To Summer In The City




On the occasion of your bar mitzvah.

Mazel tov, Summer in the City. During this, your 13th year of making it fun, flexible and fulfilling to paint, plant and play in Detroit, I am honored and humbled to share my blessing, to brag briefly about your contributions to our community and to invite everyone to take part in your
continued growth.

Before I had Judah and Phoebe, before I tried to save a ferocious turtle and met my substantially better half, before I had the good sense to know better — I had you, Summer in the City, an organization born, prematurely it seemed at times, to three dads in a moment of audacity and naïveté, while the country was still mourning those lost on Sept. 11, and we were looking for a way to turn our values into value.

Your organizational adolescence has been equal parts thrilling and maddening for me. There’s bound to be angst when you’re trying to (1) lower the barrier to entry for service while raising the bar for what it can accomplish, (2) empower people from far and wide to be “Detroiters” and empower actual Detroiters to lead, (3) draw thoughtfully on the past to seize urgently on the present to build sustainably for the future.

Even though I don’t run the show anymore — been so long, it’s hard to imagine when the organization wasn’t in someone else’s good hands — I have the privilege of providing you with (generally good) guidance and still getting to get my hands dirty whenever they get objectionably clean. A few personal points of pride:

1. Service and Learning . This is my third year teaching a Wayne State service-learning course in which my stellar students not only get to engage with Detroit pros who know a lot more about the city than their absent-minded adjunct professor, but they also get to work alongside the JVs, an indefatigable group of middle-school Junior Volunteers who have graduated from our youth programs in Northwest and Southwest Detroit and have stuck with us to be the change they wish to see in Detroit.

2. The Collaboratory. Even though I’m the only one who calls it that and I’ve only stayed overnight once in three years, having a literal and figurative home for Summer in the City — in Detroit’s most diverse and dynamic neighborhood — has given Summer in the City leaders the opportunity to be year-round neighbors in Mexicantown and stakeholders in Clark Park.

3. Jewish Community-Centered. In my capacity as the Detroit director for Repair the World, I get to bring the Teen Service Staff — more than 60 “Jewish stars” over the course of the summer — to the Northwest Activities Center (formerly the Meyers-Curtis JCC) and they, in turn, bring the thunderous energy of Camp Tamarack to the Project Healthy Community youth enrichment program where they can learn about the area’s history and its assets.

Of course, Summer in the City has never been about me; it has always been about you. And it has never been about you; it has always been about the people you can serve and grow with. And there’s still time! Go to for more about the 3Fs and 3Ps and mark your calendar (Yes, you!) to join volunteers and friends from all over our Greater Detroit community (including J-Serve, the JCC and Teen Mission) for Finale Friday on Aug. 15 at 7 Mile and Wyoming — directly or by way of one of ten carpool sites.

If you would like to help commemorate Summer in the City becoming bar mitzvah, consider the Backpacktacular, outfitting more than 400 K-5 campers with backpacks and school supplies to carry (them) into the academic year ahead:

Questions? Email me or call 313-3388-BEN. RT

By Ben Falik

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