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May 07, 2004 - Image 71

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-05-07

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Incredible Journey

Bais Chabad Torah Center to celebrate its first 30 years.




halom Michlin of West Bloomfield remem-
bers when services at his synagogue were so
sparsely attended and so casual that, as a
young man, he once did a handspring on
Shabbat morning. But those were the days when the
Sara Tugman Bais Chabad Torah Center founders met
in the living room of Claire and the late Ted
Schulnick's West Bloomfield home.
Thirty years later, Michlin and his wife, Sarah, are
among the honorees who will celebrate the thriving
congregation's 30th anniversary at a dinner Sunday,
May 16, at the Shriners Community Center in

The Michlins will receive the Torah Center's
Founders Award along with Helen and Jacob Reisman
and Carole and Erwin Hollander, all of West
"When I came to Detroit in 1975, there was no
Orthodox community in West Bloomfield," said Rabbi
Elimelech Silberberg, the congregation's rabbi. "There
was just a small core group of eight or nine people who
were running Shabbat morning services."
The once-a-week gatherings were held in the
Lubavitch Foundation of Michigan headquarters, then
in Farmington Hills. They were led by Rabbi Yitchok
Lifshitz, who lived in Oak Park, but spent each
Shabbat in the building. High Holiday services were
led there by the late Rabbi Yitschak Meir Kagan.
"One day, Rabbi Lifshitz told me instead of daven-
ing in the Lubavitch building, we would be going to
the Schulnick's home," said Michlin, then a 20-some-
thing single young man who attended the earliest serv-
ices. "I remember we cut through a path in the woods
and through two subdivisions to get there."
After a few weeks of meeting in various homes, the
group was able to access a classroom in the Ealy
Elementary School in West Bloomfield.
"When I was a student at the University of
Michigan and met my wife — who was from West
Bloomfield — we would come to our parents' homes
for Shabbos and meet at Ealy on Saturday mornings,"
Michlin said.
The Hollanders and Reismans were part of the orig-
inal group too. "In fact, the rabbis were brought to
West Bloomfield by Erwin Hollander — the syna-
gogue's first president," Rabbi Silberberg said. "He
went to Rabbi Berel Shemtov, the Lubavitch
Foundation director for help."
The Reismans were among other Holocaust sur-
vivors who were founding members of the congrega-
tion. "They came from religious homes, with strong
roots, but gave it up when they came to America,"

Rabbi Silberberg said. "Then they began to look for
something more traditional, wanting to come back to
their rich heritage, and found it here."

The Beginning

In the early days, Michlin said, "There were so few of
us that if anyone went out of town, we used to try to
find someone to take our place so there would be a
Rabbi Silberberg remembered walking his neighbor-
hood, stopping at homes with mezuzot and knocking
on the doors to find enough people for a minyan. "I
took my son with me,
hoping it was harder to
refuse a cute little kid," he
"We were starting a
shul, and we needed to go
out and find members. It
was not like I accepted a
position in an established
synagogue in an estab-
lished Orthodox commu-
And establishing the
synagogue was not some-
thing to be done alone.
Joseph Farah
"This was for a husband-
Rabbi Silberberg and-wife team. My wife,
Chaya Sarah, and I
included our children, too.
We were trying to show
people about Judaism, and
we knew it was important
for them to see our family
and our Jewish home."
During the Ealy School
days, the group met only
on Saturday mornings.
But in 1982, when they
moved into their own
building on West Maple
east of Orchard Lake Road
establishing the first Orthodox synagogue in West
Bloomfield, there came additions.
First, there were Monday and Thursday morning
services, then Sundays, then other weekday mornings,
and, later, Minchah (afternoon services) and Maariv
(evening services).
"We finally became full-service — much more than
just a place for davening," Rabbi Silberberg said. "We
have become an outreach Torah center — the Hyman
and Sonia Blumenstein Outreach Institute — with a
Judaic book and tape library, a mikvah [ritual bath],
with untold numbers of people dropping in for study."

They hold regular courses in Judaism with a special
emphasis on Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) and organize
Shabbat retreats and a yearly mission to Israel.
Staff now includes administrator and adult educator
Rabbi Avrohom Wineberg, rabbinic intern Shmuli
Raskin of England and educator Marty Goodman of
West Bloomfield, son of synagogue founder Sara

Beyond The Communi ty

The Torah Center also has a priority in "mitzvah pro-
gramming," Rabbi Silberberg said. At the upcoming
dinner, the congregation will present the Community
Service Award to Rochel Henya (Rae) Sharfman of
West Bloomfield, for her efforts in such programs.
"She is the person who spearheads our activities that
go beyond our community," Rabbi Silberberg said.
"She is involved in activities that bring donations to
victims of Israeli terror and is active with the Children
of Chernobyl. She was prominent in the 1970s for
helping Jews get out of Russia."
The dinner, which is chaired by Jerome Katz of
West Bloomfield, will also be highlighted by a talk by
Joseph Farah, a pro-Israel journalist, who will speak on
"The Media Versus Israel."
"We are a shul that is Israel-oriented," Rabbi
Silberberg said. "We are always looking for ways to
make us aware of how to help Israel. Joseph Farah is a
true friend of Israel. He is an Arab and is not Jewish,
but he can look to tell us what to do to mitigate the
effect of those who are media-hostile toward Israel."
Rabbi Silberberg is thrilled that the Torah Center,
now flourishing with a membership of 120 families, is
surrounded by synagogues of all denominations,
including three Orthodox congregations that were
founded after his. "Not only have we grown, but the
whole Jewish community has grown," he said.
"It feels great to see how the shul has progressed and
developed," said Michlin. But one thing hasn't
changed. The former North Farmington High School
gymnastics team member said, "On Simchas Torah,
I'm still known to come to shul and take a walk across
the room — on my hands." 111

The Sara Tugman Bais Chabad Torah Center
annual dinner will take place Sunday, May 16,
at the Shriners Community Center (formerly
Congregation B'nai David), 25350 Southfield
Road in Southfield. 5 p.m. hors d'oeuvres;
6 p.m. dinner. $150 per person. RSVP:
(248) 855-6170 or e-mail Rabbi Wineberg at:

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