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July 09, 2004 - Image 18

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-07-09

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• •


'a. • •


At Home In Rochester



Jewish families savor their life in outer suburbs.

Special to the Jewish News


hat was intended to be no more than two
Years in Rochester, turned into 29 years for
David and Rita Becker.
It's been eight years for Michael and Naomi .
Behrmann, and they, too, are in no hurry to leave.
Both families moved to Rochester to be close to
work. David Becker is a professor of chemistry at the
Auburn Hills campus of Oakland Community College
and is an adjunct research professor at nearby Oakland
The Behrmanns moved from Huntington Woods
when David became a principal in the Rochester
Community Schools. He currently is the principal at
North Hill Elementary in nearby Rochester Hills.
Becker has been active in civic and public affairs for
more than 20 years, including a stint on the Rochester
City Council. He talks about the city with such pas-
sion that it seems he's not just talking about where he
lives, but about a member of his family.
He loves the friendliness and the small-town feel of
the city, and the fact that they can walk downtown for
Shopping and entertainment and see friends and neigh-
bors doing the same.
"It's the kind of community where you don't have to
lock your doors," he says, explaining that when his
three boys were young, "the neighbors kept an eye on
our kids as they bicycled around.
"To the best of my knowledge, we were one of the

first Jewish families in the city," he says, noting that the
community was "very welcoming" and that it was
"quite wonderful how the community, not having seen
many Jews, reacted to us." He says his family "never
felt any hint of bias or prejudice."
When their kids were younger, they "were very heav-
ily involved with JPI [the Jewish Parents Institute at
the West Bloomfield JCC] for 13 or 14 years," he says.
"We wanted to give our boys a Jewish upbringing."
But when the kids got older, Becker admits that
being a distance from Jewish institutions, "we've kind
of lost touch with the Jewish community. As comfort-
able as we are, I regret it. I'd like to keep in touch
more, but that's the way we've evolved."
For the" Behrmanns, who both grew up in Oak Park
and lived in Huntington Woods for 10 years,
Rochester was quite a change.
"At first, we had culture shock," said Naomi. "We
took [Jewish opportunities] for granted in Huntington
Woods. Now we make much more of an effort to cele-
brate holidays and have Shabbat dinner."
"One of the challenges is that our kids are not
around any Jewish peers at all," adds Michael.
To fill the gap, they send two of their girls to a
Reform summer camp in Wisconsin and their other
child to Tamarack Camps so, according to Michael,
they can "get immersed in Jewish culture."
In addition, the girls attend religious school at
Temple Shir Tikvah and the whole family is active
there even though it is a 25-minute drive away. But
not living in the heart of the Jewish community has an


Top: Naomi, Katie and Michael Behrmann stand
outside Red Knapp's in downtown Rochester
Inset: David and Rita Becker, also downtown.

advantage for the kids, too, says Michael. "It makes
them appreciate other Jewish people much more."
The Behrmanns also have found their neighbors to
be friendly and accepting. "Pretty much everyone
knows I am Jewish," says Michael, who, as a principal,
is very visible, in the community. "I've not encountered
any direct anti-Semitism," he says, adding, "at
Christmas, carolers come and sin g a Chanukah song
on our porch."
It's not difficult for Naomi to rattle off great places
they regularly frequent that would likely be considered
a shlep from Southfield or West Bloomfield: Meadow
Brook, Oakland University, the Palace of Auburn Hills,
Stony Creek Metropark and Bald Mountain -
Recreation Area as well as the farmer's "market and the
park and restaurants in downtown Rochester.
"It is a very wonderful place to live," she says, "even
though we do a lot of driving because things are so
spread out." ❑


HOME AGAIN from page 17

group of people we clicked with, and we stayed. Troy
has excellent schools, it's a wonderful place to raise
In the nine years since he left the Detroit area, Rabbi
Starr received an undergraduate degree at the
University of Michigan, and then completed a five-year
program at the Hebrew Union College, spending one
year at the Jerusalem campus and the remainder in
Rabbi Starr's wife, Rebecca, is a graduate of the Sol

7/ 9


Drachler Program in Jewish Communal Leadership at
the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The pro-
gram consists of a master's degree in social work and a
master's degree in Jewish communal service.
"Rebecca, in her own right, is an amazing Jewish
professional," said Rabbi Arnie.
Rabbi Starr will be responsible for all the educational
activities of the Reform-Renewal synagogue, including
the Sam and Jean Frankel Family Education Program,
the youth groups and advisers and new programming

for adults that he will develop.
"We chose Rabbi Starr because he is absolutely out-
standing," said Rabbi Arnie. "His passion is Jewish
education, and we. know he will help bring our educa-
tional offerings for,everyone, from children through
adults, to a new level."
Rabbi Starr said, "So far, it feels wonderful to be
back among family, both my birth family and my new
family at Shir Tikvah."

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