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October 13, 1995 - Image 35

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

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and in 1910, began raising money to establish
an Orthodox congregation. A building was
erected in 1921.
In its early days and up until about 15 years
ago, the synagogue had a full-time rabbi.
Women worshipped in the balcony, although
seats were reserved on the main floor for old-
er members and those who could not climb
Membership at Beth Tephilath Moses
peaked after World War II at about 100 fam-
ilies, Mrs. Hauptman said.
Demographer Patricia Becker of APB As-
sociates, which has surveyed metro Detroit's

Jewish population for the Jewish Federation,
believes the current Jewish population in Ma-
comb County is in the hundreds. However, a
formal count has not been taken, she said.
In the mid-1970s, the city bought the prop-
erty where the original synagogue stood, razed
the building and replaced it with a senior- cit-
izens highrise. With proceeds from the sale,
congregants built the new synagogue a few
blocks away in 1977. They set aside a few pews
in the new sanctuary for the Orthodox mem-
bers who still wanted separate seating.
The rectangular building on South Avenue
is modest — only a marble plaque by the door
and a brass menorah on the building's facade
mark its identity.
But once inside, Beth Tephilath Moses' old
splendor shows itself in the relics from the orig-
inal synagogue, including stained-glass pan-
els that now hang along a wall of windows
facing a courtyard.
The sanctuary, although relatively new, is
bathed in an antique golden light that seems
to emanate from without and within.
And the place is alive with the chatter of members who consider the syna-
gogue a refuge from the clatter of the outside world and a cornerstone of their
social lives.
"This is more than a religious entity. This is really a center to keep family
things going," said architect Barry Merenoff, who moved to Macomb County

20 years ago with his wife,
Congregants like to remind
visitors that membership at
Beth Tephilath Moses is not
only less expensive than at a
typical synagogue — it also in-
cludes a plot at the synagogue's
"They want to keep us to-
gether," Ms. Victor joked.
Ms. Coker, who married Mr.
Decker when they both lived
in San Francisco, decided to
join Beth Tephilath Moses af-
ter wandering over one day
last year to buy candles, a
menorah, and other religious
items her husband wanted for
Above: Congregants (back row, from left)
She recalls being greeted
Sue Victor, Jeff Heinfling, Pam Bartolone,
with an unexpected warmth
Lane Decker and Jeanne Coker, with (front
and acceptance — as a black,
row) Samuel Bartolone and Aaron Decker.
Ms. Coker was unused to easy
acceptance by a white commu-
nity. She returned a few hours
Left: Today's synagogue: A modest
later, "beaming."
building on a quiet street.
"I felt welcome," Ms. Coker
said. The following Friday, she
and Lane attended services.
"Nobody makes cracks about
Below: Jennifer Heinfling leads
faith, my color. And I like it
services in yarmulke and tallit.
because it's so small," she said.
"They're a very warm congre-
gation; they have no qualms
about my not being Jewish."
Mr. Decker, a technical co-
ordinator at Lionel Trains in
Chesterfield Township, liked
the informality of the first ser-
vice — "people davening at
their own speed and arguing, like we were in
my living room."
"There is a feeling when you walk into our
synagogue of family, an extended family,"
Mrs. Hauptman added. "When I go to Flori-
da, I always miss the synagogue. We have
people who do so much for the synagogue on
their own, without thanks or remuneration.
That's the way our synagogue's been run for
Judge Schwartz, the congregation's presi-
dent, attributed the synagogue's longevity to
the "cohesiveness" other members describe.
"Tell me, which synagogues have a minyan
every day except for the winter? My brother
makes phone calls and we have a minyan,"
he said. "I tell the congregants that if we don't
have a minyan, we may as well sell the build-
ing to the city to use as a recreation center."
But Beth Tephilath Moses is up against
some mighty odds. Given its history, includ-
ing the demise of the springs that nurtured
the Jewish community and the general west-
ward migration of the local Jewish popula-
tion, its survival is nothing short of "amazing," Dr. Bolkosky said.
"One would have assumed that by the late '50s and '60s, the whole com-
munity would have dispersed. The hotels died, but the Jewish population
stayed there. If this were in Europe, there'd be social historians climbing all
over the place trying to figure out how they maintained this life."

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