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February 23, 1996 - Image 3

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-02-23

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thi) This Week's Top Stories

Not Alone

Bias Incidents Drop
In Michigan And U.S.

Like Detroit's, a handful of other JCCs
struggle for their vitality.


But Anti-Defamation League officials
are hesitant to call the decline the beginning of a trend.



nti-Semitic crimes in
Michigan and across the
United States dropped
dramatically in 1995, ac-
cording to the annual audit re-
leased last week by the
Anti-Defamation League.
In Michigan, the ADL record-
ed 10 complaints of harassment
and five complaints about van-
dalism in 1995. The previous
year, there were 15 harassment
and 11 vandalism complaints.
Nationally, 1,116 incidents of
harassment and 727 acts of van-
dalism were reported to ADL.
The total of 1,843 was an 11 per-
cent decrease from 1994's 2,066
Four states with large Jewish
populations had the highest bias
crime totals: New York (370),
California (264), New Jersey
(228) and Florida (152) — com-
pared to Michigan's 15 incidents.
The four big states reported 55
percent of the national total.
Richard Lobenthal, director of
the Michigan region of ADL, said
the organization is cautious
about assessing why the inci-
dents decreased for the first time
since 1992.
"One year doesn't tell you any-
thing," Mr. Lobenthal said. "If it
holds for more than one year,
then I'd say maybe there's a
ADL recorded 118 anti-Se-
mitic incidents on college cam-
puses around the country, with
one in Michigan. On Sept. 18,
swastikas were daubed on a wall
and rocks thrown through a win-
dow of a Michigan State Uni-
versity building that two days
before had hosted an MSU Hil-
lel Foundation program on the
A second incident at MSU was
not recorded, Mr. Lobenthal said.
A disassembled sukkah outside
the Hillel was destroyed in a sus-
picious fire last fall. But police
had no suspects and could not
prove arson.
Mr. Lobenthal called the an-
nual ADL audit a crude estimate
at best, but the only tool of its
kind at present. Individuals and
institutions often fail to report
anti-Semitic incidents. He said



1,116 Harassment
Threats/Assault Incidents




727 Vandalism Incidents


Private Property

Public Property


10 Harassment
Threats/Assault Incidents



5 Vandalism Incidents


Public Property

0 Private Property

most Detroit area synagogues
"hide the information. I believe
they are afraid of copycat crimes,
or afraid of bad publicity."
One area synagogue several
years ago refused to acknowledge
vandalism at its building after a
witness reported the incident
and the name of the perpetrator
to the ADL, Mr Lobenthal said.
"We had a culprit and a witness,
but the guy walked away. We
can't press charges if the victim
says it didn't happen."
An incident last f4, in which
rocks were thrown at a syna-

gogue sukkah in Southfield, was
not included in the ADL audit.
Although the episode was re-
ported in The Jewish News, no
complaint was filed with ADL.
Mr. Lobenthal expects Michi-
gan statistics to become more ac-
curate in the coming months.
A state Bias Crimes Task Force
will begin operating in June,
"and in about 18 months we
should have our first annual
assessment that will have
meticulous accuracy. Michigan
will be ahead of most states on
this." ❑

f a screenwriter wanted to
make a movie about a strug-
gling Jewish Community
Center trying to turn itself
around, he or she could write a
script based on the center in De-
troit or in any number of other
As the Metropolitan Detroit
Jewish Community Center
works to breathe new life into
its facilities and programming,
a number of JCCs across North
America are grappling with
identical issues.
Last year brought hard times
to a number of centers. News-
papers in other Jewish commu-
nities are reporting financial
uncertainties, layoffs, closures
and reorganizations throughout
the JCC movement.
Although some communities,
including St. Louis, Atlanta and
Kansas City, are thriving, oth-
ers have been forced to reeval-
uate the way they conduct
In San Francisco, for exam-
ple, JCC losses from declining
membership and decreased
charitable contributions esca-
lated to a $1.6 million debt.
In Cleveland, the Jewish
Community Center overspent
operating funds and covered
costs with monies from other
sources. Coupled with a declin-
ing membership and growing
deficit, the agency is actively
working to rectify the situation
through committees and bud-
getary reevaluations.
Other JCCs face one issue
Detroit does not have to contend
with — a shifting Jewish pop-
In San Diego, for example, the
Jewish federation is negotiating
the sale of one of three center
buildings. Because the Jewish
community moved north, a
branch of the JCC lost members,
and the agency's debt spiraled
due to declining revenue gener-
ated by membership dues.
Similar stories can be told in
Cincinnati, Toronto and
"There is a single common
factor with centers," said Allan
Finkelstein, the executive vice
president of the Jewish Com-
munity Center Association
(JCCA), the umbrella organi-
zation for JCCs throughout
North America. "Federation

campaigns are level or declin-
ing, and that is impacting cen-
Couple that with the realities
of the last 10 years and it's no
wonder to many that some
JCCs are struggling. Over the
last decade, the center move-
ment has seen a shift. Once sup-
ported solely because of their
status as Jewish communal
agencies, centers are now fac-
ing competition.
"Our society has changed,"
Mr. Finkelstein said. "It's not
just the Jewish community that
has changed. If a consumer can
get something better elsewhere,
he or she will go elsewhere."
Gary Tobin, the director of the
Brandeis University Cohen Cen-
ter for Modern Jewish Studies,
said some JCCs are prospering
while others are not. Centers, he
said, will have to be more at-
tuned to what people want.
"With all Jewish organiza-
tions, there is a change in the
way people belong and connect,"

JCCs across North
America are
grappling with
identical issues.

Dr. Tobin said. "It's difficult for
JCCs to attract people, keep
them as members and compete
with other entities. Even though
centers evolve, it can be hard to
keep up, and most centers have
not kept up with the rate of
change. Add flat federation cam-
paigns, and this explains the fi-
nancial crunch."
Dr. Tobin says other Jewish
agencies are experiencing diffi-
cult times. "Synagogues are go-
ing bankrupt," he said. "Homes
for the aged are having prob-
lems, too. But centers are the
largest and most visible."
Both Mr. Tobin and Mr.
Finkelstein maintain there will
always be a need for a Jewish
community center.
They believe that as Jews
continue to spread out geo-
graphically, the need for a
"Jewish neighborhood" will
JCC page 10

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