djn-2006-11-30-0-015The William Davidson Digital Archive is full of stories about remarkable members of Detroit’s Jewish community. Sure, there are plenty of stories about local and world events, as well as reports about entertainment and restaurants, and also many bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings and graduations, to name a few topics. But, it is the stories about people that are the best reads of all.

This week, in the Nov. 30, 2006, issue of the JN, I ran across a very interesting article about a retirement party for a remarkable woman: Anita Naftaly. 

Like so many tales of success in Jewish Detroit, the beginning of this story was an idea. In 1984, Anita Katz Millman (Naftaly) had just earned a graduate degree in learning disabilities from Oakland University. Rabbi Irwin Groner at Congregation Shaarey Zedek soon approached her and asked if she would work with kids with learning disabilities in Hebrew School. Naftaly agreed, and her program was a great success.

In 1993, the Jewish Federation and its Agency for Jewish Education recognized the need in Jewish schools for special education. They approached Naftaly in 1995. This meeting eventually led to the “Opening the Doors” program.

To say the least, this is a story of a most impressive woman who had a huge impact upon the most precious asset of any community: its children.

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at

By Mike Smith, Detroit Jewish News Foundation Archivist