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May 01, 2014 - Image 38

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2014-05-01

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Jewish CEO Accents Culture Shift At Ford


e wonder what Henry
Ford, a Jew-hater whose
early rants later enam-
ored Adolf Hitler, would think of Ford
Motor Co. moving Mark Fields, the
chief operating officer, into position
to become chief executive officer
upon Alan Mulally's retirement, pro-
jected by next year.
Fields is one of the highest-
ranking Jews in the international
automotive business and is in line to
become the first Jew to lead Ford,
a 111-year-old automaker founded in
Detroit. He'll follow Mulally's lead in
bringing to Ford World Headquarters
in Dearborn an energetic determina-
tion to succeed.
Fields' 2012 appointment as COO,
putting him in charge of Ford's world-
wide business operations, made him
virtual heir apparent to Mulally, a job
Fields has relished ever since Mulally
arrived in 2006 from Boeing to turn
around an ailing Ford.
After earning a master of arts
degree at Harvard and working for
six years at IBM, Field joined Ford
in 1989 on the Thunderbird mar-
keting team. The Brooklyn native
– talented and tenacious – cut his
executive spurs as Ford's president
of the Americas, which encompassed
the U.S., Canada, Mexico and South
America. Fields' Way Forward plan
helped reverse Ford's slumping
North American operations in 2006.

Past Ghosts
Henry Ford, the iconic company

founder and a visionary industrial-
ist folk hero to the masses, gained
international stature with his anti-
Jewish canards in the 1920s by way of
his weekly newspaper, the Dearborn
Independent. Dearborn Publishing Co.,
which Henry Ford owned, reprinted
many of the articles. The four paper-
bound volumes are collectively called

The International Jew, The World's
Foremost Problem. The text, inspired
by The Protocols of the Elders of
Zion, a notorious political forgery
besmirching Jews as seekers of world
domination, remains a staple means
of legitimacy for modern-day haters,
according to the Anti-Defamation
League (ADL).
In 1929, two years after lawsuits
drove him to close the Dearborn
Independent because of its relent-
less anti-Semitism, Henry Ford found
a new passion: history. That led to his
opening the Thomas Edison Institute
in Dearborn to commemorate the 50th
anniversary of the invention of the
incandescent light bulb by Edison, a
longtime friend.
Notably, in 2009, S. Evan Weiner,
who is Jewish, was named board chair
of The Henry Ford, which encom-
passes Greenfield Village and Henry
Ford Museum (and the Thomas Edison
Institute). The museum complex pre-
serves items of historical significance.
Henry Ford courted Jewish suppli-
ers, hired Jewish workers and consid-
ered Jews, such as architect Albert
Kahn, friends despite his anti-Semitic
tendencies. Such tendencies weren't

unusual in some business circles dur-
ing his lifetime.

Shifting Tides
It was Henry Ford's grandson, Henry
Ford II, who began to distance the
company in earnest from its founder's
dark political past and change com-
pany culture. When Henry Ford II
gained company control in the 1940s,
he increased minority employees and
named minority dealers and suppliers.
Hank the Deuce was part of Grosse
Pointe society but understood how
big the tent of peoplehood really was.
He counted as friends Max Fisher,
A. Alfred Taubman and other local
Jewish leaders. He also invested
in Israel and contributed to the old
United Jewish Appeal.
It was as if Henry Ford II embraced
the responsibility on behalf of the
Ford family and Ford Motor Co. to
improve the company image bur-
nished by his grandfather, who died in
1947. The old man clung to a resent-
ment of Jews, even drawing Hitler's
praise, despite apologizing years
before for his anti-Semitic articles
in the Dearborn Independent. In a
1942 letter to the ADL, Henry Ford
reiterated his estrangement from The
International Jew.

Field Of Dreams
Fields, 53, whose family name had
been Finkelman in past generations,
grew up in Paramus, N.J. He shares
how his mother used to send him mat-
zah and Chanukah candles to remind

Mark Fields

him to keep up his Jewishness as he
traveled for Ford. His years at Ford
have taken him to far-flung posts in
Argentina, Japan and Europe, but
Fields previously told the JN: "I have
never encountered one iota of dis-
crimination as a Jew during my career
at Ford."
Today, it's fitting the Ford family
and the now publicly traded com-
pany, both under the helm of Bill Ford
Jr., are among the Jewish world's
best corporate-family friends and a
champion for many causes aligned
with Jews. It was Ford Motor Co.
that sponsored the first screen-
ing of Steven Spielberg's Academy
Award-winning movie Schindler's List,
commercial-free, on national network
television in 1997. Later, the company
gave $2 million to help seed the cre-
ation of Shalom Street at the Jewish
Community Center in West Bloomfield.
Mervyn Manning was Ford's first
Jewish officer, becoming vice presi-
dent in 1977. He blazed a respected
executive trail that Mark Fields seized
upon with gusto – and the promise of
unlimited and proud potential.


The Orbachs' Legacy


ndividually, they achieved professional
acclaim — he as a cantor, she as an
artistic director. Together, they left an
indelible imprint on the bimah and on the
News of the April 17 death of Cantor
Harold Orbach — part of the Reform
cantorate for 62 years, 40 at Temple Israel
in Detroit and later West Bloomfield —
brought to mind the impact he and his first
wife, Evelyn, had on Jewish Detroit during
the heyday of their lives together. Evelyn
remains a still-active local resident. They
were married 55 years.
The popular cantor, a sweet sing-
ing tenor, was a child survivor of the
Holocaust. Drawn by a love of Judaism,
the Juilliard school graduate, classical
concert singer and Army chaplain chose a
life as a cantor over one in the renowned


May 1 • 2014

Metropolitan Opera Company. At Rabbi
M. Robert Syme's urging, Cantor Orbach,
known informally as Hal, came to Temple
Israel from a pulpit in Tulsa
in 1962. The Hebrew Union
College graduate sang at most
of my family's spiritual mile-
stones, beginning with my
bar mitzvah at the old Palmer
Park synagogue. Interfaith and
social action projects energized
him. He rose to international
stature as a performer, earning
the Culture Medal of Israel.
Evelyn toiled diligently
to build up the Aaron
DeRoy Theatre at the Jewish
Community Center at Meyers
and Curtis in northwest Detroit. There,
I got to know her while serving as a teen

script assistant for the actors, an inter-
est I had developed during Purim plays
at Temple Israel. Evelyn would go on to
become founding artistic direc-
tor of the Jewish Ensemble
Theatre at the West Bloomfield
JCC, a position she held with
distinction for 21 years. She put
her soul into the jet stream of
that professional equity theater.
After divorcing in 2007, the
Orbachs stayed friends. Aware
Hal's health was failing at age
83, Evelyn and their children —
son Richard; daughters Sharon,
Judy and Lila; four of six grand-
children and a granddaughter-
in-law — arrived in Bradenton,
Fla., to spend Passover with him and be
by his bedside. Ricky's family came from

Harold and Evelyn Orbach

Israel; others arrived from two states.
"We wanted to give Hal some compas-
sion and good feelings," Evelyn told the JN.
"Hal was so warmed by our presence
and although very weak," she added,"he
managed to acknowledge each of us and
smile as our progeny were intent on enter-
taining him:'
Evelyn recounted the final moments:
"While very sad, we felt we had given a
sweet and loving farewell to this man that
meant so much to all of us:'

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