Suzanne and Burton Shifman, then and now.
Suzanne and Burton Shifman, then and now. (Courtesy of the Shifmans)

The Shifmans met at a St. Patrick’s Day party in 1950 while students at the University of Michigan, hit it off and corresponded for months until their first date in the late summer.

Burton and Suzanne Shifman of West Bloomfield are celebrating a landmark achievement on June 19: their 70th wedding anniversary.

As prominent members of the community for decades, Burton is the president of the Ravitz Foundation and has served as president of Michigan’s Jewish National Fund Council. He was a recipient of JSL’s Eight Over Eighty award in 2016. Suzanne has served on the advisory board of the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Detroit and on the executive council of the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan.

The Shifmans met at a St. Patrick’s Day party in 1950 while students at the University of Michigan, hit it off and corresponded for months until their first date in the late summer. 

“I remember after our first date that he was very easy to talk to,” Suzanne said. “He’s very easy to talk to now as well. I think that’s what attracted me to him. I felt very much at ease with him right away.” 

The couple got married on June 19, 1951, at Shaarey Zedek on Chicago Boulevard. 

The expansion of their family has served as a highlight for the Shifmans in their 70 years of marriage. “The birth of our children was a very special time, and the raising of our children and the gift of grandchildren and two great-grandchildren … it’s been a great joy to us,” Suzanne said.

The Shifmans have also traveled the world extensively throughout their marriage, with notable trips to Israel, New Guinea, Africa, South America, trips throughout Asia, including China, Japan and Burma, and a number of trips to Russia.

“We’ve been almost everywhere,” Burton said. “The only place we’ve never been is Antarctica. Other than that, every other continent of the world we’ve been.” 

Along with “good luck and good health,” the couple’s family ties played an important role in the strength of the marriage.

“Burt’s mother was a lovely person, she was very inclusive, so as soon as we became engaged, she took in my family and they became her family, too,” Suzanne said. 

Sense of Community

The Shifmans also believe their close ties to the community serve as an important aspect of their marriage. 

“The Jewish community of Detroit was a place we grew up in and felt part of, and still do, and it’s the preservation of that community that’s important to us,” Burton said. “It really is related to our marriage.”

Plans for the anniversary include a Shifman family get-together in early July. 

With 70 years of companionship behind them, the Shifmans have advice for newlyweds and young couples. 

“Have some common values,” said Burton. 

“Have perseverance and a refusal to give up, and be kind to your partner,” Suzanne added.