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June 20, 2003 - Image 27

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-06-20

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Editorials are posted and archived on JN Online:

Improving The Legacy

Dry Bones

etroit's Henry Ford was an industrial pio-
death — Ford turned the company
neer — a homespun yet complicated man
over to his 28-year-old grandson,
who elevated tinkering to an art form.
Henry Ford II, who had just
His ingenuity brought the Model T, the
returned from the Navy.
rto ttA, LtNe Ur
first mass-made horseless carriage. It opened the
It took years after Ford's death in
growing middle class to waves of immigrants and
1947 for our parents and grandpar-
blacks lured by the until-then-unheard-of factory
ents to even consider buying a
pay of $5 a day. It also gave ordinary people freer
Ford product. Forgiveness ulti-
mobility, which changed the way we live and
mately came because of outreach
embrace progress.
from other Fords, not
Born outside Dearborn during the Civil
because of any of Henry's
War and educated in a one-room school,
EDIT ORIAL Jews. apologies to the
Ford was drawn to Detroit's bustling
machine shops. He didn't invent the auto-
As chairman, Henry II
mobile or moving assembly line, but he was the first
became friends with Jewish leaders
to pursue their revolutionary capabilities. During
and strove to erase memories of the
World War II, he built bombers that helped turn
company's dark past. With guid-
the tide for the Allies.
ance from his friend, fellow civic
Despite his manufacturing genius, he's remem-
leader and sometimes business
bered almost as much for his disdain of Jews. This
partner Max Fisher, Henry II trav-
week, Jews are greeting the 100th anniversary of the
eled to and invested in Israel. Ford
Ford Motor Company, which
cars, trucks and tractors became
Henry Ford founded June 16,
top sellers there at the same time
1903, with historical ambiva-
the Arab League imposed an eco-
lence. More than anyone, he put
nomic boycott of the Jewish state.
Detroit on the world stage, yet
Henry II also gave to Jewish chari-
remains a frustrating enigma.
ties and welcomed Jews into the
He befriended two of Detroit
executive suite, with some rising to
Jewry's giants, Rabbi Leo
vice president. Many Jews, like
Franklin of Temple Beth El and
Edward C. Levy, became important
architect Albert Kahn, while •
Ford vendors.
finding social allies in Nazi sym-
Henry Ford
pathizers Father Charles
Teaming With Jews
Coughlin of Royal Oak and avia-
tor Charles Lindbergh, a Detroit
This fall, 56 years after Ford died a
haunted old man of 83 and no
because of the inhumane conditions in Ford-built
If Ford's anti-Jewish ranting
longer a folk hero, the Jewish Community Center of factories under Nazi control.
from 1920 to 1927 in his weekly
Metropolitan Detroit will dedicate the Ford Motor
The Center for Exploration and Discovery will be
newspaper, the Dearborn
Company Fund-supported Center for Exploration
a wing of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Judaic
Independent, and his odd kinship
and Discovery at the JCC in West Bloomfield. The
Enrichment Center, which will also house the
with the maniacal Adolf Hitler
$2-million, multimedia education center will trace
David B. Hermelin ORT Resource Center. More
weren't enough, his automotive
Judaism's influence and Jewish culture to spur a
than any other facet of the $35 million renovation
empire was accused of condoning
"total immersion experience into the diversity of
to the JCC's two buildings, part of the Jewish
Henry Ford II
or profiting from forced and
Jewish life."
Federation's Millennium Campaign for Detroit's
slave labor at its German sub-
Simultaneously, the Ford Fund gave a similar
Jewish Future, the Weinberg Center stands to be
sidiary, Ford-Werke, during
financial gift to the Arab Community Center for
Detroit's centerpiece for informal Jewish culture and
World War II.
Economic & Social Services in Dearborn, under-
In his newspaper, Ford stooped
scoring its modern-day commitment to a diverse
The Center for Exploration and Discovery also is
to printing the thoroughly dis-
community, not just a diversified business.
designed to appeal to non-Jews. So it should help
credited czarist forgery about
Henry Ford's dislike of Jews began in grade school
dispel myths about Jews while fostering ecumenism.
Jewish control of the world, The
with his literal reading of Shylock, the vilified
Notable as it is, the Ford grant to the JCC would
Protocols of the Learned Elders of
Jewish moneylender in Shakespeare's Merchant of
resonate even more if it inspired other major com-
Zion. He also riled Jews with his
Venice. Bias was widely accepted at the time.
panies, whatever their history, to also contribute to
union-busting tactics.
As an adult, Ford came to believe Judaism tar-
worthy minority causes, Jewish or not.
Hitler applauded Ford in his
Bill Ford Jr.
nished the soul, and that Jews were manipulative
Henry Ford would not have foreseen the bonds
hateful. book Mein Kampfand
and warmongers. He felt that they ran America's
that future Ford generations developed with
awarded him a "distinguished
banks and economy, hastening the 1919 recession,
American Jewry and the State of Israel. He may, as
foreigner" medal.
which hit his company hard.
some would suggest, be turning over in his grave.
Yet Ford never barred Jewish workers or suppliers.
More open-minded, Henry II recognized the
But the Ford Motor Company and recent genera-
Two years after his only son, browbeaten Edsel,
shifting mood of America after the Holocaust and
tions of the Ford family have worked hard to make
died of cancer in 1943 at age 49 — and after his
changed the course of the company bearing the
amends for Old Henry's checkered legacy and to
grandchildren blamed him for their father's early
family name. Current Ford chairman Bill Ford Jr.
make the company's 100th anniversary something
follows in his uncle's inclusive footsteps. Also, the
all Americans — including Jews — can be proud
Related story: page 14
company has paid $13 million in reparations
of. ri




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