This year marks the 100th anniversary of a Jewish Detroit business that you may know. Perhaps, on your way to work today, you may have passed by one of its developments, City Club Apartments. Or maybe you live in one?
Although the name has evolved over the years, City Club Apartments is celebrating 100 years in the real estate business. History tells us it is a rare company that lasts a century.
The roots of City Club begin when 2-year-old Joseph Holtzman immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1896. He came to Detroit in 1914 to take a job as a sweeper for Ford Motor Company, one of thousands who came to the city, lured by Ford’s famous “Five Dollar a Day” wages. But Holtzman had ambitions beyond the factory floor: He began Joseph Holtzman Homes in 1919 and soon established a reputation for building quality, modestly priced homes.
In 1934, Holtzman partnered with his brother-in-law, Nathan Silverman. Holtzman Homes became Holtzman & Silverman and continued to build houses for the working class. The company remained in business for another 60 years and later was managed by another generation, Irwin “Toby” Holtzman and Gilbert Silverman. In 1966, the sons created Metro Detroit’s iconic Village Green Apartments.
Holtzman & Silverman split apart in 1994, but Village Green Apartments continued. The third generation Holtzman, Jonathan, began working in the family business in 1977. In 2016, he separated from Village Green and, with his partner, Alan Greenberg, formed City Club Apartments.
A search into the William Davison Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History demonstrates that the Holtzmans are mentioned hundreds of times. More important, the historic pages of the Detroit Jewish Chronicle and Detroit Jewish News show that, beyond maintaining a successful business based in Metro Detroit, as philanthropists, the Holtzmans also have had a significant impact upon Detroit, its Jewish community and Israel.
To say the least, family patriarch, Joseph Holtzman, was among the prominent leaders of Detroit, especially in the aftermath of World War II. For just one example, a story in the Jan. 16, 1948, issue of the JN reported that Holtzman and another Detroiter, Louis Berry, were among 50 American Jewish leaders to tour displaced persons camps and Palestine on behalf of the United Jewish Appeal. After the trip, Holtzman became a staunch supporter of Israel. Moreover, a few months later, the Oct. 1, 1948, issue of the JN stated: “In a single year, Berry and Holtzman became a legend in Detroit’s campaign history.” Indeed, Holtzman became one of the most successful UJA chairs ever and a mentor of the legendary Detroiter Max Fisher.
The son and grandson have carried on the tradition. For example, Toby Holtzman and his son, Jonathan, were in the news last year regarding their work toward a major literary project in Israel. The story in the Oct. 25, issue of the JN (the 2018 issues of the JN will soon be added to the Davidson Archive) reported that Toby and his wife, Shirley, began collecting in 1973 and amassed a huge trove of Israeli literature. Having already established the Irwin T. and Shirley Holtzman Collection of Israeli Literature at Michigan State University, their main collection was donated to the National Library of Israel and is considered the definitive collection of Israeli literary works.
Toby died in 2010, but Jonathan is now carrying on the tradition, among his other charitable causes. Oren Weinberg, library director, noted that: “We are proud to count Jonathan Holtzman as a leading partner in the renewal of the National Library.”
Jonathan summed-up the Holtzman legacy: “I am proud to serve as the third-generation leader of this 100-year-old company that was founded on relationships, quality and innovation. I was inspired by my grandfather’s creativity, work ethic and love of Israel. I had great respect for my father’s ability to evolve my grandfather’s vision and his love of books.”
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.