Heather Shenkman Connects With Brownies Buddy at TribeFest

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Heather Shenkman, 35, caught up with fellow Detroiters at TribeFest in Las Vegas this week. Living in Los Angeles, the Farmington Hills native misses some of Detroit’s community charms.

“I come home and I’ll go to Hiller’s and I’ll run into people I know,” she said. “It’s nice.”

She had a taste of that connection Tuesday morning; the yoga class she participated in was taught by someone she knew from years before. “We were in Girl Scouts together and went to Forest Elementary,” she said of Nikki Fayne, who led the eight a.m. class.

It was exciting to see a strong Detroit contingent at the Federation-hosted event, said Shenkman, who feels a strong allegiance to her hometown. “To this day, I won’t drive a foreign car,” she said. Instead, she drives a white Ford Mustang convertible.

Shenkman left Detroit in 1993 for college, returned for a residency stint at Henry Ford Hospital in 1999, and left again in 2003 to complete her cardiology training. Coming back to Detroit as an adult, “we used to hang out at Roosevelt’s a lot,” she said.

Also missing from her routine are the Somerset Collection Mall and Twelve Oaks Mall — she and her mom have a shopping tradition — as well as Orchard Lake Road, and “everything being right there.”

When she comes home, which she does about once a year, she always visits her Aunt Ida, 92, and spends time with her parents, who live on Wolverine Lake. “Sitting on the pontoon boat or in the kayak, it’s relaxing,” she says.

Shenkman says there are some Detroiters she sees regularly in Los Angeles, and that they frequently wind up talking about home. One of her good friends is someone she met on Federation’s 2001 Young Leadership Mission when they were both living in Detroit, she recounts.

As a triathlete, she said California has some perks. “It’s a big thing for me to go running outside in a pair of shorts. That’s something you can’t do in Detroit in January.”

But even with the no-snow advantage, its still not quite the close-knit Jewish community she grew up in and hasn’t found anywhere else, she said. “I think Detroit’s unique.”

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