Neighborhood Project Closing
Federation's home-loan service ends 17-year run.
HARRY KIRS BAUM
fter 17 years of providing
more than 1,200 interest-
free home loans, the Jewish
Federation of Metropolitan
Detroit's Neighborhood Project closes
down at the end of May.
Federation established the program
to enhance and preserve the Jewish
communities of Oak Park and
Southfield, said Amy Neistein,
Neighborhood Project director.
Neistein cited its success in rising
residential home values, Jewish com-
munal real estate value increases and
the expansion of Jewish educational
institutions and congregations.
Funded by the United Jewish
Foundation and managed by the
Hebrew Free Loan Association, the
Neighborhood Project has given out
1,202 home-purchase loans and 153
home-improvement loans and sponsored
community events including six kosher
food fairs and tri-synagogue program-
ming for the three streams of Judaism.
The Neighborhood Project was one
of the main factors in Jared and Amy
Chimovitz's decision to move to Oak
Park, said Jared, 29.
As first-time homeowners, we bor-
row, scrimp and save to get a down
payment, and this helped with getting
everything else taken care of after we
got in," he sad. "Little things that
need to be replaced all add up.
The couple found out about the
project from family and friends and
bought their home, located about
three blocks from the Jewish
Community Center, in October 2002.
"This is one of the programs that I
would love to see around forever so
when my kids decide to buy a house
and they want to stay in a Jewish area
like Southfield or Oak Park, they can
do that," Jared about his 10-month-
old twin daughters. "It's horrible that
it's ending, I think it's a wonderful
Neistein said the Neighborhood
Project was designed to be a tempo-
Mark Davidoff, Federation executive
director, said there might be a slight
chance of reopening the project in the
"The question now is does the loan
program continue to be necessary, or
has the establishment of the day
schools and the re-establishment of the
synagogues in that area created the
anchors we needed," he said. "What
we're doing is saying 'Let's take a pause
in additional loans and we'll look at it
in a year or two.'"
"You start by saying it's bad news,"
he added. "But when you look at it
going back 10 years or more, we seem
to have accomplished the primary
objective — re-establish the neighbor-
The closing of the office is "not nec-
essarily" related to current Federation
budget tightening, he said. "It's related
to the need and the purpose. We've
been looking at this for the past year
or two. It's just coincidental that the
decision is being made now."
Jared and Amy Chimovitz enjoy their Oak Park home.
Working The Soil
The Lew Price Garden will continue, despite the closing
of Neighborhood Project.
ccompanied by the sounds
of steel band, students from
Oak Park's Lessenger
Elementary and Roosevelt
Middle schools planted a garden May
22 near Nine Mile and Coolidge roads
Rami Kaka, 9, of Oak Park wields a shovel at the ourth annual
planting of the Lew Price Garden.
Called the Lew Price Garden in
honor of a longtime contributor to
Lessenger School, the oasis of trees
and flowers has brightened up a small
corner of Oak Park since 1999. And,
although one of its major sponsors,
the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan
Detroit's Neighborhood Project, is
ceasing operations, its remaining sup-
porters have promised that the garden
Garden founder Harold Kulish of
Bloomfield Hills said he'd originally
pitched the idea to Federation as a way