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t was a hot April afternoon, well into an
emotionally and physically draining trip to
This is a man who's
Israel. But none of the Jewish visitors from
a visionary on the
Detroit, Grand Rapids and Toledo seemed to
world stage, but
We were at the Davidson Center, at the his-
toric Temple Mount excavation site. The center
is the gift of one of Detroit Jewry's best-known
mega-philanthropists, Bill Davidson.
Visitors to the Jerusalem Archeological Park
obscurity is a lesson in
gather at the Davidson Center. The center uses
believing in oneself and see-
high-tech virtual reconstruction to let visitors
ing a cause through. It sets
experience Jerusalem's main avenue of com-
an example for Detroit Jewry, which is so often
merce, Herodian Street, at the time of King
engaged in tough challenges involving commu-
Herod, just before the Roman Legion destroyed
nal, synagogue or social justice issues.
the Second Temple in 70 C.E.
• As Head Coach Larry Brown, President Joe
The Jewish world is indebted to Davidson's
Dumars and the players basked in the afterglow
philanthropy. Besides the Jerusalem
of the Pistons' third NBA championship, though
Archeological Park, beneficiaries include the
the first since 1990, each talked about the little
Jewish Theological Seminary-William Davidson
things that Mr. D does to engender a feeling of
Graduate School of Jewish Education in New
family. For example, he chartered a flight for the
York, the University of Michigan Business
players' families to fly to L.A. for the first two
School-William Davidson Institute in Ann
games of the NBA Finals.
Arbor, the Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies
Family means everything to him, a signal of
in Jerusalem and the Technion-Israel Institute of
his upbringing. The feeling of family, illustrated
Technology in Haifa.
by the team's chemistry, is a central reason why
Fast forward to last week.
the Lightning won the Stanley Cup with a pay-
Davidson, who made his fortune mastering
roll at least a third smaller than the Detroit Red
the art of making flat glass for the automotive
and construction industries after entering an
In recent years, Davidson has become less
uncle's windshield business 47 years ago, scored a
reclusive. In public, he's more animated and talk-
triple crown of sorts when his Detroit Pistons
ative. He's more open to the press. He talks
won the National Basketball Association cham-
straight and never wavers.
pionship. Eight days before, his Tampa Bay
Lightning stunned the National Hockey League
A Giving Heart
by winning the Stanley Cup. His Detroit Shock
Davidson is a former president of
went from last to first to win the
Congregation Shaarey Zedek of Metro
women's professional basketball title
Detroit. His kindness is legion — influ-
enced, he says, by his maternal grand-
The Bloomfield Hills industrialist's
parents. He has given away more than
success in business and sports is no accident. It's
$100 million, solo and with other major givers.
because he has a skill for hiring leaders and giv-
The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan
ing them the tools and support to excel. Even
Detroit is an obvious recipient; the Davidson-
when a holding veers off course, it's only
Hermelin Center for Congregation Excellence is
momentary. He's quick to rebuild and reload.
a key byproduct.
In 1999, Davidson gave $20 million to create
Its The Team
Israel's Davidson Institute of Science Education
Davidson ran track at the University of
at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot.
Michigan and played football in the Navy dur-
Detroit kids are a winner thanks to his
ing World War II. A longtime member of the
Pistons-Palace Foundation, which has helped
Michigan Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, he was
restore and keep up the city's parks. He has
named to the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in
embraced the Detroit Symphony, too.
A Guardian Industries student scholarship
Even at age 81, he remains as competitive as
fund aids children of employees.
they come, but believes foremost in the art of the
This is a man who's a visionary on the world
team. That's part of the bedrock of his Guardian
stage, but treasures his Detroit roots.
Industries, a multibillion-dollar business, as well
Davidson leads more by example than oratory.
as his sports teams.
He's not garulous, but at Pistons games he sits
The Pistons' success proved that teamwork
courtside, not in some faraway suite. He's as apt
could trump individual stars, that gritty players
to wear an open collar shirt and a blazer as a
could outdo bigger names. The team's rise from
AT A UN
Bill Davidson ranks among the richest people in America. But
more importantly, he exemplifies the Jewish ideal of tikkun olam,
of making the world a better place.
No one is more deserving of accolades than this unassuming,
long unheralded man whose lessons for achieving success and
fulfillment have spread to places near and far.
Yasher koach, Mr. D!
The Artist Formerly
Known As Madonna
who grew up in
Bay City and Rochester, says
she has adopted a new,
Jewish name —
Material Girl, who
whatever of her charms she
deemed necessary to promote
her record sales, says her
study of Kabbalah (Jewish
mysticism) convinced her she
needed the energy she could
draw from being associated
with the biblical queen.
Her devotion would be a
lot more admirable, however,
if it did not come two weeks
after she had canceled plans
to give three concerts
in Israel because tak-
ing her Re-invention
Tour there would
have been too risky. Someone
should explain to Madonna
that if the real Esther had
been that timid, there never
would have been Kabbalah to