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Shana Salinger, Madlyn Moskowitz and Julie Wilner make Israel out of ice cream.
JPI Nears 50 Years
Of Secular Judaism
JENNIFER FINER STAFF WRITER
ourth-graders David Allen,
Jennifer Davidson, Erin
Crowe and Michael Hart-
ley sat around a table in a
large classroom tucked away in
the back of the Maple-Drake Jew-
ish Community Center.
The students had just com-
pleted "a book about an olive
tree," explained Jennifer. Then
they began talking about immi-
gration, Jews in America, and
other things they learned in their
Sunday school class at the Jew-
ish Parents Institute.
In this school, there are no
textbooks and the teaching style
is a hands-on approach.
"It's my belief children learn
by doing," said JPI Director Mar-
At JPI, classes are called clubs,
teachers are called leaders, and
adult educators are referred to by
their first names.
JPI is a family-centered secu-
lar Jewish Sunday school which
offers an alternative to Jewish re-
This year, about 90 children
and teens receive their formal
Jewish education from JPI. None
of the JPI members are affiliat-
ed with temples or synagogues.
"JPI is their affiliation," Ms.
Since its 1947 founding, Ms.
Wolfe guesses well over 3,000
families have passed through
JPI's doors. For many, JPI is
their only Jewish connection.
Within a year of its founding,
JPI became affiliated with the
JCC. "It's a wonderful outreach
program for the Center," said
Leah Ann Kleinfeldt, JCC exec-
utive director. "It's a way for us
to reach out to some of the small-
er communities. People drive in
from all over. Just like people
have fond memories of the Cen-
ter on Curtis and Meyers, these
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children will have their Jewish
memories of the Center."
Most of the JPI members be-
long to the JCC. Non-JCC mem-
bers pay an additional fee for
their children to enroll in the pro-
Ms. Wolfe, who is a Center em-
ployee, splits her time between
JPI and the Center's adult and
family enrichment department.
Many JPI affiliates, including
the original founders, are still in-
volved with the organization.
Other JPI graduates, including
Bloomfield Township resident
John Steinberger, now have chil-
dren in the program.
At JPI, classes are
When Mr. Steinberger was
growing up, his parents wanted
a place for him to receive a Jew-
ish education that wasn't reli-
gious based. They enrolled him
He and his wife, who is not
Jewish, wanted to raise their two
children, Carly, 5, and Joseph, 3,
with a religious identity. "This is
what we agreed on," Mr. Stein-
berger said. "When I was at JPI,
I got a sense of Jewish culture,
history and customs, and I want-
ed to give my children the reli-
gious identity I enjoyed."
JPI is aligned with area secu-
lar organizations like the Work-
men's Circle and the
Birmingham Temple. But, ac-
cording to Ms. Wolfe, there are
small philosophical differences
giving each its own special flavor.
The Workmen's Circle, for ex-
JPI page 14