Shir Shalom to honor remarkable volunteer Art Fishman as he turns 90



Benjamin Franklin said, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” At Temple Shir Shalom, they ask Art Fishman. Actually, Art doesn’t wait to get asked; he’s the one doing the asking: “What do you need and when do you need it?”

“Mr. Shir Shalom” Art Fishman with Rabbis Daniel Schwartz and Michael Moskowitz and Executive Director Andre Douville

Hopefully, Art will adjust his whirlwind schedule to arrive on time for Shir Shalom’s Havdalah service and dinner Saturday, March 4, to honor his milestone 90th birthday.

The evening is fittingly called: “Artful Living … Art Fishman’s 90th.” Congregants and the community will have a chance, as Shir Shalom Executive Director Andre Douville says, “to let Art know how much he means to us all.” A portion of the proceeds will benefit Art’s beloved Jewish War Veterans (JWV) and the Art Fishman Burning Bush Fund.

Andre met Art almost 13 years ago. New at the temple, Andre wanted to tap into Art’s wealth of experience. He knew he was intimately involved in all things Shir Shalom —  from “Food, Fun and Fireworks” and coordination of the High Holidays to the Walk for Israel.

Art Fishman circa 1942

“I asked Art if he would teach me what he knows,” Andre says, “and I’ll never forget his response: ‘No one ever said that to me before. If you’re willing to learn, I’m willing to teach you.’”

It began a relationship that Andre describes as “one of the strongest and deepest I have at Shir Shalom.”

Art’s love affair with Shir Shalom began while attending a Shabbat service at the temple’s newly opened West Bloomfield home. Cantor Penny Steyer recalls, “Art was moved when he saw founding Rabbi Dannel Schwartz invite all the young children in the congregation to sit with him on the step of the bimah as he told a story. Art knew then this was the place he wanted to bring his grandchildren to.

“He has been my confidante, my ‘go-to’ person for everything I ever need; he is family,” she says of their 25-year friendship.

That sentiment is a recurring theme at Shir Shalom.

Rabbi Michael Moskowitz describes Art as being “part of the fabric of Temple Shir Shalom. He’s the first to offer his support, is tireless in his commitment and boundless in his energy.”

Rabbi Daniel Schwartz says, “When I first came to Temple Shir Shalom, Art was introduced to me as ‘Mr. Shir Shalom.’ Whenever you need help, without being asked, Art is already there, jumping in and getting to work.”

Shir Shalom president Joshua Sherbin adds, “Art and my dad graduated together from Central High School. From the school pictures, Art’s smile had the same warmth and energy it has today! And his work ethic and humility is a model for us all.”

Art Fishman wearing his other important hat: Fishman is a proud WWII vet and commander of Jewish War Veterans Post 510

Amazing Role Model

Art’s life outside of temple is equally fast-paced; much of his time is consumed by his commitment to his fellow Jewish War Veterans. A WWII veteran of both the U.S. Army Air Corps Cadet program and the U.S. Navy, Art is now commander of JWV Post 510.

He is a champion for all veterans. He never misses a Veteran’s Day Parade or the JWV annual Christmas Day outing to the Battle Creek VA Medical Center. He’s also a proud member of the JWV Honor Guard; always on call to pay tribute for a Detroit-area veteran who has passed.

The secret to his success? Art knows how to strike a healthy balance in his life, even while he owned a mortgage company, ran Detroit’s  Ethnic Festival for mayor Coleman A. Young, managed his own commercial and residential properties in Florida, and maintained a dozen cars, including a vintage Ferrari.

Art has mastered the fine “art” of multi-tasking, but never at the expense of his family.

He’s been an extraordinary role model to his sons Marc, Gary and Rick and their families. He recognized that his wife Jeanne, of blessed memory, was a business woman ahead of her time and supported her fully in her pursuit of becoming an accomplished antiques dealer. And when Jeanne took ill several years ago, Art dedicated his every waking moment to her care and comfort.

Ryan Fishman of Birmingham, Art’s 28-year old grandson, knows his grandfather personifies tikkun olam and happily shares his grandfather with the greater community.

“My grandfather has become a surrogate uncle, father and grandfather to hundreds, if not thousands of people in our community,” he says. “It’s astounding how often I hear stories about how he’s touched so many lives. He is a remarkable point of pride for us.”

Another Benjamin Franklin quote offers a fitting conclusion to this tribute to an extraordinary man. “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.”

Art Fishman has not squandered a single moment in his 90 years. And his family, temple, country and community is better off for it.

To attend Art’s birthday event at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 4, at Shir Shalom, call (248) 737-8700. RSVP by Feb. 28.


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