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October 03, 2013 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-10-03

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T'chiyah and Isaac Agree
Downtown Synagogue members,
along with community
participants, work with the Eden
Gardens project on Sept. 22.

Andy Levin to be
honored at launch of
interfaith social
justice program.


Shelli Liebman Dorfman
Contributing Writer


embers of an Oak Park-based
synagogue are expanding their
high-priority commitment to
social justice, through their front doors
and into the community.
At Congregation T'chiyah, there has
always been a look ahead toward "a future
where Jews work side-by-side with people
of other faiths to build justice, equity and
prosperity for Detroit and its surroundings:'
That focus, coupled with a similar vision
and passion for tikkun olam (repairing the
world) by T'chiyah vice president Andy
Levin, brought him to the membership
with a plan that resulted in the newly cre-
ated Project Micah, a unique and innova-
tive initiative to make active engagement
in interfaith justice struggles central to
local Jewish life.
A 5 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 6, dinner event,
titled "Honoring Andy Levin: A Life
Pursuing Social Justice will take place at
the recently renovated Shed 3 of Detroit's
Eastern Market. It will launch and fund-
raise for Project Micah as well as honor
Levin and his lifetime of commitment to
social justice activism, both in Detroit and
in various areas of the world.
Guests of the evening's program will
hear the sounds of live jazz by Detroit
guitarist Spencer Barefield and remarks
from speakers including Levin's father and
uncle, U.S. Rep. Sander Levin and U.S.
Sen. Carl Levin.
Project Micah — which will be chaired
by Levin— has a name fitting its objec-
tive. "According to the prophet Micah, all
of God's laws can be summed up in three
obligations:' said Roslyn Schindler, chair
of the event planning committee and fund-
raising efforts for Project Micah. "We must

12 October 3 • 2013


Andy Levin


do justice, show mercy and walk humbly
"While Jews are involved in many efforts
to revitalize our city and region, Project
Micah will make a unique contribution, by
putting the Jewish community alongside
those of other faiths at the center of social
justice efforts:'


T'chiyah — whose members meet in the
David and Miriam Mondry Building —
will join forces with the Detroit-based
Harriet Tubman Center, under the leader-
ship of its executive director and co-found-
er, William O'Brien, to employ a Project
Micah rabbi-community organizer, with a
search ongoing to fill the position.
"This will be an individual whose daily
tasks and long-term goals combine the
role of faith-leader with that of organizer:'
Schindler said. "Project Micah's rabbi-
community organizer will assume the
responsibility of recruiting, motivating and
organizing Metro Detroit Jews from any
congregation — or no congregation — to
work on specific projects for fundamen-
tal justice. The position will be watched
nationally for its potential as a new para-
digm for faith-based social action:'
This individual's role will be "to mobi-
lize members of the Jewish community to
work shoulder-to-shoulder with people
of all faiths to make sure the next Detroit
is a place where justice reigns and there
is opportunity for all:' said Levin, who
is managing partner at Levin Energy
Partners and president of Lean and Green
Michigan, both in Bloomfield Hills.

"Project Micah will focus on issues
of importance to the interfaith leaders
involved in it, from our own congregation
— and other Jewish, Christian, Muslim
congregations and groups — active in the
Harriet Tubman Center's work:'
Schindler added, "Project Micah has
come about in collaboration with our
Reconstructionist movement, which has a
program in place at the Reconstructionist
Rabbinical College in Philadelphia that
is training rabbis/community organiz-
ers. This program fits in nicely with the
Harriet Tubman Center that has agreed
to partner with us in the hiring of a rabbi
who will be our rabbi as well as a staff
member (there). Congregation T'chiyah is
considering candidates who are graduates
of that program, among others, for the
More than $137,000 of a needed
$150,000 has been raised or pledged by
T'chiyah members and external donors to
fund the synagogue's portion of the posi-
tion for the first three-year-period. "Even
if and when we reach the goal, that will
not end the process of raising funds to
sustain the project into the future said
Tova Perlmutter, principal at Engine of
Progress in Detroit, who, with her associ-
ate, Kristine Danielson, worked on coordi-
nation and fundraising for the event.

Project Plans

Plans for Project Micah programs include
those "that improve the life and vitality of
Detroit and other communities in need:'
Schindler said. "Projects related to educa-
tion, housing, food, health and welfare:'
The hope is for Project Micah's pro-
gramming to be a continuation of recent
and current efforts that coincide with
T'chiyah's mission to serve the city of
Detroit in ways that will help improve liv-
ing conditions for the community. Levin
cites these efforts as including: "insisting
that Detroit school children be safe in their
neighborhoods and schools, working with
the Eden Gardens project to grow organic
food in an east side Detroit neighborhood
and helping local residents give new hope
to their kids and change their neighbor-

hood and their lives. Creating a truly
regional mass transit system is likely to
bubble up:' he said.
In addition to Schindler, Levin,
Perlmutter and Danielson, the Project
Micah committee includes T'chiyah presi-
dent, Syma Echeandia; secretary, Barbara
Goldman; synagogue trustees: Sidney
Simon, Mary Ellen Gurewitz, Harold
Gurewitz and Martin Baum; and reli-
gious services committee member, Rhoda
Levin's decades of social justice advo-
cacy include training peacekeepers to
demonstrate for nuclear disarmament
at a Colorado nuclear weapons complex;
co-founding the Immigration Reform,
Advocacy, Training and Education
Coalition, which won Massachusetts state
funding to protect immigrant union mem-
bers' rights; providing the first published
account in the West of the violent suppres-
sion outside of Beijing in 1989; having an
interview with the Dalai Lama published
on the front-page of the Ann Arbor News;
working Human Rights Watch in Haiti;
and directing the AFL-CIO's Voice@Work
campaign to restore workers' freedom to
form unions, including building grassroots
support for the federal Employee Free
Choice Act and helping launch a new orga-
nization: American Rights at Work. Levin
served as deputy and then acting director
of the Michigan Department of Energy,
Labor and Economic Growth, helping to
create programs including No Worker Left
In 2011, Levin created Lean and Green
Michigan, developing a statewide market
to finance energy efficiency, water effi-
ciency and renewable energy projects for
Michigan businesses and nonprofits.
"Andy Levin's longtime history of tik-
kun olam speaks for itself:' Schindler said.
"He has been a social justice advocate for
decades and became, for T'chiyah, the
inspiration for Project Micah. As Harold
and Mary Ellen Gurewitz, members of the
Project Micah committee, have said: 'He is
our (T'chiyah's) Micah."'

• For information on the 5 p.m.,
Sunday, Oct. 6, "Honoring Andy
Levin: A Life Pursuing Social
Justice," event at Shed 3 of Detroit's
Eastern Market, contact Roslyn
Schindler at (248) 506-2709 or
rozschind@aol.com .
• Cost: $118
• Donate to Project Micah at
www.projectmicah.org .
• For information on Project Micah,
email Andy Levin at asl@andylevin.
org .

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