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Margie Dunn and
Mark Davidoff in
e recently had the honor to join
the 2013 Michigan Legislature's
Economic Development Mission
to Israel. This bi-annual mission, supported by
the United Jewish Foundation of Metropolitan
Detroit, takes our Michigan leaders from
Lansing to Israel to enhance the strong eco-
nomic ties between Michigan and Israel. We
are always enriched when taking first-timers to
Israel as they become enlightened by experienc-
ing all that Israel is through its people, its land
and the progress made since 1948.
As we progressed through the mission,
from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to our Partnership
2Gether region in the Central Galilee, one com-
mon theme followed us wherever we went: the
tale of two states, the State of Israel and the
state of Detroit.
To the first-timers' amazement, what they
read in certain headlines and viewed through the
news media about Israel was not true. It was not
a land of desperation and hopelessness. It was not
a community divided without common vision. It
was not a wasteland of insecurity and despair.
Rather, the Israel discovered by our mission
participants was the realization of the dreams
of pioneers to build a homeland of inspiration
where the spirit of innovation is grounded in
deeply rooted commitments to economic devel-
opment, prosperity, social justice, education,
responsibility for the environment and caring
We introduced our visitors to some of Israel's
newest technological innovations and to orga-
nizations involved in everything from commu-
nity-based health care to the development of
tactical armor for the U.S. military.
Our group got a taste of different viewpoints
on politics, security and tikkun olam (repair of
the world) through discussions with such lead-
ers as U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro,
Mark Regev, spokesman for the prime minister,
and journalist Hirsh Goodman.
On our last day of the mission, we viewed
a reclamation project for the Jordan River, an
effort to infuse new life into this once flow-
ing and thriving historic tributary. Through a
tedious effort of breaking away barriers that will
enable free flowing water, the river is experienc-
Israel has fought many battles and continues
today to struggle against forces that would seek
a different outcome. Our legislative leaders now
appreciate that the spirit that has brought Israel
this far will empower it to progress further and
to prevail. This is the tale of the State of Israel.
What About Detroit?
The tale of our beloved city of Detroit is no dif-
ferent. How many times have we encountered
an expression of sympathy about Detroit from
someone who has never taken the opportunity
to visit our city? The headlines and tabloids will
have non-Detroiters believe that this land, too,
is a hopeless wasteland of blight and lawless-
ness, with no hope for a future.
However, we also know that when we have
the opportunity to host first-timers to Detroit,
whether they're from New York or New Delhi,
all are amazed at what our community has to
offer. Like Israel, Detroit is a community with
an evolving vision of what can and should be.
Like Israel, Detroit has been through many
battles, but continues the struggle forward
in search of our ultimate dreams of Detroit
reclaiming its position as one of the top places
in the country to live, work and play.
Detroit is our Jordan River. Once teeming
with life and vitality, years of neglect and a
lack of stewardship left our great city in need
of reclamation. The efforts under way today
by elected, business and community leaders is
working to break the dams that have held back
progress for decades. Like the spirit of those
early Israeli pioneers, we will persevere until
the state of Detroit's renewal is a tale recanted
around the globe.
Margie Dunn and husband Mark Davidoff live in West
Bloomfield. He's a former COO and executive director
he closing of Farm Fresh Market and its kosher line of
products in Oak Park as well as the closing of two kosher
restaurants in Southfield are more signs of the economic
times than a commentary on keeping kosher in Jewish Detroit.
By past experience, we as a Jewish community certainly
know kosher restaurants are a financial challenge no matter how
promising they start out.
The exit of Jerry Denha's Farm Fresh from the kosher scene
after almost 10 years is a reminder of the storied history of the
location it occupied — the former site of the Dexter-Davidson and
Farmer Jack markets, once local grocery giants for Detroit Jews.
One Stop Kosher in Southfield, a mile to the west, remains the only
Glatt kosher market in Oak Park-Southfield. One Stop is a loyal,
fully kosher, Jewish-owned community mainstay.
The closing of Farm Fresh as well as the older, smaller Hiller's
Market in Berkley is sure to open new retail opportunities mainly
for One Stop, but also for other locally owned markets, including
other Jewish-owned Hiller's Markets.
It's nice to hear that Chef Cari, popular at Farm Fresh, found a
home for her kosher catering/takeout business at Congregation
B'nai Moshe in West Bloomfield. Nearby, at Orchard Lake and
Maple roads, is longtime kosher butcher shop Harvard Row Meat &
There's certainly a kosher audience in Metro Detroit, where the
Orthodox community alone makes up about 11 percent of the total
population of 65,000. Many Conservative Jews and some Reform
Jews also keep kosher. Though it can command a higher price
point, kosher is still desirable to a limited extent among Jews, and
even non-Jews, who don't observe kashrut.
The Council of Orthodox Rabbis of Greater Detroit, the largest
local kashrut arbiter, certifies 30 local retail establishments — from
caterers to bakeries to butchers to restaurants and more. And
Metro Detroit offers a strong kosher distribution network. So the
local kosher service scene looks well endowed to continue serving
the bustling Jewish neighborhoods in and around Oak Park,
Southfield and beyond.
Wanted: Good Jobs
reating more and better jobs is a prime objective of
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. He also has targeted specifically
improving the economic and social climate so young
professionals who grow up in Michigan stay here to raise families
instead of migrating toward seemingly more inviting urban areas.
The improving economy has meant some new jobs. That, in turn,
has helped spell the state's nagging brain drain.
But there's much still to do to sustain the rise in good-paying
jobs in the Great Lake State, said Snyder in addressing the Jewish
community last week in Downtown Detroit.
He's, of course, right.
And the state must take the lead in raising the jobs bar by
focusing on increased career opportunities, not just entry positions.
The governor's Oct. 27 forum was the high-profile annual dinner
of Southfield-based Yeshiva Beth Yehudah. The dinner drew 2,350
guests to the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center. With so
many business professionals and political leaders in the audience,
he certainly had a supportive audience.
It was great to hear Snyder play up the possibilities for jobs and
partnerships emerging from the state's burgeoning business ties
with Israel, a relationship encouraged by the Jewish Federation of
Metropolitan Detroit and the Michigan Israel Business Bridge.
of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.
November 7 • 2013