Volunteers pose behind the pins after a week of renovating the youth center at the Latino Mission Society. From left to right: Josh Kanter, Eli Newman, Elana Graf, Rachael
Malerman, Hayley Sakwa, Laura Katsnelson, Juanita Martinez, Shira Moskowitz, Bradley Snider, Marc Rivera, Ben Falik.
A New Partnership
U-M Hillel's Alternative Spring Break in the city
becomes the Jewish Detroit Initiative.
Special to the Jewish News
his spring, a new chavurah
(fellowship) emerged between
University of Michigan Hillel
and Detroit communities. This new col-
laboration, the Jewish Detroit Initiative,
leverages U-M's proximity to Detroit to
enhance student involvement through
engagement, education and action.
For years, Hillel has been running
Alternative Spring Break (ASB) service-
learning trips across the U.S. and abroad.
With Detroit just 40 minutes away,
students now have the opportunity to
engage in Detroit beyond their weeklong
immersion. Relationships can be sus-
tained throughout the year with addi-
( On Wednesday, Julia and Marisol,
founders of the Boggs Education
Center, told us about their plan to
help address some of the issues we
had seen throughout our time vol-
unteering in the classroom. They are
in the process of creating a charter
school that will focus on including
the community in education, experi-
ential learning, place-based learning
8 April 12 • 2012
tional trips to Detroit and online efforts.
The impetus for JDI came from Tilly
Shames, executive director of U-M Hillel,
and fellow Jewish Funds for Justice (JFSJ)
Detroit leadership cohort members
Ben Falik of Repair the World and Amit
Weitzer, a JFSJ educator.
As a resident in the Summer in the
City house in Detroit and a U-M alum
with three U-M Hillel ASB trips under
my belt, I had the opportunity to
lead this project as UM-Hillel Detroit
Next came creating meaningful service
and activities for a group of motivated
U-M students and Detroit community
members. Last summer, I was helping
Pastor Gregory Lorenz of the Latino
Mission Society (LMS), a Summer in
"Personally, I was fascinated by their
innovation. I love the idea of taking an
old structure that no longer fits soci-
ety's needs and remodeling it. They
really inspired me to make changes in
existing systems that I no longer think
are functional. Society should no lon-
ger accept a structure just because it
has been there for decades. )
- Shira Moskowitz ('15), Huntington, NY
the City partner, move a foosball table
into the church's basement. When he
opened the doors, I was amazed to see
a 1924 bowling alley that looked like it
had been frozen in time — and dust.
He shared his dream of restoring it as
a safe, productive space for local teens.
I shared our desire to connect U-M
students with Detroit youth through
service. Renovating and re-imagining
the bowling alley was the major focus
of our ASB experience and an incred-
ible opportunity to empower a group of
young neighborhood volunteers.
In the mornings, Hillel volunteers
tutored students at nearby Amelia
Earhart Elementary Middle School.
Through the leadership of students
Rachael Malerman and Hayley Sakwa,
Friday was party time! Quickly, before
Team Earhart arrived, we finished the final
touches on the bowling alley and set up all
the treats for the party: ice cream, cookies,
chips and salsa, candy and soda.
"One amazing story, which was one of my
favorite parts of the trip, happened today.
One middle-schooler revealed to us that after
school he had been with 40 other students
on the way to a fight. He decided to break
off from the group and come hang out with
the JDI is now a yearlong vibrant U-M
Hillel group seeking to engage more stu-
dents. The group has created an online
forum for students to discuss their
relationships with the city. Plans also
call for more opportunities for students
to experience Detroit and to host edu-
cational discussions between the U-M
Hillel and Detroit communities.
JDI received grants from the Himmel
Foundation and Hillel/Repair Campus
Network. New funding is being sought.
Also, JDI would like to expand to
other campuses; all are welcome to join
this new journey. To become involved
in the JDI, go to umichjdi.tumblr.com
or send an email to detroit.initiative@
Here are tales from the Detroit week:
everyone at Latino Mission Society instead. I
think this helped our group realize how pow-
erful this center can be for these kids.
"Overall, everyone had a great time at
the party. People bowled, played air hockey,
foosball and ping pong. There was even
some dancing to Katy Perry! We all had
a great time celebrating the work we had
done together. ))
- Elena Graf ('15), Minnetonka, Minn.
Partnership on page 10