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November 05, 2004 - Image 90

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-11-05

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Cover Story

BERMAN from page 65

a lot of; „.
. .
aritiSeintastii on the 13arri -citk. leaders who , . ..didn't .
there," he recalled. 71.1ey . .„
Want i00:144hy
finally' relented when one city councilman .told" me
Chapel's presence
-[alludi n g •
Southfield] .• "If we can • hurk ern . :here; I guess we
can mar ry 'em here.;'".
ecial writer


0 y, es ecially in Jewish educ


in his career asparmer and president of Bert L.

Smokier & Co., a Detroit-based nationally known
building firm. H e saw action on Okinawa while in
the Navy during World War He recalls that he
mustered about 100 Jewish military men to attend
services on a muddy hill in the rain while in danger
mese anes.


Driving Down The Debt

Members step up to tackle synagogue's deficit.


Addressing Finances

Special to the Jewish News

New donations by the current genera-
tion of leaders will help pay off the
interest and the principal on a bank
loan the synagogue needed to keep
operating during recent bleak years.
Weisberg explained that a slight
drop in membership and growing
expenses led to reduced revenue from
members. In addition, a poor econo-
my resulted in a reduction in proceeds
from the endowment, which is based
on stock market investments. The
endowment annual revenues fell to
$500,000 from a high of $1.5 million.
"The combination of these fac-
tors created a huge deficit for the
synagogue that needed to be cor-
rected immediately," Weisberg said.
"Spending is driven by payroll and
programs. And it was difficult to
cut various programs that were so
important to our membership. We
can't eliminate Hebrew school and
Severance payments for five key
employees who left the synagogue —
including two rabbis, a cantor and two
past executive directors — totaled about
$250,000, but "did not cause our deficit," he
Rabbi Leonardo Bitran headed Shaarey Zedek's
B'nai Israel Center in West Bloomfield, for 11
years before leaving to become a senior rabbi in
San Antonio, Texas, in May 2003.
"We lost about 20 members because of this,
but we've also gained about 60 new members in
recent months, and some who left have rejoined
because of Rabbi Yanoff, " Weisberg said.
In the synagogue's latest pending personnel
move, longtime member Leonard Baruch, 81, of
Southfield, a former executive director, will assist
the synagogue during the search for a permanent
executive director, hopefully to start in the
spring. The current executive director, Richard
Rosenberg, a former K-Mart executive, said he
will return to the private business sector.


Nov. 10 dinner honoring Mandell L.
"Bill" Berman is expected to raise signifi-
cant money to help retire Congregation
Shaarey Zedek's debt, but the real story is what's
been happening even before the dinner.
"By Nov. 10, we will have reached 75 percent
of our goal of wiping out our $3 million debt,"
said synagogue President Steven Weisberg of West
"This is thanks to the generosity of some of
our prominent members who want Shaarey
Zedek to move forward in this new era. It's the
same type of spirit displayed by our officers and
board members, who are business people and
entrepreneurs and always provide us with new
At a recent "parlor" meeting at Berman's home,
18 congregants announced they're giving
$100,000 to the synagogue, and a few more are
close to doing so, which will add about $2 mil-
lion to the coffers — leaving a $1 million debt.
Their names will be listed on a lobby plaque. Last
year, Willliam "Bill" Davidson gave a $1 million
gift, and additional funds were realized from the
estates of the late Jack Prinstein and Max Shaye,
including scholarship funds from the latter.
"I consider it to be a happy responsibility to
ask people to contribute money to the syna-
gogue," Berman said.
Also, Weisberg revealed that Shaarey Zedek is
on the verge of selling about 35 acres of land it
owns at the northeast corner of 12 Mile Road
and Meadowbrook in Novi to a home developer,
probably for $5 million. The money will be put
into Shaarey Zedek's Endowment Fund, created
30 years ago by another generation of synagogue
leaders. Bylaws stipulate that only 5 percent, or
$250,000 now, can go right into the operations
of the synagogue.
"The endowment shomrim (guardians) wanted
us to manage money responsibly," Weisberg
pointed out. "They wanted their funds to live in
perpetuity, not just be used for debt reduction."

11/ 5


"But I feel good about Shaarey
Zedek now," Rosenberg said.
"There's an exciting environment
with programs for all age levels."
In other personnel matters,
Weisberg told members in a letter
that the synagogue is looking for a
cantor to join the clergy team.
In Rosh Hashanah remarks to the
congregation, Weisberg amplified by
telling Cantor Chaim Najman:
"Cantor, we look forward to having
you on the bimah and serving our
congregation for many years to
Cantor Najman, who this year
marks 25 years with Shaarey Zedek,
has a contract that runs through the
middle of 2006, when he turns 69.
"At that point, I hope to continue
with the synagogue," he said. "I
have no retirement date in mind.
I'm confident Shaarey Zedek will
treat me with the appropriate respect
and dignity as shown Rabbi
Cantor Najman and his wife, Dr.
Sherrell Najman, will be honored at
the synagogue's Israel Bonds dinner

next May.
Anita Naftaly of West Bloomfield has been a
board member for 15 years. Citing her education
duties at the Jewish Federation, she recently
stepped down as a Shaarey Zedek vice president,
even though she could have become the syna-
gogue's second woman president ever. The first
was Dottie Wagner of West Bloomfield.
She's excited about Shaarey Zedek's new direc-
"I'm pleased to see there's a new synergy and
resurgence at the synagogue, thanks mainly to the
young rabbinic team," she said, "and I'm proud
of the great strides the synagogue has made in
recognizing the role of women, including bat
mitzvahs, counting women in minyans and giving
them aliyahs. Rabbi Groner was very instrumen-
tal in accomplishing this." ❑

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