When people ask me what makes Detroit’s Jewish community special, I describe it as a place where everyone knows each other … or thinks he or she should.
While the soon-to-be completed Detroit Jewish community demographic study will likely show our population between 65,000-75,000 (clearly, we can’t possibly know everyone!), we still believe that our social webs — whether schools, synagogues, camps, former neighborhoods, fraternities, sororities, eateries, etc. — will create this level of connectivity. Further reinforcing this belief is that so many of us — upward of 70 percent — have lived all, or virtually all, of our lives here.
This communal closeness is underpinned by a sense of shared responsibility practiced for generations by thousands of families from across the socioeconomic and religious spectrum. It is what continues to make Detroit one of North America’s most admired Jewish communities.
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Beginning with today’s edition, the Detroit Jewish News will be spotlighting several of these multi-generational families. This initiative parallels the final weeks of our 75th anniversary year and leads into a gala community-wide event on May 3 at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield.
The event’s overarching theme is connecting the generations — past, present and future. We will be recognizing the Davidson-Gerson-Wetsman-Saulson family as exemplars of the myriad multi-generational families who continue to strengthen our community in large and small ways. The innovative and captivating music of the evening’s featured performers — the Grammy Award-winning Klezmatics — resonates with young and old alike. And we will be celebrating with members of our community born in 1942 and their families at a special dessert reception.
The beneficiary of the event is the independent, nonprofit Detroit Jewish News Foundation. Through its William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History, the foundation has captured, digitized and made available — free and easily searchable — more than 327,000 pages of content from the Detroit Jewish Chronicle and the Detroit Jewish News. Collectively, they start in 1916 and span more than 100 consecutive years.
The digital archive contains the DNA of our community … snippets of information that, when linked, tell tens of thousands of unique and often remarkable stories about the people and families whose legacies continue to influence us. It reminds us that we are standing on the shoulders of those who came before us.
In 2017, the digital archive hosted more than 16,000 visitors accessing almost 250,000 pages of content.
As part of our concluding anniversary activities, we are asking you, our valued readers, to share photos with us of your multi-generational family (I’ve included a sample — it shows my father, oldest son, first grandchild and me). We would like to share many of them at the May 3 event as well as digitize and preserve them on our foundation website for future generations to enjoy.
To send your photo our way, please attach a high-resolution version of it to us at email@example.com. Alternatively, thank you for considering either bringing it or mailing it to our office at 29200 Northwestern Highway, Suite 110, Southfield, MI 48034.
With your multi-generational family photo, please include information about who is in the photo and approximately when it was taken. Feel free to include a few words about the family legacy represented in the photo as well.
And if you share a non-digital photo with us, please supply a name and address so we can get it back to you.
We look forward to celebrating with you on May 3 and continuing to capture and share the newest chapters in the story of our community and the people and families who shape it.
Arthur Horwitz is publisher and executive editor of the Detroit Jewish News.