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Jewish Education Prime Concern of Detroit Jewry

February 21, 1928
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(News Letter from Detroit)

If there is one thing upon which all Detroit Jewry agrees, judging from the beehive activities that keep all local leaders from their homes, night in and night out, always attending some sort of communal meeting, it is this:

That the strength of the foundation of every people is directly proportional to the emphasis placed on the education of the youth.

The result is that everywhere people speak of learning, and where they don’t speak of it, they act it. This is not an exaggeration, because educational movements do dominate the life of the Detroit Jewish community.

For a number of years now, educators throughout the country have been watching Detroit’s Hebrew educational movement. Under the superintendentship of Bernard Isaacs, a school system was established which embraces every section of the city and has recently spread to Windsor, Ontario, whose Jewish community turned over its school to the care of Mr. Isaacs.

THE HISTORY OF THE UNITED HEBREW SCHOOLS

The United Hebrew Schools of Detroit, under the presidency of Esser Rabinowitz, and the active direction of Mr. Isaacs, had, by the way, a small beginning. Nine years ago it began in a small school on Wilkens Street with a limited number of students. It spread to the Kirby Center, a large modern building where, at the peak of its success, the attendance neared 900. The Philadelphia-Byron Talmud Torah followed and is today the leading school in the city, in addition to being housed in one of the finest school structures in Detroit. The Fenkell district school followed. More recently, a group from the outskirts asked to be taken into the system. One of the teachers was appointed principal. After three months, the Jewish Welfare Federation appropriated a sum of $1,400 to keep the school functioning. The appropriation was everywhere interpreted as a tribute to the school system. At Elmhurst and Dexter a school to accommodate 500 pupils will soon be built.

But the United Hebrew Schools merely served as a compass. Simultaneous with its progress the accomplishments of the other educational media of Detroit Jewry also increased. Temple Beth El, the only Reform synagogue in Detroit, is not to be outdone. Aside from the fact that its School of Religion is said to be the largest in the country, caring for more than 1,700 children, its College of Jewish Studies offers to several hundred adults a complete course in Jewish history, literature, and the Hebrew language. Competent instructors are in charge, and Rabbi Leon Fram, in addition to his work in the pulpit as assistant to Dr. Leo M. Franklin, is in charge of the school.

At the same time, Yiddish refused to be eclipsed by the progress of the Jewish educational institutions which use Hebrew and English as the languages of instruction. Remarkable as has been the growth of the United Hebrew Schools and the Temple Beth El College, the Yiddish Umpartayishe Folkshul movement showed perhaps even greater progress because, while only three years in existence as a consolidated movement, it now has four branch schools, has been able to construct a special Children’s Theater, and attracts an enthusiastic audience whose devotion in acclaiming Yiddish rivals the champions of Hebrew.

THE LARGEST CONGREGATION SEEKS HOME

In the meantime the eyes of Detroit Jewry are fixed on the Shaarey Zedek, the leading Conservative group of the city and at the same time the one large congregation that is homeless. Having outlived its quarters on Brush and Willis Streets, it has rented an old church on Atkinson and Twelfth Streets and during holidays is compelled to rent auxiliary halls for services. All because of court action which prevented the immediate construction program on a new synagogue on Chicago Boulevard and Lawton Avenue. The legal battle was over the closing of an alley to permit the building of the synagogue. The Shaarey Zedek, it is now said on good authority, will be able within a very few weeks to announce that construction work will soon begin, the legal battle now being over, with the Shaarey Zedek the victor.

In temporary quarters, where formerly was housed a Christian church, are in the meantime taught the Shaarey Zedek children, and Detroit Jews are waiting for the new educational facilities to be offered by Shaarey Zedek, under the leadership and guidance of Rabbi A. M. Hershman. Rabbi Hershman was recently honored by his congregation on the occasion of his completion of twenty years service as rabbi.

At Temple Beth El, during the past month, Dr. Franklin rounded out the twenty-ninth year as spiritual leader, and in the course of an address on the occasion of the twenty-ninth anniversary of his occupancy of the pulpit of Temple Beth El called attention to the fact that during that period the congregation has numerically increased more than ten-fold. The edifice that the temple is occupying is said to be one of the finest, largest and best-equipped places of worship and instruction in the country.

Within the past half year, the congregation purchased a site immediately adjoining the temple on which are two houses presently being used for additional class and club rooms in connection with the activities of the congregation.

Temple members speak with pride of the fact that their college, at the end of this semester, will have the first graduation of those who completed a three-years’ course. Other members speak proudly of another factor in their congregation: there are among the members a few who represent the fourth consecutive generation of membership in Temple Beth El.

VARIED ACTIVITIES

At the Jewish Center, which is sponsored by the Jewish Centers Association, affiliated with the Jewish Welfare Federation, under the chairmanship of Milton M. Alexander, with Miss Mary Caplan as executive director and Jacob S. Pearlstein as educational director, hardly a night-except on the Sabbath eve-finds the club rooms and auditoriums without activities. A Yiddish lecture series and a series of concerts are among the special features of the year. The Center also houses the Halevy Singing Society, which is sponsoring the publication of the music of Solomon Golub, Yiddish writer and composer.

In the meantime, the United Palestine Appeal, of which Fred M. Butzel is honorary chairman, is preparing, under the chairmanship of Joseph H. Ehrlich, and with William R. Blumenthal as regional director, to conduct a campaign for $110,000 in Detroit and an additional $40,000 in the neighboring communities.

Morris D. Waldman, executive secretary of the Jewish Welfare Federation, in his annual report two weeks ago, stated among other things:

“Drastic changes have been effected internally in the United Jewish Charities, which was divided into three affiliated units: the United Jewish Charities, whose function is purely property holding and administering, the Jewish Centers Association, with headquarters at the Melbourne Center, and the Jewish Social Service Bureau, which is engaged in family welfare work and the caring for delinquent children. The North End Community Clinic, formerly managed by the Fresh Air Society, was transferred to a newly created board and a new site and building procured through the generosity of Mrs. Leopold Wineman. To make this clinic possible, the United Jewish Charities contributed a sum equal to that of Mrs. Wineman’s, making the total cost of the clinic $150,000.”

Thus, things are humming in Detroit.

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