The DJN chats with Chana Finman, co-director of Jewish Ferndale, about her involvement and what it means to the community.
1. What is the goal of Jewish Ferndale?
We like being a supporting place for all people. Some of my husband’s students are not Jewish — they want to study deep stuff. I like the idea of people cross-pollinating their interests, their expertise and who they are. For Jewish Ferndale we want to radiate a welcoming spirit and organically see what will happen — it’s very positive. We haven’t had any negative experiences with anyone we have come across. We just want to make sure no one gets hurt and no one gets insulted. My happiness is seeing people come here and listening in conversations, relating to one another and bringing what they have into it.
2. How has the public reception to Jewish Ferndale been?
We feel good, like we’re on the map. We were one of the first public Jewish places in Ferndale that was recognized by the city. It was a big deal that they embraced us, and they wanted to say, “we’re glad you’re here.” When that terrible incident in Pittsburgh happened, I wanted to do something right away because I’m from Pennsylvania, and everybody came to the memorial. We felt so not alone. The police, city council and fire department were really kind.
3. What does the Jewish Ferndale garden look to accomplish?
We do a lot of teaching here at Jewish Ferndale. Right now, I have two JVS intern groups — one in the morning and one in the evening. It’s a teaching garden that helps people fall in love with the gardening. We’re teaching these concepts to kids that they don’t learn in school. All kinds of people come — young and old — to learn how to use things in the garden. We’re trying to teach organic principles — because in terms of Judaism, we consider that to be a great value.
4. What kind of work do you do with the art studio at Jewish Ferndale?
The Center of Jewish Creativity is my happy land — we do a lot of teaching in here. I teach art from more of a traditional perspective. I travel to New York, Europe, all over the place. I try to introduce people to artists they’ve never heard of. I like to facilitate conversation based on something I show to people. I try to get people content that’s new for them so we aren’t just always talking about sports or the weather.
5. What inspired you to form the Center of Jewish Creativity?
I ran adult education programs in Australia, working with museums and cultural programs. I got to meet a lot of movers and shakers in my life, I got to put together a lot of amazing art installations here and abroad. I started doing this in my house, and then the Jewish schools started asking me to teach art for them. I’ve just always been into this. It’s never been about money — it’s about opportunity, which is what we thrive on here. We thrive on people, interaction and watching people develop.
6. How much traveling have you done throughout your life?
My parents were teachers in Philadelphia. We didn’t have a lot of money but they had vacation time, so we camped all over Canada. We traveled across the U.S. many times, too. As I grew up, I went to England to backpack when I was 18. I traveled all over Israel, backpacking and hiking. I lived in New York for a long time and I went to Australia when I was young with my husband, and we had three kids there. After that we went to Hong Kong, Israel, England and then wound up in Oak Park somehow. Every year or so I take a trip here and there.
7. Tell us about your radio show, “The Jewish Hour,” which happens to be the only Jewish radio show in Detroit.
“The Jewish Hour” has been kicking a long time. My husband, Herschel, had a student named Ken Lawrence who had a travel and classical music show. He was retiring, and he offered Herschel his slot. Then Herschel learned how to broadcast at Specs Howard. He works really hard at it. He gets excellent people to interview. We’re always getting new material to review, like books. The podcast is now our new way to go — we hope to develop the podcast more.
Chana Finman is the co-director of Jewish Ferndale, which offers Jewish classes and programming. She is also Director of the Center of Jewish Creativity and co-producer and culture correspondent for “The Jewish Hour Radio Show,” Detroit’s only Jewish Radio program, which airs live Sundays at 11 AM on WLQV 1500 AM and 92.7 FM.
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