n cultural forum.
High school assembly addresses Chaldean-Jewish stereotypes.
Editor I Detroit Jewish News
Editor I Chaldean News
Sixth of a nine-part monthly series
wilding Community, the growing
initiative designed to bring the
Jewish and Chaldean communi-
ties of Metro Detroit closer together, will
present a teen forum with the Bloomfield
Hills School District as host.
The school assembly will be held on
Wednesday, Oct. 6, at the Model High
School on Lahser Road. Event spon-
sors are the Detroit Jewish News and the
Chaldean News, both based in Southfield,
and the Bloomfield Hills Schools.
The forum will include teen panelists,
a teen audience and Jewish and Chaldean
clergy as moderators. The setting will
allow students to discuss what they per-
ceive to be ethnic stereotypes as well as
opportunities for cultural bridge build-
"The Bloomfield Hills School District
is a perfect facilitator because of its
large Chaldean/Jewish populations and
its awareness and support of Building
Community"' said Martin Manna,
Chaldean News co-publisher.
Bloomfield Hills Schools is a demo-
graphically diverse district, with about 55
languages spoken in its homes.
"We have many Chaldean and Jewish
September 2 • 2010
families whose children are friends and
classmates in our schools"' said Betsy
Erikson, communications and communi-
"Challenging stereotypes and increas-
ing understanding fits well with our
promise to provide these children and all
our students a learning environment that
is intellectually, emotionally and physi-
cally safe — and that encourages inquiry
Erikson likes the idea of the teen
"When our students are challenged
intellectually and have the opportunity
for inquiry and self-expression, we meet
part of our mission as a school district"'
"Moreover, the impending merger of
Andover and Lahser high schools —
likely by 2014 — means that this discus-
sion will be one among many. We will be
having more conversations on many lev-
els about diversity and stereotypes and
cultural understanding as we bring these
two high school communities together."
Erikson applauded the Chaldean News
and the Jewish News "for devoting so
much time and energy to an endeavor
that will increase cultural understanding
Setting The Stage
The two newspapers kicked off Building
Community in April. The goal is to spot-
light the common roots of the Chaldean
and Jewish communities and the pros-
pects for working together to enhance
the quality of life for all Metro Detroiters.
Leaders from both ethnic groups help oil
Southeast Michigan's economic, philan-
thropic, political, cultural and religious
The Building Community initiative
formally ends in January. Both groups
sustain an abiding hope for their ances-
tral homelands in the Middle East —
Iraq for the Chaldean community and
Israel for the Jewish community.
The front lines of interaction between
the two communities locally have fea-
tured young Chaldeans and Jews, espe-
cially of high school age.
"Assumptions and ste-
reotypes are often formed
or shattered based on these
interactions and then are
shared with parents and other
siblings:' said Jewish News
Publisher Arthur Horwitz.
"The long-term success
of the Building Community
initiative requires on ongoing
investment in developing and
nurturing relationships and
understanding our children."
That's why, the planned teen
forum is so important.
"We are seeking sustain-
ability — trying to make this
more than a one-shot deal:'
the Chaldean News' Manna
Frank Kalabat of St. Thomas
Chaldean Catholic Church on
West Maple and Manna.
Over three years, youth,
adult and inter-community
programming yielded cultural
sharing, new relationships
and mitzvah projects.
"In the end, we did a great
job of beginning to build
community" Rabbi Bennett
said back in April as he
reflected on JACOBAlthough
not a long-term project,
JACOB has led to open dia-
logue, shared physical space
and much trust."
"Unfortunately, the JACOB
initiative did not sustain
itself' Manna said last
week. "We're hoping
Building Community does
Chaldean and Jewish teens
just that — builds for the
formally got together once
future. And it is up to our
before, more than a decade
youth to continue and grow
In the wake of tension in the cor-
ridors of Southfield-Lathrup and West
Bloomfield high schools between
Meanwhile, four Building Community
Chaldean and Jewish students, Chaldean
workgroups charged with develop-
and Jewish leaders realized that in those
ing strategy and projects designed to
hallways, the future of Metro Detroit's
strengthen bonds between the Chaldean
ethnic harmony would be partially
and Jewish communities are taking form.
shaped. Those leaders sought to bring
The ad hoc committees and their co-
kids together, shatter the stereotypes, end
chairs (Chaldean and Jewish) are:
the name-calling, stress shared values
• Economic development — Saad
and, most significant, build trust and
Hajjar, past chair of the Chaldean-
American Chamber of Commerce and
The bridging project they chose in
current head of its political action
1999 was dubbed JACOB — Jewish
committee; Ron Asmar, owner of the
and Chaldean Opportunity Builders.
Vineyards of Farmington Hills and an
The name reflected the shared history
investor; and Howard Rosenberg, an
of these two great cultures in the Bible.
attorney, investor and hedge fund creator.
JACOB was the outgrowth of the Temple
• Arts and culture — Mary Romaya,
Israel programming department and
who leads the push to open a Chaldean
Jewish community members who saw
Cultural Center within Shenandoah
the need to reach out to the new neigh-
Country Club in West Bloomfield; and
bors planning the Chaldean Cultural
Barbara Kratchman, an arts consul-
Center at Shenandoah Country Club
tant who is past president of ArtServe
across Walnut Lake Road, east of Drake.
Early leaders of JACOB were Rabbi Josh
• Social action — LeeAnn Kirma,
Bennett and member Barbara Dechter of
president of the Chaldean Ladies of
Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, Father
Teen Cultural Forum on page 68