The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit’s highest honor, the Butzel Award, has been recognizing prominent Jews for 68 years.

This week, on Sept. 17, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit gave its annual Fred M. Butzel Award to Norman Pappas. The Butzel Award is the highest honor Federation bestows upon a member of Detroit’s Jewish community and, although many great awards are given yearly by Jewish organizations to deserving individuals, the Butzel is special.
The list of Butzel recipients is a who’s who of prominent Jews over the past 68 years of Michigan history. And Pappas is certainly a worthy addition for his dedicated service and leadership.

The Butzel Award is named after one of Detroit’s leading Jewish citizens during the 1920s-1940s. Born in 1877, Fred M. Butzel studied at the University of Michigan and the Detroit College of Law and was admitted to the bar in 1899. He also began his activism early and, as the Jewish community expanded in size and strength during the early 20th century, Butzel grew with it. By the 1920s, he was a leader — perhaps Detroit’s most prominent Jewish leader — tirelessly promoting social welfare and civic good in Detroit, America and overseas.

When Butzel passed away, the headline on page 4 of the June 4, 1948, issue of the JN read: “Jewry Delighted to Honor This Great Man.” The page was full of tributes to Butzel from around the nation. It was natural that, three years later, Federation named its most prestigious award after him.

The William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History mentions the Butzel Award on 377 pages. It was first given to Julian Krolik in 1951. Since then, an additional 82 awardees have been named. To use a boxing metaphor, the men and women on this list are the heavyweights, a diverse group of Jews who have outstanding records of service to the community and immense civic accomplishments.

In 1955, Dora Ehrlich was the first woman to receive the Butzel. Since then, 14 women have Butzel Awards on their resumes, as well as six couples, beginning with Frieda and Phillip Stollman in 1980 (although two couples received the award in different years). Larry Jackier followed in his parent’s footsteps in 2008; Edythe and Joseph H. Jackier was the second couple to be given a Butzel in 1985. A pair of brothers, Abraham and Tom Borman, were presented with the award in 1967. To say the least, the names on the Butzel Award list represent the folks who have had a tremendous impact upon Detroit’s Jewish community, Detroit and Israel.

This week, Norm Pappas was added to the list. Pappas was born in Midland and lived in several places around the state, including Marquette. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and an M.B.A. from Michigan State University, and soon became a highly successful businessman. Along the way, he married Susie in 1971. Moreover, Pappas has a superb track record of service to the Detroit community and Israel. He is certainly someone who meets all the criteria of a true leader. I like the opening line of a story written about Pappas by Vivian Henoch (Sept. 12, page 18) that sums-up his role in Detroit as a leader, mentor, adviser and mensch. Need help? “Talk to Norm.”

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

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