Jews And Mackinac Island – From the DJN Davidson Digital Archive

Mike Smith

Mike Smith

Last week, I was on Mackinac Island for the Detroit Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Mackinac Policy Conference. It was a very interesting event, to be sure. Moreover, how tough is it to be Up North in May?

While I was on the island, however, I wondered about the Jewish presence there, aside from what I imagine are hundreds of Jewish tourists each year? So, I cruised the Davidson Digital Archives to see what I could find. Although the Detroit Jewish News generally publishes news from Metro Detroit, it has a long history of writing stories about Jews from every corner of Michigan. I figured I would find something in the archives.

Detroit Jewish News October 20, 2011 issue. Shows the donation of a Sefer Torah for the congregation on Mackinac Island.At first, I was a bit disappointed. There were only four stories that mentioned the congregation on the island: Kehillat Hatzav Hagadol. This is the congregation of the “Large Turtle.” Because Mackinac is an Indian word for “large turtle,” the congregation was named with this in mind. But, there is a very good reason there are only four mentions of the congregation in the JN’s last 75 years. Founded in 2006, Kehillat Hatzav Hagadol is only 12 years old.

To be sure, there have been Jews on the island since the Revolutionary War. For one historic example, Ezekiel Solomon was a locally famous Jewish fur trader who operated on Mackinac Island from 1761 until the end of the 18th century. However, there wasn’t a congregation until Kehillat Hatzav Hagadol.

There was one very good story in the Oct 20, 2011, issue of JN about the donation of a Sefer Torah for the congregation. It also has a lovely photo of the Torah, with smiling members of Kehillat Hatzav Hagadol and its rabbi, traveling in Mackinac Island-style in a horse-drawn carriage.

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at  www.djnfoundation.org.

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