mayors
clapped, they smiled. Everyone felt good.
The mayors were in a good mood as they
boarded their bus in Troy each morning.
The days were filled with seven days of
meetings with Federation constituent agen-
cies, university officials, Detroit-area politi-
cians and synagogues. They also met in the
private homes of Federation volunteers.
First, a little bit about Partnership 2000.
This is a program sponsored not only by
Federation but by the United Jewish Ap-
peal and Jewish Agency for Israel. It links
North American and European Jewish
communities with 27 regions in Israel. The
focus: mutual goals in the development of
Israel's economic opportunities as well as
social and educational programming.
Detroit's Partnership 2000 area in-
cludes the cities of Nazareth 'Illit and
Migdal HaEmek, and the regional coun-
cil of the Jezreel Valley. An urban center
with some 250,000 residents, the region
is close to the port city of Haifa.
The mayors were invited here by the De-
troit Federation in sort of a reverse Mira-
cle Mission. The contacts were made last
October after co-chairmen Peter Alter and
Stuart Hertzberg led a small contingent of
Detroit Federation officials to the region.
This visit was not only a pleasure trip,
however. The mayors were here to make
serious contacts and take new ideas back
"It was also an opportunity for them to
get out of Israel, not have the phones ring-
ing and work and talk with one another,"
said Tova Dorfman, who directed the ef-
Perhaps the biggest challenge that the
mayors faced was understanding the con-
cept of a Jewish federation raising money
and distributing it to agencies for the care
of Jewish people. At a visit and lunch at
the Edward I. and Freda Fleischman Res-
idence/Blumberg Plaza, the visitors heard
Federation employees and volunteers de-
scribe Federation as "city hall" and the
Campaign as a tax base. The mayors, who
serve populations comprising both Arabs
and Jews, then began understanding that
metro Detroit's Jewish community not
only falls under the umbrella of a county
and a state, but also has available services
with a specific Jewish flavor.
"This concept of federation and its re-
lationship to the people it serves was a sur-
prise for us," said Nazareth Illit deputy

mayor Edna Rodrig. "We were astonished.
In Israel, what you see around you that's
Jewish in Detroit would be part of a gov-
ernment project."
The meetings also provided agency pro-
fessionals the chance to step forward and
almost self-analyze their jobs. The Israelis
and the contingent of Federation staff and
volunteers heard about small victories
in the field of elder care, Russian reset-
tlement, job placements — and the chal-
lenges still faced.
"I think everything went beyond our ex-
pectations," Ms. Doi firran said.
The group visited the Jewish Commu-
nity Center, the Holocaust Memorial Cen-
ter and Federation Apartments. They
attended morning religious services at Hil-
lel Day School, received tours of Jewish
Vocational Service and Jewish Family Ser-
vice. They met new Americans through
Resettlement Service, toured the JPM and
met with Oak Park Mayor Gerald Naftaly
at Oak Park City Hall. The delegation also
was hosted by Detroit Jewish and busi-


Hillel Day School's Dr. Mark Smiley leads students
and the Israeli guests in morning prayers.

Opposite (Clockwise from top left):

Sar-Shalom Eyal talks to Hillel students about the
region he represents.

Mula Cohen conducts a one-on-one discussion.

Albert Ben Drihen, Sar-Shalom Eyal and Danny
Bitan meet with host committee member Jane

Menachem Ariv is hosted by Oak Park Mayor
Gerald Naftaly (right).

ness leaders David Hermelin and William
M. Davidson at Mr. Davidson's Guardian
Industries in Auburn Hills. Ms. Dorfman
said the meeting and dinner with Young
Adult Division's executive board was quite
telling. With all the surveys and talk in
recent years showing American Jews less
interested in Israel, there was a great deal
of emotion and concern in the room when
YAD and the mayors met. This was espe-
cially true when the group heard from
Mula Cohen, a decorated Israeli war hero,
and the head of the Jezreel Valley Re-
gional Council.
"This is not something overly dramat-
ic, but here was Mula Cohen, a man who
literally helped build a nation, sitting down
and talking with members ofYoung Lead-
ership. They needed to see him and hear
from him. And it was important for him
as well to meet with them," Ms. Dorfman
On their fourth day, the group visited
Gov. Engler before getting together with
Michigan State University officials and

think he really believes in this relation-
ship," said Mayor Ariav of Nazareth Il-
lit. "I don't think he would have spent the
time with us if he didn't believe in what
we were doing."
During the meeting with the governor,
Federation executive vice president Robert
Aronson reminded everyone that Israel
already has a strong link to Detroit busi-
ness. He spoke of Mr. Davidson's Phoeni-
cia Glass industry, located in Detroit's
Partnership 2000 area. He also discussed
a Chrysler plant that once needed neces-
sary manufacturing parts, and how it re-
ceived them through the influence of Max
Fisher and Lee Iacocca.
Again, a light moment.Mr. Aronson re-
called the bus ride home from Ann Arbor
when, riding along M-14, the Israeli del-
egation broke into a pioneer song about
an emek, or valley. "The 'beautiful emek'
were words in the song."
"Here we were, everyone was tired, and
we're on M-14," Mr. Aronson said. "We
could have been on the Tel Aviv-to-

then traveling to the University of Michi- Jerusalem highway. The singing was so
gan. The result of the meetings will be beautiful. It was at the moment, I believe,
teacher-exchange programs in the areas that the mission really came together."
of agriculture and medicine. Educational Mr. Aronson has a personal tie to the
relationships in urban planning also were Jezreel Valley. His grandparents, Chaim
and Chanah Feingold, were founders of
Among the heavy meetings, a light, el- Kibbutz Yifat, located at the valley's cen-
evating fact. So many of the officials, Jew- ter. Chaim Feingold's grave is at the same
ish or gentile, who met the mayors, had kibbutz.
been to Israel multiple times.
"For me, what was important were the
It was Gov. Engler who set the tone comments we heard at the end of the mis-
when he said that "Michigan and the State sion," Mr. Aronson said. "The Israelis
of Israel should work together to live to- spoke of a real need for a partnership and
gether to have success together." The may- a commonality. That was gratifying for
ors listened, and said later in the week me, because these were not your typical 41
that they didn't think it was just rhetoric.
"The governor was impressive, and I SO MANY CHIEFS page 42

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