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January 13, 2005 - Image 44

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2005-01-13

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Congregation Shaarey Zedek fifth- and sixth-
graders visit the Beth Olam Cemetery.



Cm Amslesrmegnmes



Adat Shalom Synagogue's Boy Scout Troop 364
check out the monument to the Underground
Railroad in Detroit's Hart Plaza.

and religious schools provided additional input.
Funding for bus transportation was provided
by a grant frOni,the Max M. ,_ Fisher Jewish
Community Foundation a , the Jewish
Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. The grant
will expire in May

o many Jewish children, the city of
Detroit is an "urban legend," filled with
stories of neighborhoods, synagogues
and schools they have never seen. Thanks to a
tour sponsored by the Jewish Historical Society
of Michigan (JHSM), local students are experi-
encing firsthand the rich Jewish heritage of the
city where many of their parents and grandpar-
ents were raised.
Now in its third year, the tour, tided "Settlers
to Citizens: The Jews of Detroit and Michigan,
1761-2005," was originally developed as an
educational program for fifth- and sixth-grade
students. But it has become equally popular
with adults who have participated.
"We need to show the kids the Jewish imprint
in Detroit and all the tremendous contributions
Jews have made to the city," said Rob Kaplow,
JHSM president. "It's a wonderful tour, aimed
at a time when the children are learning about
local history in secular school. We have a great
cadre of tour guides, and the feedback has
been fantastic."
As the nation marks the 350th anniversary of
the arrival of America's first Jews, it is fitting
that such .a program emphasize the contribu-
tions of Detroit's Jewish community. The tours
were developed by a committee of JHSM mem-
bers, including Judy Levin Cantor of Bloomfield
Hills, Ellen Cole of West Bloomfield, Adele
Staller of Southfield, Carol Weisfeld of Detroit
and Gerald Cook of Farmington Hills. They
also serve as volunteer tour guides.
Representatives from Detroit-area synagogues

"Many of our kids never go into the city of
Detroit, except for a sporting event," said Cook,
a JHSM board member. "We want them to
think about what it means to be a good Jew and
also a good citizen of Detroit. We want them to
see the poverty and also the nice things about
Detroit, both now and in the past."
The tour begins at the banks of the Detroit
River in Hart Plaa., in front of the impressive
Underground Railroad statue, where partici-
pants hear stories about the many Jews who
helped the fugitive slaves in the era of the Civil
The bus stops at the site of the first Jewish
religious services at Congress and St. Antoine
and also makes the rounds of several former
synagogues, Jewish Centers and Hebrew schools
throughout the city.
Tour guides emphasize the contributions of
local Jews to many Detroit landmarks such the
Eugene Applebaum School of Pharmacy of
Wayne State University and several buildings,
including the Fisher Building, designed by
architect Albert Kahn.
One of the highlights is a visit to Comerica
Park, where students learn how Hank
Greenberg put his religious beliefs before his
baseball game, despite the chagrin of many of
his fans and team members.
Also included is a stop at historic ElrnwOod
Cemetery, the resting place of many of Detroit's
most prominent citizens.
Students also have the opportunity to peruse
the JHSM's collection of historic 'school year-

books, where they enjoy recognizing the yon.. r11
ful photos of relatives, teachers and other
"Our hope is that the kids come awaifeet'!?'
that there's a Jewish niche in the city anclihet
they fit into that niche and feel comfortab*
there and proud of their heritage," said tour
guide Weisfeld.
She also teaches Sunday School at the
Reconstructionist Congregation of li)etroi.(;14
which is included in the tour. Her students
designed and published a coloring-activity:hOt .
titled Early Jewish Days in Michigan, which .W
available to local youth groups. ‘.

Added Edu c ation

The tour has become a regular part of the
riculum for many of the area's day and sup
mental religious schools.
"We think it's important for our kids to have
a sense of local Jewish history," said Elissa Ber
director of youth and education for Adat
Shalom Synagogue's Beth Achim Religious
School. "The kids find it very interesting and;;;I::::
of course, we enjoy visiting the old Adat Shalom;
building on Curtis, especially when there are
parents along who used to be students there4 !;i::'::!
Louis Sugarman of Southfield, scoutmast
for Boy Scout Troop 364, sponsored by the
Adat Shalom Men's Club, took a group of
Scouts and their families on the tour last sp'
"History can be a tough sell, but the tour 4it.
guides really held the kids' attention with tkeii
enthusiasm, their stories and their tremendous:
energy," Sugarman said. "The visit to the
Underground Railroad statue and talking
the escaped slaves was very moving. And the.::
kids enjoyed learning about Hank Green bete
and looking at the old yearbooks."
According to Cook, one of the most gratify-:
ing things is reading the thank-you notes sent,:::
by the students who take the tours.

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