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May 17, 2012 - Image 21

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-05-17

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Historic Achievements

Director moves on after overseeing
Jewish History Society's growth.

Bill Carroll

Contributing Writer

T

he Jewish Historical Society of
Michigan (JHSM) has come a
long way from the days when
members sat around the basement
recreation rooms of homes at general
meetings and quietly discussed the dif-
ferent aspects of Jewish history.
The 53-year-old organization, based
at the Jewish Community Center in
West Bloomfield, now is more alive with
"exciting growth:' boasting about 800
members (plus 600 more on its mailing
list), conducting 25 major programs a
year and continuing to publish a rejuve-
nated Michigan Jewish History, its 100-
page annual journal.
The driving force
behind much of
this revival has
been Aimee Ergas
of Farmington
Hills, who has
served as JHSM's
director for the
Aimee Ergas
past nine years.
She's leaving the
position June 1, and will be honored at
the group's annual meeting May 22 at
Temple Israel in West Bloomfield.
Ergas literally helped JHSM grow
from a basement operation into a full-
fledged service organization that pro-
vides valuable services and innovative
programming to the Detroit area Jewish
community.

'Can-Do' Attitude
"Aimee's can-do attitude, competent
attention to detail and willingness
to tackle any task, large or small, has
made JHSM all the richer;' said Arnold
Collens of Waterford, who has been
JHSM president for the last four years.
"Under Aimee's leadership, she skillfully
let us become a much more recognized
and viable organization. It's sad to see
her leave, but our size and structure
now really requires almost a full-time
director."
Ergas has been sharing her part-time
work at JHSM with a part-time archival
job at Detroit's Wayne State University,
where she recently obtained a certificate
in archival management,
"The leadership structure is chang-
ing at JHSM, and the organization is
growing fast; sometimes you just know
when it's time to go',' Ergas said. "But I
plan to continue to help the organiza-
tion with writing and archival work."
The JHSM has appointed Wendy

Rose Bice of Bloomfield Hills as interim
director. Bice, editor of the journal, had
been associate director. She told Collens
she wants to be considered as Ergas'
permanent replacement. To keep up
with its rapid expansion, JHSM will add
the new position of education/program
coordinator.
"Aimee's tenure as director has
acquired a great deal of respect for
JHSM and has brought us to a national
level, resulting in many awards" said
Judith Cantor of Bloomfield Hills, a
well-known archivist and a past JHSM
president. "I'm proud to have been her
mentor at JHSM."

Started Writing and Editing
After growing up in Kansas City, Mo.,
and Chicago, Ergas earned a political
science degree at Wellesley College, then
a master's in international diplomacy at
Tufts College in Boston, where she met
her husband, Detroiter Tor Shwayder,
now a pediatric dermatologist. Married
for 35 years, they have three adult chil-
dren.
, "I did research and writing and
editing in social science and history,
and eventually worked at University
of Michigan's law school: Ergas said.
"I met Judy Cantor and got involved
with JHSM, becoming Journal editor for
three years:'
Added Cantor: "She really attracted
our attention with a very well-written
and accurate historical overview of
Zionism. When she joined JHSM, she
took over and expanded and refined
our programs, adding about a dozen
docents."
Growing from just a few tours and
events a year, the organization now con-
ducts 25 tours of historic Jewish Detroit
as well as special tours for adults, young
people and family occasions — even
boat tours on the Detroit River.
"And our first J-Cycle tour last August
brought together 150 bicyclists making
stops at 10 historic Jewish sites:' Ergas
added.
The group has collected 1,200 year-
books (going back to the early 1900s)
from Michigan schools attended by
Jewish students. JHSM hopes to post
parts of them on its revamped website:
www.michjewishhistory.org .
Aside from annual membership dues,
JHSM relies on its Heritage Council
Endowment Fund for major funding.
Chief among those donors are philan-
thropists Eugene Applebaum, A. Alfred
Taubman and the William Davidson
family. ❑



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