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June 27, 2003 - Image 32

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-06-27

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JN Digest

Selected news and feature stories
from the Detroit Jewish News.

) Back In Time

Look for Alexis P. Rubin's "This
Month in Jewish History” for

) What's Eating
Harry Kirsbaum?






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) New Column from
Brian Blum: Bar
Mitzvah at Hogwarts

With Harry Potter and the Order
of the Phoenix hitting bookstores
last weekend, Brian ponders that
somewhere in the course of the
first three books of the series
someone should have gotten bar
or bat mitzvahed at Hogwarts
School of Witchcraft and
Wizardry. He observes, however,
that Jews are conspicuously
absent from Hogwarts.
Read more online at


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would fall into the "abyss of skepti-
cism and denial," Rabbi Leo M.
Franklin of Temple Beth El in Detroit
sparked the formation of the Jewish
Student Congregation (JSC) at the
University of Michigan — the first
group of its kind in the country. In
1926, U-M became the campus site
for the third B'nai B'rith Hillel
Foundation established in the United
U-M Hillel's third building opened
in 1951 on Hill Street and served as
the hub of the community, sharing
space with Beth Israel and its pre-
school. It was razed in 1987, when
work began on the current Mandell L.
Berman Hillel Center.
The leadership of Hillel's longtime
director Michael Brooks and the stu-
dents themselves have strengthened
Jewish life and understanding for the
entire community.
Similarly, the growth of the Jean and
Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic
Studies and the Sol Drachler Program
in Jewish Communal Leadership (for-
merly Project STaR), have become val-
ued local, regional and national
Additionally, Ann Arbor's Jewish
community has provided leaders in
civic and state government, including
current Federation President and City
Council member Joan Lowenstein,
former State Sen. Lana Pollack,
Washtenaw County Commissioner
Barbara Levin Bergman, former
Mayor Bud Harris and State Sen. Liz
Brater, who 'also was a former mayor.

A Community Center

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A milestone in the life of the commu-
nity was the establishment of the
Jewish Community Center in 1984.
Larry Smith, who chaired the meeting
that approved the founding, calls it "a
perfectly timed project
that occurred by acci-
In 1982, Chuck and
Sharon Newman partici-
pated in a trip to Israel
and heard other like-sized
communities singing the
praises of their JCCs.
"Without Chuck, the
Center never would have
happened," Smith
recalled. "He had a vision
and brought the right
group together. It was
such a compelling vision,
we could see the long-term benefits to
the community. The rabbis were very
supportive of it and brought energy to

the project."
Rabbi Aharon Goldstein
of Congregation Chabad
saw how it built commu-
nity. "Before the JCC and
Federation, the communi-
ty had a mailing list of
700-800 people, mostly
affiliated with synagogues.
Now the list is 2,700," he
said. "So the JCC helped
connect about 2,000 Jews
to the community."
As luck would have it,
the Ann Arbor Public
Schools decided to close
several elementary schools
including the Clinton
School on Birch Hollow
Drive. Moving quickly,
several community leaders
undertook an "act of
faith," as Ann Arbor
inventor and philanthro-
pist Michael Levine calls
it, and purchased the
school before the decision
about the Center was
"We bought the school
without anyone's permis-
sion," Levine recalled.
"We raised half the money
Gerda Seligson of Beth Israel Congregation was the rst
and looked to the rest of
president of a Conservative congregation in the
the community" for the

In contrast to Detroit's
early Jewish community,
Once there was a building, backing
which had a geographic center, in
and buy-in, what was needed was a
Ann Arbor there.was literally, at most,
boss. Again a great opportunity arose.
only one Jew on a block,"
Nancy Margolis, a
explained Levine.
social worker and execu-
"Without a place for Jews
tive with Washtenaw
to meet other Jews, the
County, had moved to
community became very
town in 1964 with her
integrated. This was both
husband, Phil. Though
good and bad, but the
delighted with the
thought was if we have a
founding of Temple Beth
place where
Emeth, and with kids in
Jews can get
the Jewish preschool, she
together, we
knew something more
can keep our
was needed.
Jewish identi-
"We were a small com-
munity population-wise
The pur-
and activity-wise, and any
chase of the school for
activity centered around temples or
about $500,000 accelerat- synagogues," Margolis said. "People
ed the JCC planning.
didn't identify with a Jewish commu-
"Having the building
nity, but rather the university commu-
inspired people," Smith
nity. There wasn't a lot of Jewish
said. "People could see
how it could become the
While serving on the JCC board in
center for the Jewish
1987, she was asked to join the search
community. It provided a
committee for a director. After several
fertile ground for different congrega-
candidates were interviewed, the corn-
tions to meet each other and to work
mittee offered her the position.
together in a new way."
In 1988, she became the Center's

CC •

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