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October 13, 1995 - Image 33

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-10-13

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

The original Beth
Tephilath Moses,
in Mt.Clemens.

Despite smal


members of

Macomb County s

only Jewish


hold onto

their roots.


rass plates in the synagogue's small sanctuary designate which
pews are for men, which for women.
At a table in the social hall, Jennifer Heinfling, a Catholic-
raised convert to Judaism, argues good-naturedly with Ed Robin-
son over whether Halachah allows her to lead services in a
yarmulke and tallit. Obviously, they have debated the question
Macomb County Circuit Judge Michael Schwartz and his broth-
er Max, the congregation's religious director, kibitz with other synagogue members af-
ter a recent board of trustees meeting. The judge puffs on a fat cigar.
Jeanne Coker and her Jewish husband, Lane Decker, keep an eye on their boister-
ous 5-year-old daughter Aaron as she chases her friend Sam Bartolone. Jeanne, a black,
wants a Jewish education for her child, though she herself has no plans to convert.
Such is life around Congregation Beth Tephilath Moses in Mt. Clemens, the only Jew-
ish congregation in Macomb County. Membership, which hovers around 60 families,
has held steady, partly because of a high rate of Jewish conversion. But mostly, say
members, it's the sense of family that draws people to the place.
If its location and diversity set it apart from other congregations in the area, Beth
Tephilath Moses may be the only synagogue with a place in the annals of Michigan ju-
A bitter conflict that pitted congregants against each other and ultimately led to a
state Supreme Court ruling in 1959 forever altered the size and sensibility of Beth
Tephilath Moses. While it reaffirmed the Orthodox practices of the synagogue, many
original members left, unable to reconcile their traditions with those of newer, less
observant members.

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