While many Jewish Detroiters left the city between 1950 and 1970, a growing number of young Jews are choosing Detroit as home.
Jewish singles and couples, mainly in their 20s and 30s, have moved to neighborhoods, including Sherwood Forest in Northwest Detroit, Midtown and Lafayette Park as well as the North Side and West Village. Most work or attend school in Detroit and share an affinity for urban living. Some are employed by educational organizations or other nonprofit organizations dedicated to improving Detroit.
Rachel Klegon, 31, executive director of Green Living Science, a nonprofit environmental education organization, grew up in Farmington Hills. After graduating from Michigan State University in 2007, she took jobs with two Detroit-based nonprofits — Woodbridge Neighborhood Development Corporation and Summer in the City.
“I like urban areas and wanted to be in the city,” she explains. “I always considered Detroit to be my city, and I felt very connected to it.”
Since then, she has lived in Detroit’s West Village, Woodbridge and North End neighborhoods. In the North End, which she describes as located between New Center and Hamtramck, she rents a home built in 2007.
“My street is very safe, and I have great neighbors,” Klegon says. “It’s right off I-75 so it’s convenient — nothing is more than 20 minutes away.”
She is friendly with people she met while living in Detroit’s Repair the World Moishe House and Detroiters she knew from Temple Kol Ami, which she attended while growing up.
Andrew Stein, 35, is executive director of City Year Detroit, a nonprofit that trains and places AmeriCorps members in Detroit Public Schools for a year of service.
“I grew up in the suburbs with a certain perception of Detroit and other cities in general as a place where you went to the theater and sporting events — not where you live,” he says.
However, while living in Washington, D.C., for 11 years, Stein says, “That narrative was flipped on its head.”
In 2015, after accepting the City Year Detroit position, Stein wanted to live and invest in Detroit. “It opens up ways to be part of a community that you can’t do when you’re living outside,” he explains, adding that his Detroit residency isn’t a political statement or job requirement and that he doesn’t consider himself a pioneer.
While their acquaintances here recommended Pleasant Ridge, Huntington Woods and Berkley, Stein’s wife, Beth, wanted to consider Detroit. They looked at many Detroit neighborhoods with a Realtor specializing in Detroit and bought a house in Sherwood Forest in Northwest Detroit last year. It was built by a Jewish doctor in 1955 and still had the original mezuzahs.
“The house was loved and cared for, and we found that this has always been a strong neighborhood,” Stein says.
The Steins wanted to raise their children in a diverse neighborhood and say the urban experience is “overall very positive.”
“We have met friends who are young and others who have lived in the neighborhood for 30 or 40 years. We always feel safe in our neighborhood,” he says.
They investigated many school options and chose a public charter school, Detroit Achievement Academy, for their daughter, Mia, 6. The Steins participate with a group of Detroit Jewish families who plan family events in the city, using JTot Detroit to connect online.
Stein says Sherwood Forest residents are very supportive of ongoing improvements on nearby Livernois, once known as the Avenue of Fashion. “Anytime something opens, everyone supports it,” he says.
Shari S. Cohen Contributing Writer