Charlevoix
Charlevoix

Charlevoix, in the northwest part of the state on the shores of Lake Michigan, has been a summer destination for generations of Detroit Jews.

The summer is winding down. It’s been an unusual season for most of us, with fewer trips Up North and more staycations. It seems a long time ago — but it has only been a little over year — since the July 11, 2019, issue of JN had an excellent feature story, “Charlevoix the Beautiful,” by Jennifer Lovy.

Lovy made the point that Charlevoix, in the northwest part of the state on the shores of Lake Michigan, has been a summer destination for generations of Detroit Jews. A search in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History certainly supports this conclusion. A search for “Charlevoix” in the Archive showed 3,577 pages that mentioned this name. To be sure, some pages referred to Charlevoix Street in Detroit, but the bulk of the pages had stories or advertisements about Charlevoix, the summer vacation spot.

Charlevoix
William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

 

I found announcements from the 1920s and 1930s in the Jewish Chronicle’s “Activities in Society” columns (the “social media” of the day) that noted who was visiting who in Charlevoix to stories of Camp Sea-Gull on Lake Charlevoix with its song: “North, south and east and west, our camp has always been the best” (June 8, 2017, JN).

One can also find lots of advertisements for resorts in Charlevoix, like the Hilltop Hotel, the Tower Hotel and Bern’s Guest House with “Kosher Style Cooking” (Bern’s ad is a little confusing — is it kosher or just sort of like kosher?). Speaking of food, Danny Raskin’s columns over the years often included readers’ mini-reviews of restaurants in and near Charlevoix and other stores in the area.

Charlevoix
William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

Yes, Charlevoix had something for everybody, including gangs of hoodlums that attacked Jews … Wait a minute? What’s this? Gangs attacking Jews in Charlevoix, such a vacation paradise? 

This is a story I had never heard before, but as I was conducting research for a recent “Looking Back” on VJ day, I saw a headline on the front page on the Aug. 31, 1945, issue of the Chronicle: “Charlevoix Acts to Curb Attacks Against Jews.” The report was about tensions between local young men and boys and the Jewish vacationers that summer. The culminating event was an attack on Jewish youth at the beach on Aug. 23. 

Charlevoix
William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

The story notes that the authorities in Charlevoix were appalled and acted swiftly. Police patrols were beefed up and a citizens’ committee was formed to deal with the issue, which included a rabbi from Hillel at Ohio State University, the director of the Detroit Jewish Community Council and other prominent people. Rabbi Leo Franklin of Temple Beth El also consulted with the mayor of Charlevoix.

In the end, as reported in the Sept. 14, 1945, issue of the JN, 10 young men from Charlevoix pled guilty to disturbing the peace and assaulting the “Detroiters,” and were given a year’s probation. By this time, the Jewish vacationers had returned to the city and school, and the incident was over. 

Charlevoix
William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

While we have — sad to say — witnessed a recent rise in antisemtism, Charlevoix has only grown as a great destination for Jewish vacationers. Hoodlums no longer attack Jews in “Charlevoix the Beautiful” today. 

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

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