Detroit's Jewish Community
Is Facing A Major Crisis
Bonds, PLO, Embassy:
Are Ends Justified?
JEANNIE WEINER SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS
ALAN HITSKY ASSOCIATE EDITOR
The organized American Jewish communities, brothers and sisters from the for-
Jewish community most active members of organi- mer Soviet Union. We expect to
in Detroit is now zations are usually well over 40. be represented at the table when
There are some Jewish orga- our issues are discussed in De-
being described as
"at a sea change," nizations whose work was of troit, Lansing and Washington,
"in crisis," "near great value 50 years ago but is D.C. We want ... we expect ... we
the precipice." less relevant today. Some orga- need.
And I believe we should want
These descriptions nizations can restructure, but oth-
have come from a ers cannot. And so, Jewish and expect a vibrant Jewish life
variety of leaders organizations have begun to plan for ourselves and our children. Af-
who have been involved with or- for their futures with strategic ter all, we live in a land of privi-
ganized Jewish life for the past planning or by examining their lege and opportunity and some in
our community have been suc-
mission and focus.
20 to 50 years.
Detroit's Jews are nationally cessful beyond dreams. But, un-
From my view, as a relatively
"new" Detroiter, having lived here known for their generosity and less more of us give our money
24 years (and not having the priv- leadership, but many of Detroit's and our time to our community,
ilege of going to Northern, Cen- Jewish organizations are worried. we cannot live in the kind of com-
tral, Mumford or Oak Park High), Because our volunteer base is munity that we want or expect.
This is the challenge to De-
the organized Jewish communi- shrinking, organizations look in-
organized Jewish commu-
Today we face new perils and nity — to our synagogues and
Detroit is a community that
can be described as comfortably different catastrophes. Jewish or- temples, fraternal organizations,
service groups and agen-
If indeed we are at a
"sea change," it is time
that we who are involved
in organizations take a
hard look at the work we
do. Perhaps there are
which can "close shop"
and say with pride, "Well
And it is time that we
as individuals examine
our levels of giving and
caring. Are we really do-
ing all we can to take
care of the Jews in this
community? Are we re-
ally providing a Jewish
future for our children?
Will Detroit continue to
be one of the "best" Jew-
ish communities in the
With the removal of
the "hot button" issues
such as anti-Semitism
and the rescue of "Sovi-
et" Jews that once in-
participation in orga-
nized Jewish life, many
assimilated. Our lives are free of ganizations suffer from the scarci- Jews have determined that the
the anti-Semitism of the 1930s ty of young volunteers. Our only way to ensure our future is
and 1940s. Our children get into community's needs demand dol- through Jewish education. Cer-
colleges based on their merits. We lars, and we are getting these dol- tainly, Jews who know who they
do not worry about discrimina- lars from the same generous are and what they believe can
tion in housing. When we speak people who are also, frequently, strengthen themselves and the
of these things to people outside the workers. Jewish recipients community. But once we are ed-
the Jewish community, the re- will soon be affected by shrinking ucated, will we practice the Jew-
sponse is, "You have won the vic- government funds to our agen- ish system we have learned?
tory of America ... what is the cies.
If the Jewish community in De-
And yet, this community ex- troit is not able to involve our
To the organized Jewish com- pects its leaders to provide a Jew- young people and those not now
munity, assimilation and comfort ish environment for our elderly affiliated as active participants
have caused significant changes. relatives. We want to provide for and generous donors because of
Jewish activism, in the past, re- our sick and disabled. We desire a communal belief in Jewish life
lied on catastrophe, peril to Jews, a community that provides a good and ethics, then all that we want
and anti-Semitism, but our young Jewish education that fits the and expect will not be possible.
people do not relate to the Holo- needs of differing Jewish Detroit Jews have always led by
caust or Israel in the same ways lifestyles. We want a strong Jew- example. I believe this commu-
we do. In Detroit, as in other ish Center that provides a social nity can continue to do that, but
context for the entire communi- the challenge is enormous and the
Jeannie Weiner is immediate
ty. We hope to obey the com- solutions are complex. We must
past president of the Jewish
mandment to redeem the find these solutions ... the alter-
Community Council of
captives and resettle our newest native is unthinkable.
Look through the when individuals should be in-
society pages of trospective.
I almost put Mayor Rudolph
the local papers
or the communi- Giuliani of New York in that
ty pages of The self-promotion category last
Jewish News. week when he gleefully ignored
How many times the State Department and
do we see pho- White House to bar Palestine
tographs of area Liberation Organization Chief
leaders standing Yassir Arafat from a city re-
next to the star attraction at a ception for United Nations dig-
major fund-raising event?
A little grandstanding? A bit
As the 1996 election season
approaches, the phenomenon of political pandering to New •
worsens. Everyone wants to York City's 1.2 million Jews?
have his picture taken with Mr. Sure.
But I have to hand it to New
President, Madame Senator or
Candidate X. It provides pho- York's mayor for reminding the
tographic evidence for our lit- world about the kind of leader
tle corner of the world that we Israel must work with to make
have influence, power, or were peace.
I'm a firm believer in the
at least able to stand in the
same room with Mr. or Ms. Big. peace process, and I worry
It's a bit of one-upmanship, when the U.S. Congress votes
a means of sending a public to move the U.S. embassy from
message to the golfing four- Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or when
some, the bowling buddies and the mayor of New York risks
Aunt Sophie that "I, too, am upsetting the big enchilada —
a peace agreement — to curry
Imagine my chagrin, then, a few votes in the Big Apple.
Then reason takes hold and
on the High Holidays, when my
congregation resumed a once- I have to ask myself why either
abandoned practice of reading of these moves could diminish
the names of investors in the the chances for peace? After all,
latest State of Israel Bonds Israel is the negotiating part-
campaign. Unlike some settler ner that has taken the big risks
groups in Judea and Samaria and suffered tremendous civil-
(or the West Bank if you pre- ian losses in the effort. Yet Is-
fer), I have nothing against Is- rael continues to make
rael Bonds. The organization concessions and to uphold the
has funneled nearly $1 billion agreements it has signed.
in investment dollars into Is-
rael since 1951 and has done as
much as any organization to
transform Israel from its pio-
neering history to modern
But I don't agree that the
ends justify the means.
If the Palestinians can't do
I served on the synagogue
board years ago when the ques- the same in the face of a light
tion was raised about an- slap at the PLO's chairman and
nouncing names and amounts a congressional action to move
during the High Holiday Israel our embassy to Israel's capital,
Bond drive. I worried that sev- where it belongs, what kind of
eral prominent congregants, peace will be achieved?
Nothing has been changed
staunch supporters of and in-
vestors in Israel Bonds, would by Mayor Giuliani's snub of
be offended if we halted the roll Yassir Arafat nor by the em-
bassy votes on the floor of the
But I was more concerned House and Senate. The United
with my fellow congregants — States remains the only "hon-
especially the ones who walked est broker" on the Middle East
out of the sanctuary in droves scene and the question of
while the 10-15-minute roll call Jerusalem is still left for the Is-
of pledge cards disrupted the raelis and Palestinians to de-
decorum and mood of the holi- cide.
Maybe the Republican may-
Did Israel Bonds sell more or of New York City and the Re-
of its financial instruments be- publican majority in Congress
cause of the roll call? I don't have thrown a dash of reality
know, and I don't care. As back into the equation.
Empty gestures? Possibly.
much as I like the cause, I
don't agree with the method. But as far as the peace process
There must be a better way goes, they should have no im-
than promoting recognition of pact. And that is as it should
people on the holiest days of be.
the Jewish calendar, days