Detroiters experienced the Six-Day War, rioting, community growth

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In the 1960s, people could stop on the Ambassador Bridge and get out of their cars to sightsee.

In 1967, as the Detroit Jewish News celebrated its 25th anniversary, Detroit-area banks offered six-month depositors of $5,000 or more 5 percent interest on their savings. Adolph Deutsch, founder and chairman of the board of the American Savings and Loan Association and former president of Congregation B’nai Moshe, died at age 86. Max Fisher, president of the United Jewish Appeal, became finance chairman of Michigan Gov. George Romney’s presidential campaign.

Arson destroyed the sanctuary of Trenton’s Congregation Beth Isaac. “Jeuden” and a large swastika were scrawled in large letters on a blackboard. The hate crime received national publicity and donations were received from around the country. Insurance paid for 80 percent of the damage and, within months, the sanctuary was rebuilt and the congregation donated excess funds not needed for repairs to other charities.

A trial merger of 12 months between the Conservative Livonia Jewish Congregation and the Reform Temple Beth Am lasted two months. Livonia’s Cantor Henry Blank and the temple’s Rabbi David Jessel said the differences were too great to overcome. To help build its membership, the Livonia Jewish Congregation hired Rabbi Martin D. Gordon as spiritual leader.

On Sunday, June 4, 1967, thousands turned out for a rally for Israel at the Jewish Community Center at Curtis and Meyers. Days later, the world was caught up in the events of the Six-Day War, which ultimately reunified Jerusalem.

Doc Greene, the hard-drinking back-page columnist of the Detroit News, gave his take on Israel’s speedy victory. He wrote: “Despite the mutterings of Russia about Israeli aggressions, the initial aggressive act was the blockading of Aqaba by Gamal Abdel Nasser.

“Israel held still as Nasser demanded and got the withdrawal of U.N. troops by U Thant. The troops had been a neutralizer over one frontier.

“The young nation waited for the diplomacy of the major maritime powers while surrounding countries piled troops around its borders.

“Reportedly, the Arabic group held superiority in both numbers and hardware, with Russia making much louder back-up noises than were being offered on Israel’s behalf by the United States.

“Then it erupted and, for the third time in 18 years, the tiny country prevailed.”

In 1967, according to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, the population of Jerusalem was 263,626. Jews accounted for 195,700, Muslims 54,963 and Christians almost 13,000.

During the 1948-1967 Jordanian occupation of eastern Jerusalem, 58 synagogues were destroyed and the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was repeatedly vandalized. Tombstones were used to pave roads and build latrines at Jordanian army barracks.

As a result of Israel’s victory over several neighboring Arab countries, the Soviet Union severed diplomatic ties with Israel. When Soviet premier Aleksei Kosygin attended the 1967 Glassboro Summit, he asked President Lyndon Johnson why Israel should get his support as there were 80 million Arabs and only 3 million Israelis.

“Because it is right,” Johnson replied.

Racial Disturbances
The Berkley Theater on 12 Mile Road provided escapism from the events in the Middle East with a good double-bill. Zero Mostel and Phil Silvers starred in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Robert Morse starred in the other entertaining musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

On Sunday, July 23, 1967, at 3:50 a.m., Detroit police raided an after-hours drinking spot and arrested 73. About an hour later, when police were leaving with the last of those arrested, bottles and rocks began raining from a crowd gathered across the street.

The crowd surged down 12th Street in what a generation earlier was the heart of the Jewish community. By 6:30 a.m., the first fire destroyed a sacked shoe store as rioters didn’t allow arriving firemen to put out the blaze. An all-black firefighting force was quickly put together in the hope they wouldn’t be harassed and would be allowed to put out fires. It didn’t work as they were also pelted with bottles, bricks, rocks and cans.

Bullhorn pleas by John Conyers, Rev. Nicholas Hood and other community leaders weren’t accepted and they were also forced into retreat.

Newspapers and radio and television stations honored a request by Damon Keith, at the time co-chairman of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, for a blackout of the events unfolding on 12th Street. Businesses shut down on Monday and instructed their employees to stay home, and most streets were empty except for army vehicles. Gov. Romney ordered 1,500 National Guardsmen into the city, and President Johnson sent 4,700 Army paratroopers.

