Spend some time immersed in the wonders of the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History.

OK. In the midst of the COVID-19 virus, you’ve been sheltering at home, unless you are an essential worker. Even then, after work, you likely spend most of your time at home.

And, by now, you are tired of playing cards and board games, you have binge-watched television shows and movies, the linen closet is now in perfect order and all the tools on the work bench are in their proper places.

Everything that doesn’t move has been cleaned, and even if they do move around — like your kids — they’ve been scrubbed as well. But you are still a bit bored. What do you do now?

I have a solution for you, actually, a good activity — virus or not. Spend some time immersed in the wonders of the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History.
The Archive is online, free and very easy to use. Most of all, it is very personal, about you, your family and your community. It is a history of Jews at-large in Detroit and Michigan, but it is very likely that you will find stories of yourself and your family among the pages of the Archive. Finally, it is guaranteed to be easy and, most of all, lots of fun!

So, let’s begin. Go to the Jewish News Foundation website at djnfoundation.org. Once there, click on the ”Archive” button. You will be asked to register, just basic information that we do not share with anyone.

After submitting your registration, click on “Enter the Archive.” You will see a search box. From there, it’s a very simple operation. Type your search term into the search box. Be sure to place the search term within quotation marks. Hit the “Enter” button and you are on your way.

What to search for, you ask? Start with your family or yourself. Was there an announcement in JN for your bar/bat mitzvah or your graduation? Maybe Mom and Dad’s wedding? A story about your grandfather or grandmother? Is there a family business? Or are you interested in stories of a particular synagogue? Did your grandfather serve in World War II? Was your mom or grandmother active in Hadassah? How about that summer camp you went to? The options are endless.

So, try entering your name or that of a family member in the search box. Be sure to use both formal and nicknames. For example, if you were searching for “Bill” Berman, you would also find entries under Mandell Berman. If searching for a family business, try all variables. I recently wrote about Joe Cornell for the JN. While searching, I first entered “Joe Cornell.” I soon discovered that there was “Joe Cornell Entertainment” and “Joe Cornell School of Dance.” Names also change over the years.

Not everyone or everything will be found in the Archive, of course, but I’ll bet you will find something of interest. The Jewish News and the Jewish Chronicle covered a lot of stories over the past 100 years.

WARNING: Use of the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit can be addictive. Be prepared to spend more time with it than you ever imagined (especially in our current stay-at-home mode.) Happy hunting!


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