Detroit to Celebrate 60th Anniversary of Its Jewish Community
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Detroit to Celebrate 60th Anniversary of Its Jewish Community

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The 60th anniversary of the organized Jewish community of Detroit will be celebrated here this year, it was announced today by Judge Theodore Levin, president of the Jewish Welfare Federation, the successor organization to the United Jewish Charities which was organized in 1899. The event will be marked by the publication of a history of Jewish philanthropic endeavor in Detroit prepared by Irving Katz, Jewish historian.

“The United Jewish Charities and its successor organization, the Jewish Welfare Federation, has had the continuous benefit of the interest and the contributions of men and women who accept increasing responsibility in behalf of their fellow Jews and for the benefit of their own families and community,” Judge Levin said. “The organized services of the Detroit Jewish community were strengthened markedly in 1957-58. Participation in the rescue and rehabilitation program for world Jewry and the resettlement program in Israel was continued at an impressively high level despite the obstacles placed in our way by the economic recession.

“Our participation as an organized community in the national life and world problems of Jewish people was integrated with a parallel interest in development of our own communal machinery and programs at home,” Judge Levin pointed out. “Since the end of World War II, Detroit has consistently raised more money in its annual campaign than any other community of less than 100,000 Jewish population. We maintained this record in 1958 by raising almost $5,000,000 under the leadership of Max M. Fisher, our campaign chairman,” Judge Levin emphasized.


Isidore Sobeloff, executive vice-president of the Jewish Welfare Federation, said that the last decade has seen the crystallization of a broad development which has been gradually taking place since the United Jewish Charities was organized in 1899. This development is taking place simultaneously in three parallel areas:

1. The nature of the Jewish community has changed. It is no longer made up of the Americanized and the foreign born; the rich and the poor; the benefactors and the clients. The members of the Jewish community of America, and certainly of Detroit, with rare exceptions, fit in the great middle class. All of them together now recognize and discharge with equal interest their responsibilities at home and abroad–in Detroit and in Israel–through their membership in the central community.

2. Parallel with the change in the Jewish population has been a change in organization–in the structure of the Jewish Welfare Federation. The few hundred contributors at the turn of the century have become some 26,000 contributors of the present. The handful of board members who discussed every “needy case” among themselves and visited each “client” personally of his benefaction, has developed into a board of governors of 68, with a broadly representative membership. It includes 14 member agencies providing for the aged, child care, health services, camping, vocational services, community relations, recreation and culture, Jewish education in a planful way with a broad social perspective. All of this program is carried on with a sense of assurance of Jewish survival.

3. A third stream of change which parallels the other two is the change in the nature of the services. From services to the poor, the undernourished, the unlearned, individuals and families with social problems, we have gradually shifted to major emphasis on services for the average family; from social services to communal services; from welfare services to enrichment services, leisure time activities, cultural, educational, Jewish identification services and programs which enrich the lives of ourselves and our children.

“The central theme of these parallel developments is that we have grown into a community characterized by the phrase “by all of us together for all of us together,” Mr. Sobeloff stated. “The ties of membership in the Jewish community create a common purpose which easily cross the lines of social and economic differences,” he concluded.

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