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April 24, 2008 - Image 32

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2008-04-24

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Southfield At 50


Spiritually Connected

The range of

Shelli Liebman Dorfman




or some synagogues, Southfield
was the end of the line; for others
it was a stop on the way to anoth-
er locale and for still others, it's a place of
longtime permanence or new beginnings.
Today, Southfield is home to synagogues
of various denominations and sizes, span-
ning most of the city, with more congrega-
tions still forming and moving in.
In April 1958, the same month
Southfield was incorporated as a city, the
Conservative Congregation Shaarey
Zedek was making plans for construction
of its new building on land purchased in
1954 on Bell Road, where it remains today.
The sanctuary was officially dedicated in
a 1962 ceremony during Shabbat services
attended by 3,900 individuals.
The late Rabbi Morris Adler, who
served the congregation when it arrived
in Southfield, was tragically shot during
Shabbat services in 1966. Both he and
his assailant, who also turned the gun on
himself, later died. When Shaarey Zedek
moved to Bell Road, Rabbi Irwin Groner
was assistant rabbi. He was named senior
rabbi in 1967 and has been rabbi emeri-
tus at the synagogue since 2003. Current
clergy also include Rabbis Joseph Krakoff
and Eric Yanoff, Cantor Meir Finkelstein,
Assistant Cantor Leonard Gutman and
Cantor Emeritus Chaim Najman.
In 1958, Congregation B'nai David,
which remains this area's only Traditional
synagogue, moved into its building on
Southfield Road, on land it had purchased
in 1954. Services were conducted there by
the late Rabbi Chaim Halevy Donin, who
served the congregation until his fam-
ily moved to Israel in 1973, and the late
Cantor Hyman Adler, who retired in 1978.
In the mid 1960s, B'nai David expanded
the building's size with a new sanctuary
and school addition. In 1967 the school
building was dedicated in memory of
Samuel Lieberman and the student enroll-
ment had grown from the original to
29 students to 600. In 1989, B'nai David
sold its 47,000-square-foot building and
the surrounding 10 acres to the city of
Southfield for $1.45 million. In 1997, the


April 24 • 2008

building became the Centre for the Arts.
In recent years, the congregation has exist-
ed without a permanent building, renting
space in cities including Southfield, to
conduct regular Shabbat and holiday ser-
vices under the leadership of Cantor Ben-
Zion Lanxner. They currently operate out
of the Hadassah House on Orchard Lake
Road in West Bloomfield.

Mergers And Acquisitions
In 1966, the Orthodox Congregation
Beth Jacob-Mogen Abraham moved
into the Yeshivah Beth Yehudah school
building on Lincoln Road in Southfield,
under the leadership of the late Rabbi
S.P. Wohlgelernter. Today, the Orthodox
Agudas Yisroel-Mogen Abraham — a
name formed when the synagogue joined
the national Agudath Israel movement
about 10 years ago — is headed by Rabbis
Dov Loketch and Asher Eisenberger.
In 1968, Congregation Ahavas Achim
and Congregation Beth Aaron merged
into what would become the Conservative
Congregation Beth Achim, led by Rabbi
Milton Arm, who served the congregation
until his retirement from the synagogue
in 1990. Also in 1968, the congregation
moved to its new location, in the former
Northbrook Presbyterian Church on 12
Mile Road, which had been purchased by
Ahavas Achim. The next year, Beth Achim
announced it would construct a mikvah,
which in more recent years was renovated
and is in use as the Orthodox Southfield
Mikvah. It is located on the north side of
Yeshivat Akiva, whose school is now run
out of the building that was once used by
Beth Achim.
In 1970, with membership close to 800
families, Beth Achim renovated its build-
ing and broke ground for an expansion
that would include a 750-seat sanctuary.
In 1991, the boards of the then 500-
member family Beth Achim and the 300-
member family Congregation B'nai Moshe,
which was located in Oak Park, and is now
in West Bloomfield, voted to merge. A vote
among members of each congregation
several months later defeated the proposal.

What's New?
Also in 1972, the Orthodox Shomrey
Emunah held a groundbreaking ceremo-
ny for a new building on Southfield Road.
Until it was constructed, religious services
were held in the home of the synagogue's
rabbi, Shaiall Zachariash, who remains
spiritual leader of the congregation today.

Rabbi Yechiel Morris at the 2007 Young Israel of Southfield annual dinner with

youth honorees Cara Kleiman, now 19, Hallie Platt, 18, and Vicki Beneson, 18, along
with Dr. Larry Brown and President Barry Eisenberg, all of Southfield

That same year, the Orthodox Young
Israel of Southfield was formed and
Shabbat services were held in the Adlai E.
Stevenson Elementary School on Lahser
Road, later moving to a small home on the
same street. In 1977, the cornerstone was
laid on an adjacent lot where their current
synagogue building stands. The congrega-
tion is now served by Rabbi Yechiel Morris
who came to Young Israel in 2002. At that
time, Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg became
rabbi emeritus when took the position
of serving as national director of Kids
Kicking Cancer.
In 1972, Congregation Beth Tefilo
Emanuel Tikvah, led by the late Rabbi
Leizer Levin, moved from Detroit to
Greenfield Road in Southfield and is now
headed by his grandson, Rabbi Yisroel
Menachem Levin.
In 1973, Shaarey Zedek's board of
trustees approved an abbreviated Torah
reading on Shabbat mornings, becoming
the first Southfield synagogue to read the
entire Torah over the course of two years
instead of one. In 1981, women were given
the honor of opening the ark at Shaarey
Zedek during High Holiday services for
the first time.
In 1994, Rabbi Herbert Yoskowitz
came to Beth Achim. That same year,
the Conservative movement's Rabbinical
Assembly sanctioned counting of women
in a minyan and Shaarey Zedek joined in.
In 1998, Beth Achim merged with Adat
Shalom Synagogue at its current location
in Farmington Hills and Rabbi Yoskowitz
joined the Adat Shalom clergy team.
The Beth Achim building on 12 Mile
Road was purchased by the United Jewish

Foundation and was renovated into the
new home of Yeshivat Akiva, where cur-
rently religious services are held twice a
day during the week, and are open to the

Still Sprouting
In addition to the larger, formal syna-
gogues in Southfield, several groups gath-
er for services on Shabbat and holidays
in various parts of the city in individual
homes for lay led services. The Secular
Humanistic Sholem Aleichem Institute on
Southfield Road in Lathrup Village meets
for Friday night oneg Shabbat programs,
holiday observances and cultural events.
New synagogues are still forming in
Southfield with the more recent addi-
tions of the Orthodox Congregation
Yagdil Torah on 10 Mile Road, headed by
Rabbi Eli Yelen and the Orthodox Ahavas
Yisroel Society at 10 Mile and Fairfax
roads, led by Rabbi Sender Babayov.
Fundraising toward construction of an
expansion at Young Israel of Southfield has
reached the halfway mark. It will include
youth rooms, an enlarged social hall and
library, an outside deck and playground
and bet midrash (house of learning) for a
learners minyan that will take the latest
additions to Southfield synagogues into
the next 50 years. ❑

Some of the historical facts in this
article were based on information
originally published in "Echoes of
Detroit's Jewish Communities: A
History," by Irwin J. Cohen of Oak

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