Windsor Stories in the JN
(William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History)

The pages of the Detroit Jewish Chronicle and JN provide indisputable proof of close communal ties between Jewish Detroiters and Windsorites.

This week and next, intrepid JN reporter Danny Schwartz is featuring Congregation Beth El and Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, both of Windsor, in his weekly “Synagogue Spotlight.” 

As most of us know, many Michiganders and Detroiters currently have Canadian relatives or, at the least, Canadian ancestors. This is certainly the case for Jewish Michiganders (or Michiganians, depending upon your personal taste in state monikers).

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
Alene and Graham Landau Archivist Chair

Inspired, I decided to explore the nature of Windsor-Detroit Jewish relationships in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History. In short, the pages of the Detroit Jewish Chronicle and JN provide indisputable proof of close communal ties between Jewish Detroiters and Windsorites. 

By the way, Congregation Beth El and Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, Windsor, are mentioned on more than 2,000 pages in the Archive.

Jewish communities in both Windsor and Detroit have long histories. The first Jew to settle in Sandwich was Moses David in 1790 (Sandwich was one of several villages incorporated into the city of Windsor in 1935). Chapman Abraham, a fur trader from Montreal, was the first recorded Jew in Detroit in 1762. This was one year after the first Jew in Michigan, Ezekiel Solomon, another fur trader, arrived at Fort Michilimackinac, now Mackinaw City, Michigan.

From 1929
William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

Beginning in 1916, “Windsor” is mentioned on 14,100 pages of the Archive. Whew! Of course, many citations relate to Windsor Street in Metro Detroit (there is a Detroit Street in Windsor), stores and restaurants in Windsor (the JN’s Danny Raskin loved the Tunnel BBQ) and Windsor shoes (I must admit — fashion-horse that I am — that I did not realize England’s Duke of Windsor inspired such stylish shoes). Beyond those types of references, however, the Davidson Archive holds a lot of stories about Windsor’s Jewish community.

The first mention of Windsor was in the April 21, 1916, Chronicle, the newspaper’s eighth issue. It was an announcement for the “decided success” of a “Maccabean play” presented at a benefit for Jewish War Sufferers. From that time forward, the Society Pages of the Chronicle and JN hold thousands of items regarding synagogue and societal news from Windsor. 

Over the years, the Archive also published thousands of advertisements for Windsor businesses and products. Sometimes, the ads provided evidence of cross-river business partnerships. For example, see the 1917 ads for Royal Salad Dressing from Horton-Cato Mfg. Co. based in Windsor and Detroit. Many of us have shopped in Windsor stores such as the famous Freed’s, featured in the Dec. 1, 2005, JN.

From 1987
William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

Hundreds of marriages between Detroiters and Windsorites have been announced in the Chronicle and JN. For a more in-depth look at love across the Detroit River, see “Cross-Border Bliss” by Ronelle Grier. It states that: “Wedding a Windsorite can be ‘the best of both worlds’ (Aug. 1, 2003).” An earlier article, “Tunnel of Love,” discusses how “Windsorites like Allen Feur look for people to date across the border and elsewhere (July 10, 1987).” 

The JN also holds stories about other cross-border events. Jewish Detroiters have attended “Windsor Reunions” (June 28, 2018). The Jewish Historical Society of Michigan has sponsored tours of Jewish sites in Windsor (Aug. 1, 2013).

Jewish Detroit has a historic, intimate relationship with Windsor. It’s been a love affair since the 18th century. 

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

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