Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options


Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

The University of Michigan Library provides access to these materials for educational and research purposes. These materials may be under copyright. If you decide to use any of these materials, you are responsible for making your own legal assessment and securing any necessary permission. If you have questions about the collection, please contact the Bentley Historical Library at bentley.ref@umich.edu

February 20, 2014 - Image 28

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2014-02-20

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

oints of view

Publisher's Notebook


Beware Of Positive
Iranian Overtures



lans for a new Jewish Community Center, to be
constructed on a 120-acre parcel at Maple and
Drake roads in West Bloomfield, were grand as
they were taking shape on the drawing boards at Louis
Redstone & Associates in the early 1970s. The facility, accord-
ing to stories contained in the Detroit Jewish News digital
archive, was "to serve an area within a radius of some 50
miles, including all of Metropolitan Detroit, Flint, Ann Arbor
and other local communities:'
In addition to its broad allure, the building,
according to JCC Executive Vice President Irwin
Shaw, was "to provide the most diverse and the
most flexible and functional Center building of its
kind in the country. In this way, the Center can
expand its current high level of creative program-
ming and provide more activities to meet the
needs of everyone in the community"
As the Jewish Community Center, the Jewish
Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and its United
Jewish Foundation scramble to plug unexpected
and gaping deficits in the Center's operating bud-
get while also searching — again — for a sustain-
able business model and the leadership to carry it
forward, it is important to acknowledge that the
Maple-Drake facility — one of the largest Jewish Community
Centers in North America with square footage and opera-
tional overhead costs more closely resembling those found in
decent-sized shopping malls — was built for an era that no
longer exists.
The Maple-Drake facility has become the community's
equivalent of the talking, flesh-eating plant in the play Little
Shop of Horrors — feed me! Instead of plant food, the nutri-
ent to sustain the Center has been cash, and lots of it, espe-
cially over the past 20 years. And like the rapidly growing
plant, the more cash the Center received, the more square
footage it added.

Expansive Ideas
The original Maple-Drake facility was constructed with a
handful of core assumptions:
• It would serve Jews and Jewish communities in a
geographic area spanning from Flint to Ann Arbor;
• It would be flexible and functional;
• It would meet the needs of everyone in the Jewish
• The physical presence of the Center would spur new
residential development that would assure a growing
population of nearby Jewish users.
The belief that Jews from a 50-mile radius would come to
the Maple-Drake JCC was aspirational and underscored the
confidence being placed in the facility's anticipated allure.
Membership dues and program fees paid by Jews from outly-

The JCC building in West Bloomfield

ing areas were not going to make or break the Center's bud-
get. Today, of course, it's become too much of a shlep to drive
the 25 minutes from Huntington Woods to Maple-Drake —
regardless of the place's allure.
While the facility may have looked flexible and functional
on blueprints, in reality its maze of hallways (and wasted
square footage), immovable walls, confusing entryways and
long walks from the parking lots provided less-
than-ideal user experiences.
And, of course, the building came with
crushing fixed and overhead costs that have
only grown with the addition of more enclosed
square footage (and this doesn't include the
additional overhead costs in the Center's budget
associated with the conversion of the Jimmy
Prentis Morris branch in Oak Park into a full-
service facility.)
The Maple-Drake facility was conceived in an
era when Jewish centers truly saw themselves as
being all things to all (Jewish) people. It was easy
to imagine the facility as a destination for the
family. Once entering the lobby, dad could head
off to the health club for a massage, mom could take a dip
in the pool, sonny boy could play basketball in the gym and
daughter could take a ceramics class. Afterward, they would
gather in the cafe to talk about their day while munching
on kosher snacks. There were no personal computers. No
Internet. No distance learning. No yoga and Pilates studios.
Virtually no health club competitors. Little programming
competition from nearby Temple Israel.
While demographers from the mid-1950s through the
late 1980s pegged the Detroit Jewish population at anywhere
between 80,000 and 96,000, a 2006 study found it to be
closer to 72,000 with virtually no young adults and the high-
est concentration of elderly outside of traditional Sunbelt
retirement communities. Today, reasonable guesstimates
place it between 60,000 and 65,000, approximately 25 per-
cent smaller than when Maple-Drake opened. Anyone who
lives within a 5-mile radius of the facility knows that despite
its allure, new generations of Jews are not moving into the
surrounding residential neighborhoods.
But it would be disingenuous to attribute all of the Center's
recurring financial challenges to grand visions from the
1960s and 1970s. When there were opportunities to challenge
the core assumptions upon which the Maple-Drake model
was built — to imagine what a Jewish Community Center
for the 21st century should look like — the Center and com-
munal leadership continued to double-down on a mid-20th
century model with more brick-and-mortar investments, and
their accompanying overhead costs.

JCC on page 29


February 20 • 2014

n the wake of the great debate in
Washington over whether to impose new
Iran sanctions come two Iranian lead-
ers cozying up to Jewish causes. While the
gestures seem positive, don't be fooled into
believing Tehran is warming up to the Jewish
community, despite Iran being home to
25,000 Jews.
Jew-hatred runs too deep in the Islamic
Republic. Leaders take pains to distinguish
Jews as a people from Israel as a govern-
ment. But let there be no doubt: You can't
despise Zionism, one of Judaism's binding
forces, and say you like Jews, the lifeblood of
News reports indicate Iranian President
Hassan Rouhani, a supposed moderate when
compared with his predecessor, Holocaust
denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, donated any-
where from $170,000 to $400,000 to the
Jewish hospital in Tehran. Iranian Foreign
Minister Javad Zarif, meanwhile, declared the
Holocaust was "tragically cruel and should
not happen again," adding, "We have nothing
against the Jews."
The comments came amid talks between
Iran and major powers designed to keep Iran
from building a nuclear weapon. Against this
negotiations backdrop, Congress is debating
whether to side with President Obama and
give diplomacy a chance or impose new uni-
lateral sanctions.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, a potential 2016
presidential candidate, expressed her oppo-
sition to new sanctions in a letter solicited
by U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of
the Senate Armed Forces Committee and a
staunch opponent of new sanctions. "Her let-
ter is another strong signal to Congress that
we should not take any legislative action at
this time that would damage international
unity or play into the hands of hardliners in
Iran who oppose negotiations," Levin said.
Levin has earned a reputation over 36
years of service as one of the Senate's most-
respected members. He makes a strong case
"that Congress and the administration are
poised to act if Iran violates its commitments
or fails to negotiate in good faith toward a
final agreement."
Still, there's reason to worry. The Zionist
Organization of America points out that full
Iranian compliance would only extend the
time required to produce a nuclear bomb
from two to three months. The ZOA also
underscores that should the Geneva accord
collapse, Iran would "earn billions through
new and renewed contracts" as the time-
consuming process of reinstating sanctions
droned on.
There's also the red-alert matter of Iranian
dictator Ali Khamenei declaring just 12 days
ago that America is his nation's "enemy."

Back to Top

© 2021 Regents of the University of Michigan