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September 26, 2003 - Image 45

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-09-26

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Answering The Community's Call

ifteen years ago, I arrived in
the "big city" — Detroit.
Having served as the execu-
tive director of a smaller
agency in a Jewish community half
the size of Detroit, I was energized
by the many unique challenges and
opportunities that faced me as I
embarked on my new adventure as
the lead professional in Jewish com-
munity relations in metro Detroit.
I felt fortunate to lead an agency
with dedicated volunteers and staff
members and an excellent reputa-
tion in the community at large and
around the country. I was hired to
implement a recently completed
strategic plan, which called for dra-
matic changes in how the Jewish
Community Council operated with-
in the Jewish community and pre-
sented itself to the Jewish communi-
ty and the community at large.
As I look backward in time to
assess how Council's roles and image
have evolved, I am struck by how
our "environment" has changed
since 1988. In 1988, Council was
housed in the Federation building at
163 Madison in downtown Detroit.
Our relationships with Jewish agen-
cies and organizations, and our abil-
ity to tap the great potential of
Jewish volunteers, were hampered
by the distance of our central office


David Gad - Harf of West Bloomfield
recently marked his 15th year as execu-
tive director of the Jewish Community
Council of Metropolitan Detroit.

from the heart of the Jewish corn-
Our relationships with the com-
munity at large were focused mainly
on the African American communi-
ty. Since the 1950s, Council had
nurtured working relationships with
the leaders of such organizations as
the NAACP and the Urban League.
In 1988, our agenda was dominat-
ed by developments in Israel, as the
first intifada (Palestinian uprising)
brought to the surface concerns
about Israel's welfare, image and
future. The bright hopes of the
Camp David accords and the peace
agreement with Egypt of a decade

"Perhaps the most
important change
in Council's role
was the implemen-
tation of trips to
Israel as a tool to
educate- and influ-
ence the attitudes
of key decision

earlier were dashed by attacks on
Israel from the territories and the
sympathy they engendered around
the world.

flourishing Detroit Jewish Coalition
on Literacy, which sends reading
tutors into public elementary
schools throughout Wayne and
Oakland counties.
Changing Times
Our public policy agenda moved
The environment has significantly
away from the big national issues of
changed since then (and, in
the day and toward matters
some cases, remained the
in Lansing that affect our
same), with Council recreat-
Jewish community here. We
ing itself to respond to the
served as a midwife to the
birth of the Michigan Jewish
new challenges and oppor-
tunities. The 1991 Gulf War
Conference, our community's
and its aftermath, and the
Lansing-based public affairs
fall of the Soviet Union and
arm, and work closely with it
the Iron Curtain, created a
on state legislation that
new reality in the Mideast.
advances Jewish interests and
For several years during the
values. The focus of our gov-
ernment relations agenda has
1990s, Council was able to
turn its primary attention to
shifted from traditional pub-
local relationships and
lic policy matters to that of
issues, as the United States
helping Jewish human service
agencies access public funds for
embarked on another Mideast peace
client services.
Perhaps the most important
Council reached out in many new
change in Council's role was the
directions. We forged relationships
with other ethnic groups, including
implementation of trips to Israel as
a tool-,to educate and influence the
the Chaldean, Hispanic, Asian and
attitudes of key decisionmakers and
Arab communities. In collaboration
to deepen our relationships with
with the Jewish Federation of
Metropolitan Detroit, we gave birth
them. The trips with the governor,
members of Congress, state legisla-
to a new entity, the Detroit Jewish
tive leaders, news media officials
Initiative, to expand relationships
with key individuals and institutions and religious leaders have truly
made a difference.
in the city of Detroit.
Another significant change has
We also turned our attention to
been in the nature of our work with
hands-on projects that involved
the local media. Council's previous
Jewish volunteers and partnerships
approach was reactive and limited.
with synagogues and Jewish organi-
zations. The prime example is our

Making The Right Choice


tanding at the gateway of the
Jewish New Year 5764, we are
called upon by our tradition to
turn, to engage in a process of
self-reflection we call teshuvah.
This ability to turn, to reflect and
renew ourselves each year is a remarkable
gift, a uniquely Jewish gift because its
fulfillment is a communal call to action.
With each new year, we are given an
opportunity, not just to take stock of
our own lives but also to take measures
for the well being of others. As Jews, we
are called to turn our hopes and aspira-
tions into reality.
The guiding principle of our Jewish
Federation has always been that we are

Lawrence Jackier is president of the Jewish
Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

connected: one people, one communi-
ty, one family. As a family, we have the
responsibility to take care of one
How do we decide our priorities?
How do we choose what promises to
keep? Whose health, well-being or
opportunity can we possibly deny?
These are the questions Federation asks
each and every day, on behalf of Jews in
need here in Detroit, in Israel and
around the world.
In this community we are both
blessed and challenged. We are blessed
by our tradition of tzedakah (charity)
and in the legacy generations before us
have left in our hands. We are chal-
lenged: by an economy slow to recover;
by the enormity of need in our commu-

nity and by the burden we share
renew, to pledge, to make the
with Israel in crisis, Argentina in
connection. Each and every gift
turmoil and in Jewish commu-
to our Annual Campaign has
nities still hurting in Eastern
the power to open a door,
Europe and around the world.
answer a prayer, give hope and
In times of trouble, we as
LAWRE NCE dignity, deliver comfort and
Jews turn to our family and, by
care to those in need. Each gift
has the power to make a world
extension, that means we turn
Com munity
to Federation-supported services
of difference.
Vi ews
and resources. And so we must
I have the utmost confidence
in the strength of our commu-
turn to each and every individ-
ual in our community. How? Each year,
nity. There is always a fine line between
excellence and mediocrity in the efforts
Federation connects Jews here in
we make to build Jewish life. Here in
Detroit, in Israel and around the world
through a fund-raising drive we call our
Detroit, we are fortunate that we have
Annual Campaign.
an opportunity to choose. May we con-
tinue to choose excellence. And may we
Our hopes and dreams for the corn-
have a healthy, sweet new year as we
munity are within reach, because each
one of us has the opportunity to turn, to move forward.





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