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November 26, 2009 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2009-11-26

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Editor's Letter

The Yeshiva's Imprint

T

he turnout was humbling given Metro Detroit's
economic crisis: More than 2,200 people attended
Yeshiva Beth Yehudah's annual dinner in downtown
Detroit on Nov. 15. The gathering underscored the strong and
sustained support for the 750 kids who attend the Southfield
and Oak Park campuses of the 95-year-old Yeshiva, Jewish
Detroit's oldest and largest school.
"It is this sustaining and gener-
ous spirit that allows the Yeshiva to
expand its enrollment, create new
and innovative programs, and enlarge
and improve its campuses:' said Gary
Torgow, the tireless president for 17
years. He's also a Jewish Federation of
Metropolitan Detroit executive com-
mittee member.
The heartbeat of our Yeshiva is a
Torah-based and secular education
regardless of ability to pay. Eighty
percent of the students require schol-
arship aid; nearly half of the students qualify for the federal
school-lunch program. So the dinner is essential to funding.
It raises more than $500,000 toward the school's $6.8 million
budget. Tuition and Federation funding yield $2.7 million.
That leaves $4.1 million to come from contributions.
Yeshiva budget obligations begin with the weekly payroll,
which includes 150 teachers. Then there's the matter of
coursework quality, teaching tools and school surroundings.
Over the last 20 years, major benefactors have demanded
improvement to the school's physical presence, leading to
$15 million in building improvements. Don't think the spar-
kling new facilities don't elevate the pride of the Yeshiva's
boys and girls. I beamed myself with pride
at the sight of benefactors Alice Berlin and
Ann Newman at the recent dinner; the phil-
anthropic impact of their families on the
Yeshiva is indelible.

Torgow comes from the day school sector, but his analy-
sis of how Jewish education nurtures Jewish identity also
extends to our synagogue schools, which collectively have
more students than the day schools.

A Divine Thrust
Ever engaging and inspiring, Torgow told how God watches
over how we share the mitzvot and lessons of Torah — the
spiritually binding compass for what it means to be Jewish.
Learning is central to a thriving Jewish community; day
schools occupy the highest tier. In response, many local fami-
lies have joined Federation to bolster the scholarship base for
all our schools --- day and synagogue. Such help is pivotal to
continuing passage of the joy of Torah from one generation
to the next.
In accepting the Yeshiva Guardian honor, Robert Aronson,
Federation's former CEO, picked up on that theme. "With all
the issues and responsibilities we must face as a Jewish com-
munity, what is foremost among them?" he asked. "I think
we can all agree that it is the continuity of our future genera-
tions. And what then, in the most fundamental sense, keeps
our Jewish people? It is the Torah and the study of Torah."
Aronson, who continues as Federation's major fundraiser,
is right: "Torah is the core of who we are; the reason for our
survival, the purpose of our continuity and the essence of the
relationship between God and man. And we are obligated to
pass it on to our children."

Bricks To Bucks
Under Aronson's stewardship, Federation rose to the bricks-
and-mortar forefront: converting buildings (B'nai Moshe
in Oak Park into the Yeshiva's Beth Jacob School for Girls,
Beth Achim in Southfield to Yeshiva Akiva),
constructing new space (Frankel Jewish
Academy in the West Bloomfield JCC) and
repurposing old space (United Hebrew
Schools in Southfield into Yeshivas Darchei
Torah) — all for the benefit of day school
education.
Muitistream Support
Significantly, statistics show that Yeshiva
We must strive to keep the Yeshiva vibrant
alumni choose Israel, the East coast and
and solvent. It fulfills a pivotal mission
Detroit in near-equal proportion. Many are
alongside Yeshivas Darchei Torah, Yeshivat
doctors, lawyers, accountants, developers
Akiva and Hillel Day School, our other
and teachers as well as rabbis.
primary-grade day schools. Notably, there
Gary Torgow is the Yeshiva's human
would be no Yeshiva without non-Orthodox
energy
cell. But he relies on a cadre of other
support. While growing, Detroit Jewry's
leaders
and donors to transform plans into
Orthodox community comprises only 11 per-
Yeshiva's
Gary
Torgow
action.
Federation,
like it has for all our day
cent of our population of 72,000. At least two
schools,
has
helped
perpetuate the Yeshiva
generations were educated at the Yeshiva's
with
buildings,
loans
and
accelerated
allocations.
former afternoon Hebrew school for public school students.
The
fiscal
byword
for
all
our
day
schools
now must be
Today, the Yeshiva's Jean and Theodore Weiss Partners in
"endowment."
Making
this
a
front-burner
issue
would allay
Torah program touches hundreds of non-Orthodox Jews.
some
of
the
concern
about
ever-rising
tuition
and
ever-
In his presidential address at the dinner, Torgow praised
increasing pressure on Federation resources. Creative budget-
the Yeshiva, but he respectfully looked more broadly at the
ing and scholarships go only so far.
business of educating our youth. There's no competition
It's not cheap keeping the Yeshiva, or any day or synagogue
when it comes to arguing the merits of Jewish learning.
school, open. But Jewish Detroit is richer because of what
"We are a community that demands that the Yeshiva and
all of our wonderful day schools flourish and prosper even as they bring to the crucible of learning about our history and
heritage.
we meet head-on the challenges of the next generation with
trepidation:' Torgow said. "Even with our other vital com-
To learn more about the Yeshiva, log on to: www.detroityeshiva.org .
munal priorities, Jewish education has been the foundation
Please share your thoughts at: thejewishnews.com/community. Go to
and the bedrock upon which the future of the Jewish people
Local News.
is eternally built."

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November 26 * 2009

5

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