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January 19, 2012 - Image 26

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-01-19

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points of view

>> Send letters to: Ietters@thejewishnews.com

Publisher's Notebook

Editorial

Why Not A Local
'Partnership 2000'?

Working Toward A New
Black-Jewish Alliance

p

artnership 2000 is one of the more mean-
ingful and enduring initiatives of the
Jewish Agency for Israel. Created in the
mid-1990s, it's a mechanism through which hun-
dreds of diaspora Jewish communities "adopt"
regions in Israel. Partnership 2000's underlying
concept is simple ... embrace one
geographic area of Israel, understand
its challenges and opportunities, and
develop enduring relationships and
friendships.
Michigan's Partnership 2000 ini-
tiatives, overwhelmingly led and
funded by the Jewish Federation of
Metropolitan Detroit, focus on the
Central Galilee region of Nazareth ID,
Migdal HaEmek and the Jezreel Valley.
Over a 15-year period, Detroit's consid-
erable investment of time, energy
and millions of dollars has made
its Partnership 2000 relationship
one of the strongest among all
world Jewish communities.
The depth of this commitment
to the Central Galilee region is
evident in the array of initia-
tives that have been created and
the thousands of Detroiters and
Israelis who have been impacted.
Among the examples:
• Professional exchanges involv-
ing physicians, educators, entre-
preneurs and political leaders;
• Teen and young adult
exchanges, including community
and Birthright missions to the region and Israeli
teens participating as summer Tamarack campers;
• Collaborations between Detroit area and
Central Galilee universities, including Wayne State
and Oakland University;
• Assistance from Detroiters in creating a Jewish
Hospice program and business incubators for new
immigrants;
• Common social action agendas developed
between women from Detroit and the region;
• A music camp that has brought together Israeli
Jewish and Arab teens with their Detroit Jewish
counterparts.

the viability and vitality of Detroit. It took the recent
economic meltdown and ongoing exodus of our
young adults to other cities for our community lead-
ership to start recognizing that we "take care of our
own" by also helping to take care of those around us.
A smattering of fresh initiatives, such as the re-
envisioning of the Isaac Agree Downtown
Synagogue, the opening of a Moishe
House in Midtown and the creation of
a Jewish Funds for Social Justice young
adult cohort are joining established vol-
unteer initiatives, including the Jewish-
inspired Summer in the City, Jewish
Community Relations Council programs
relating to poverty and literacy, and
elementary school alumni returning to
mentor children. Also, some synagogues
have ongoing relationships with churches.
But there is currently no vision,
no strategy and no plan for maxi-
mizing our community's positive
impact on the city And, just to
be clear, the recent efforts by Dan
Gilbert and Quicken Loans are
essential to creating a vibrant busi-
ness core in Detroit, and he should
be properly rewarded for the eco-
nomic risks he is taking. But, he is
not and cannot be positioned as
the Jewish community's proxy for
engagement with Detroit.
That responsibility belongs to us.
And a domestic Partnership 2000
vision for the Northwest Detroit area,
which was recently designated by
the city as one of three demonstration areas to receive
additional services and investment via its ambitious
Detroit Works initiative, is an excellent way for our
community to concentrate its future philanthropic
and volunteer efforts in ways that create long-term
value while building real, lasting relationships.
What items might comprise a "domestic"
Partnership 2000? Here are some random ideas.
First to consider, some possible collaborations
with the Northwest Activities Center, formerly the
Meyers-Curtis Jewish Community Center:
• Annual Jewish Book Fair night for Jewish
authors/black authors at the Northwest Activities
Center and the Maple-Drake JCC;
• Jewish Ensemble Theatre utilization of the
Northwest Center's 450-seat DeRoy Theatre for part
of its season (imagine if the recently produced JET
production "Palmer Park" was also performed five
minutes from where the play was actually set?);
• Exchanges and all-star games, ranging from the
JCC's Kenny Goldman league to ComePlayDetroit,
utilizing courts at the Northwest Center and the
JCCs in Oak Park and West Bloomfield;
• Establishment of a Meyers-Curtis JCC "alumni
organization" with volunteers coaching, mentoring
and otherwise assisting the financially strapped
Northwest Center in such areas as performing arts,

But there is no
vision, no strategy
and no plan for
maximizing our
community's
positive impact
on the city.

'Adopting' Northwest Detroit
While the Partnership 2000 model has been
developed and refined over the years for maxi-
mum impact and value, its basic principles are
not unique to Israel. In fact, the model is easily
adaptable for other uses. It is in this context that
the Detroit Jewish community should "adopt" the
distressed Northwest Detroit neighborhoods where
we once lived, worked and played as our domestic
Partnership 2000 companion region.
As a Detroit Jewish community, we are finally
acknowledging that the fate of Southeastern
Michigan and our Jewish community are linked to

Domestic Partnership on page 27

26

January 19 • 2012

iN

T

his week, America celebrated the
birthday of Rev. Martin Luther King
Jr. The federal holiday not only
celebrates King's historic role in the Civil
Rights Movement, but also has become a
national day of service — a chance to reca-
librate our path as a country and a people
to ensure we live up to the ideals that this
Rev. King
champion of equality stood for.
The Jewish community is linked to King
because it played a significant part in his-life's work. Many
of his closest advisers and confidants were Jewish, including
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who walked with King during
the 1965 march on Selma, Ala., and Stanley Levinson, a New
York businessman regarded as one of King's closest advis-
ers. Two of the three young activists lynched in Mississippi
in 1964 following their investigation into a church burning —
Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner — were Jewish and
were slain alongside African American James Chaney.
Shared sacrifice created a bond between the two commu-
nities that began to weaken after King's 1968 assassination
at age 39.
Once Civil Rights legislation was passed, other priorities
in both communities led to a weakening of the black-Jewish
alliance. Emerging black leaders, such as anti-Zionist and
anti-Semitic Louis Farrakhan, who preached "the blacks
need to do it on their own, and we've got to break away from
Jewish partners," only served to widen the rift.
What both communities never lost, however, was a shared
commitment to social justice.
Larry Jay Tish, a Jewish actor who runs a two-man com-
edy show, "Black-Jew Dialogues," with business partner Ron
Jones, told the Joint News Media Service the rift between
blacks and Jews is because of a lack of education and
understanding: Young people don't know of their shared his-
tory and have nothing to build on.
Last fall, Arthur Horwitz, publisher of the Jewish News,
and Bankole Thompson, senior editor of the Michigan
Chronicle, took a step toward a re-imagined alliance between
the local African-American and Jewish communities that
would reinforce working initiatives and identify new ones.
Horwitz and Thompson created the Black-Jewish Forum,
opening up a dialogue and creating an opportunity for both
communities to change their mindsets, not only about each
other, but also how to work together to help bring economic
resurgence to Detroit and the metro region.
Obviously, one meeting does not a movement make. The
October meeting was just the first seed to be planted, one
that now must be watered and nurtured.
Plans envision additional meetings of the Black-Jewish
Forum and a coalescing of groups of like-minded people from
each community in the pursuit of a specific, tangible set of
goals.
Thompson has a book coming out this spring, Obama and
Jewish Loyalty, which is sure to also shine more light on the
state of the black-Jewish relationship.
The birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. provides the per-
fect occasion for the Jewish community to reflect on our
shared history with the black community. It also provides
an opportunity for us to look forward and shape the future
of the local black-Jewish relationship and the good that can
come from it.

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