NEXTGen Detroit has a bold agenda. It’s building Jewish identity, developing young leaders and improving…
Seeding Urban Love
Executing a series of events in August, law student Adam Blanck drives the effort to awaken Detroiters’ hometown pride.
Recognizing that reinventing the wheel is folly, Adam Blanck wants to make Detroit revitalization top of mind for young people — the same way he galvanized local support for Israel during the summer of 2010 — through socializing.
Blanck, 24, has been working hard with Federation’s CommunityNEXT offshoot to make Do It for Detroit flourish in three cities nationwide — wherever Detroiters, current or former, may be. Their plan is a call-to-action series of events modeled after last year’s successful Pitch for Israel.
A month-long campaign, Do It for Detroit has events planned in Chicago, Los Angeles and Detroit. Its goal is raising money for the Live Detroit Fund, a nonprofit rent-subsidy program to encourage “next generation” Jewish leaders to move downtown.
The Live Detroit Fund, which is administered by CommunityNEXT, is intended to create a network of young Jewish adults in the city who will be active in creating a dynamic urban environment.
“The point of this campaign is to say, whatever you want to do … do something for Detroit,” Blanck said. “Do something to give back to the city you’re from, no matter where you live now.”
Blanck first brought Pitch for Israel to Detroit last year after seeing its successful Toronto execution in 2009. Emboldened, he went to Federation leaders here and pitched the idea. With the organization’s blessing, and the help of CommunityNEXT staffers, Detroit’s version of Pitch for Israel raised $50,000.
“People do go back to their hometown, just not in Detroit,” Blanck said. “This was a cool community gathering that brought young people together, and we thought, why not do it in Detroit? And we did!”
Rebranding the Pitch for Israel event to benefit his hometown, Blanck, along with his co-chair, Benjy Gordon, approached to CommunityNext for help in organizing the various month-long activities in Detroit, Chicago and L.A.
“After seeing the enthusiasm around the city last year, we felt it would be more exciting and encouraging to see people doing stuff around Detroit, for Detroit,” Blanck said.
Detroit activities include “Dodgeball in the D” on Belle Isle and “Pitch for Detroit,” which replicates last year’s event with a softball tourney in Southfield. Los Angeles will play host to a kickball tourney, called “Kick for Detroit,” and there will be a bar night in Chicago. All this, Blanck hopes, will go toward changing how Detroit is perceived.
“Detroit has an image problem,” Blanck said. “People don’t think there are people or things to do there. We have to change that image. People are surprised by the people they reconnect with, all that there is to do and the fun they can have in Detroit.”
Gordon already sees all that the city has to offer and is excited by all of the possibilities.
“I love Detroit. The city has so much character — in the architecture, in the people, in everything,” Gordon said. “I think Detroit is wide open in terms of opportunity right now, and that bodes very well for its future.”
Blanck, a second year law student at the University of Michigan, has been a proponent of community and Detroit since he was in high school at Birmingham Groves.
“Anything that can be done in America to make it better can be done in Detroit, and Detroit needs it,” he said. “Now is the time to address problems in Detroit, not just by the community at large but also by the Jewish community.”
Do It for Detroit
Aug. 3: Kickoff Party; Groves High School Softball Fields, Beverly Hills
Aug. 4: Detroit Nation Bar Night; Declan’s Irish Pub, Chicago
Aug. 20: Dodgeball in the D; Belle Isle
Aug. 21: Kick for Detroit; Cheviot Hills Park, Los Angeles
Aug. 28: Pitch for Detroit; Inglenook Park, Southfield