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Mel Lester and Ira Jaffe have hosted U-M tailgate parties for nearly 50 years and have hosted about 100,000 people. They are honorary co-chairs of the JCC event.
Mel Lester and Ira Jaffe have hosted U-M tailgate parties for nearly 50 years and have hosted about 100,000 people. They are honorary co-chairs of the JCC event.

Spirited Fun

JCC tailgate party to honor U-M President Schlissel.

Above: Mel Lester and Ira Jaffe have hosted U-M tailgate parties for nearly 50 years and have hosted about 100,000 people. They are honorary co-chairs of the JCC event.

Mark SchlisselNewsroom | Detroit Jewish News

Mark Schlissel

The Jewish Community Center of Metro Detroit is planning to honor University of Michigan President Mark S. Schlissel — and it’s taking a page from the playbook of legendary tailgaters Ira Jaffe and Mel Lester, honorary chairs of the event.

On Tuesday, Oct. 30, at 6:30 p.m. at the JCC, the organization will host a true-to-form tailgate party complete with kosher corned beef sandwiches, spiked cider and a wide array of tailgate treats. Activities will include cornhole and other tailgate games as well as entertainment from marching bands, followed by an awards presentation at 7:30 p.m. in The Berman.

Ira and Mel’s pre- and post-game tradition spans nearly 50 years of Wolverine history and has welcomed an estimated 100,000 guests.

The event is open to the community and will celebrate the enduring relationship between the U-M and the Metro Detroit Jewish community as Schlissel is presented with the Boneh Kehillah (Builder of Community) Award. This honor recognizes a relationship that has evolved over many generations, creating a partnership in philanthropy, education and community.

The timing of this honor has been met with some concern as the university addresses the actions of two professors who elected not to provide recommendations to Jewish students applying for study abroad programs in Israel.

“We understand that this is a sensitive moment in the historic relationship between our community and the university,” says JCC CEO Brian Siegel. “It is especially in these moments — when difficult conversations need to be had — that we are most thankful for the long and trusting partnership between the university and the Metro Detroit Jewish community. I know these hard conversations are being had with President Schlissel and that he has heard and empathizes with our concerns.”

Mel Lester’s son, Matt, a host committee chair and U-M graduate, grew up at his father’s tailgates while also participating in activities at the JCC. Now a strong supporter of both, he says, “The University of Michigan and the JCC have the same sort of mission: They are dedicated to educating our youth. At the JCC, that’s through camps, through leagues, through programs, through Book Fair … It’s one program after another.”

Proceeds from the gala will benefit JCC youth programming and cultural arts — everything from infant childcare to senior groups for learning and socializing year-round. Some of the programs that will be supported include camp scholarships for youth, the Sarah and Irving Pitt Child Development Center, the Kenny Goldman Basketball League, JCC Maccabi Games Opening the Doors program for children and adults with special needs, the Jewish Book Fair, the Lenore Marwil Jewish Film Festival, the Janice Charach Gallery, SAJE, FedED and Melton.

For ticket information, visit jccdet.org/tailgate or call (248) 432-5418. Attendees are encouraged to wear casual clothes celebrating their favorite university.

Newsroom

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