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The Span Of Detroit Jewry
t was telling when Israeli statesman Shimon
Peres began a parlor meeting at the Max. M.
Fisher Federation Building in Bloomfield
Township by saying he was surprised that
most Detroit Jews live in the suburbs.
That's a common refrain from visitors unfamiliar
with the makeup of Detroit Jewry, which is cen-
tered in south Oakland County, though expanding
to the west and north. The perception of the for-
mer Israeli prime minister is notable because
Detroit is often left out when many of us are
describing Jewish areas in metro Detroit.
It shouldn't be, however.
Let there be no mistake: A small, but active
Jewish presence continues in our urban
core, despite the accelerated flight of
many Jewish residents and merchants after
the 1967 riots. Most Jewish agencies also
are based in the suburbs, although JVS continues to
provide skills training and job placement from its
Woodward Avenue building.
After a 60-year attachment through good times
and bad, Jews had begun leaving Detroit for Oak
Park, Huntington Woods, Southfield and West
Bloomfield by the '50s. These areas became even
more Jewish in later decades. Birmingham,
Bloomfield Township, Troy, Farmington Hills and
other areas also began to attract more Jews.
But through Oakland County's boom years, Jews
have continued to live in the city — or work,
invest or enjoy sports, culture and entertainment
Palmer Woods is among the venerable Detroit
neighborhoods where Jews still live as they take
part in Jewish life and the renewal of the city.
Over the years, most synagogues followed their
congregants north and west; to the east, the Grosse
marked its bar mitzvah
year. Today, two syna-
gogues remain in
Detroit: the Isaac Agree
Congregation of Detroit.
Community Council of
Metropolitan Detroit has
a winner with its Detroit
Detroit Mayor Kwame
Kilpatrick's top contribu-
tors are Jewish profes-
sionals who work or
invest in the city and yearn for it to be the next
great urban turnaround.
Detroit has plenty of challenges, including blight,
crime, juvenile delinquency, public transit, a lag-
ging retail base and a cash-strapped school system.
But it's slowly on the rebound, thanks in part to
renovated lofts and homes that are bringing young
Kilpatrick understands the essence of how world-
class cities — with thriving restaurants, downtown
shops and office centers — take root. The growth
begins when families feel safe and secure, kids are
celebrated for academics and marketable skills and
not just athletics, and the streets are clean.
Meanwhile, suburban Jews who got their start in
the city and who parlayed the vast opportunities of
Detroit schools into successful lives and careers
must reconnect to the city. They owe that to future
generations of Detroiters so they, too, have a foun-
dation from which to build a business, teaching or
Those of us who have a suburban zip code but a
love for the city can't act like outsiders. As
Kilpatrick put it: "For us to be the global commu-
nity that we purport to be, it's Detroit and the
region. We really need to have that mentality if we
want to compete for our children's sake. ),
Shimon Peres may have been surprised by the
suburban grip on Detroit Jews. But the central city
remains the core of what we popularly call the
Detroit Jewish community.
That's telling, too. Li
Whose Definition of 'Even Handed'?
o Howard Dean, one of nine Democrat can-
didates for president, has opted for the school
of "even-handedness" for the Arab-Israeli
conflict. Sounds good, of course. Who does
not want to be even-handed?
Dean, of course, is not alone in calling for even-
handedness. Indeed, the faction that has pressured
Israel has implied a need for "even-handedness" in
Middle East negotiations.
The problem is there can be no even-handedness
when the parties involved have different objectives, par-
ticularly when one of the objectives
the major one
— is the destruction of Israel.
President Bush, to his credit, recognized this shortly
Bed Falbaum, author and former political reporter, is a
Farmington Hills public relations executive. He teaches
journalism part-time at Wayne State University in
after winning the presidency and "barred"
have documented this case and what makes
PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat from White
these works especially important is that they
House visits. He recognized not only Arafat's
were written by authors who described them-
• major objective but also, reviewing the history
selves as leftists.
of Arafat's promises, recognized the PLO
(I generally try to avoid using labels because
leader could not be trusted.
it taints the arguments. Categorizing philoso-
President Bill Clinton paid a dear price in
phies as liberal or conservative implies that the
trying to be "even-handed" and left the White
respective arguments are faulty and ignores
House a "failure" — his word — as it per-
dealing with the issues at hand. But, in this
tained to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
case, the authors themselves describe their
The point is neither the Palestinians nor
any other Arab nation is prepared to live in
The first, published in 1984, From Time
peace with Israel. What further proof is need-
The Origins of the Arab-Jewish
ed but the rejection about a year ago of a reso-
Conflict Over Palestine, was written by Joan
lution proposed to the Arab League by Saudi
Peters, who had planned to write a book sup-
Arabia recognizing Israel's right to exist. The rejection
porting the Palestinians but her research led her to the
indicated once more — and sadly — that nothing has
changed since 1948.
FALBUAM on page 26
Two of the most powerful books in the last 20 years