Three thousand arrests were made on Wednesday, July 26. By the time the disturbance ended, 7,331 had been arrested. The incarcerated were kept in local, county and state jails, city buses, police garages and gymnasiums, and in the Belle Isle public bathouse. The riot resulted in more than 1,300 fires, 2,700 looted businesses, 347 injuries and 43 deaths. Thirty-three of the dead were black, and blacks accounted for most of the homeless. Many of the families whose homes were burned were housed in Fort Wayne.

By the end of July, the new Detroit Committee was formed by the mayor and governor. Henry Ford II became an active participant and announced that 5,000 workers would be hired from the black neighborhoods without written job tests. Ford also would provide bus transportation to take workers to and from the plants.

While blacks made up close to 40 percent of the city’s population and 55 percent of the public school enrollment in 1967, only 5 percent of Detroit’s police force was black.

Community Growth
B’nai David’s new school building was dedicated in memory of Samuel Lieberman. The afternoon Hebrew School began in September 1954, led by Rabbi Donin with 29 students using space at Oak Park’s Francis Scott Key School. Two years later, Rabbi Aaron Brander was hired as a full-time educational director. In 1967, the B’nai David school had more than 600 pupils in 28 classes, staffed by 22 teachers.

George D. Keil, president of the Jewish Community Center, appointed Mrs. Arthur I. Gould and Julian Tobias as co-chairs of the JCC’s 16th Annual Jewish Book Fair. One of the most popular speakers was Harry Kemmelman, author of Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry. Golda Meir, Israel’s foreign minister, came to Detroit in November to honor Emma Schaver, chair of the Women’s Division of the Detroit Israel Bond Organization, at the Israel Miracle Year Dinner at Cobo Hall in Downtown Detroit. Meir presented her longtime friend with the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanities Award. Schaver, 70, a noted concert singer, had given her last official performance on Mt. Scopus in Israel five months earlier.

Myron Milgrom, vice president in charge of sales for the Mercury Paint Company, was involved in two building plans. Mercury planned a huge new plant, and Milgrom was chairman of the Hillel Day School Building Fund Concert at the Ford Auditorium. The concert, featuring operatic tenor Richard Tucker, launched the school’s drive to raise funds to construct its own building. Half of the $1.5 million needed to complete the building was raised by the time of the ceremonial groundbreaking on Nov. 26 at the 11-acre Farmington Hills site on Middlebelt Road, north of Northwestern Highway.

For the first time, the Jewish Welfare Federation allocated funds to the Yeshiva Beth Yehudah Day School. The Yeshiva High School received $9,500 from the Federation, 2 percent of the entire school’s total budget. Brothers Wolf and Isadore Cohen, among the founders of the day school and who served as school presidents, received the Golden Torah Award at the Yeshiva’s annual dinner.

As packages to 55 servicemen in Vietnam were mailed out by Mrs. Louis Winkle, servicemen service chairman of Sholom Auxiliary, Jewish War Veterans, the community lost one of its sons. Pfc. Dennis Greenwald, a member of the airborne brigade, was killed in fierce battle in Vietnam. Only three days short of his 19th birthday, the young Southfield resident was honored by the Southfield City Council with a minute of silent prayer for him and all the men in Vietnam. Greenwald’s parents, longtime supporters of the Southfield Pubic Library, arranged for a plaque on the grounds and a picture of their son to hang in the library’s study.

Meanwhile, Israelis were interested in U.N. Resolution 242. President Johnson made sure the word Jerusalem wasn’t included in the November 1967 call for “secure and recognized boundaries.” The Resolution called for Arab states to recognize Israel’s right to exist and negotiate with the Jewish state. In return, Israel would withdraw from some of the territory captured in June. Arab leaders based their answer on their Khartoum Resolution: No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it. The Arab summit became known as “the three no’s.”

 

Jewish Press columnist and public speaker on several subjects, Cohen is the author 10 books, including the iconic Echoes of Detroit’s Jewish Communities: A History. He may be reached at irdav@sbcglobal.net.