Attendees of the luncheon: Sharon Alterman, Robbie Terman, Arlene Gould, Joyce Blum, Edwina Davis, Laura Gottlieb, Carol Ogusky, Dorothy Collens, Jeannie Weiner, Wendy Goldberg, Adrienne Magidson, Leslee Magidson, Audrey Sobel and Aimee Ergas.
Attendees of the luncheon: Sharon Alterman, Robbie Terman, Arlene Gould, Joyce Blum, Edwina Davis, Laura Gottlieb, Carol Ogusky, Dorothy Collens, Jeannie Weiner, Wendy Goldberg, Adrienne Magidson, Leslee Magidson, Audrey Sobel and Aimee Ergas. (Arnie Collens)

The June 18 centennial celebration was extra special because it was the first time the group met in person since COVID struck in 2020.

In 1922 the first insulin injection was given, the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated, the British Mandate for Palestine began — and the Saturday Luncheon Club was started.

Now celebrating its centennial, the club is perhaps the best-kept secret in the Detroit Jewish community, with barely a mention in the Jewish News’ archives.

Most of the 55 club members, along with a few guests, gathered at the Village Club in Bloomfield Hills June 18 for a celebratory luncheon that also recognized Sally Schottenfels, 97, as the club’s longest-tenured member.

Saturday Luncheon Club honored its longest member, Sally Schottenfels (seated), who joined in 1960. Around her are SallyJo Levine, Joyce Blum, Carolyn Schreiber, Susan Egly and Lois Frank.
Saturday Luncheon Club honored its longest member, Sally Schottenfels (seated), who joined in 1960. Around her are SallyJo Levine, Joyce Blum, Carolyn Schreiber, Susan Agley and Lois Frank. Arnie Collens

The origins of the Saturday Luncheon Club, where members take turns presenting research papers at meetings, are lost in time. There are two versions of its beginnings. 

One account is that Ruth Franklin Einstein, a Vassar graduate and daughter of Temple Beth El’s Rabbi Leo Franklin and his wife, Hattie, was looking for a way to use her college education in an era when proper young ladies did not work outside the home. Her parents suggested she invite some friends to form a club where they could meet monthly over lunch to build friendships and present papers on topics that interested them.

The other version is that a similar group was already in existence, with older members. They invited Ruth to join because she was the daughter of the city’s most prominent rabbi, but they weren’t keen on bringing other young women into the group. So Ruth started her own group, with six of her friends. The older club disappeared as its members died off.

Ruth’s co-members in the Saturday Luncheon Club were Regene Freund Cohane, Carolyn Epstein, Rae Finsterwald Steele, Minnie Goldsmith Rand, Della Imerman Meyers and Irene Rosenberg.

Though it has grown since then, the club’s structure has changed little since its early days. Members meet at a restaurant or club eight times a year. The gathering on the third Saturday of June is purely social. On the third Saturdays of September, October, November, December, March, April and May, members take turns delivering research papers on subjects of their choosing. 

New members must be invited to join, said past president Sharon Alterman of West Bloomfield, and the bylaws cap the number of members at 55. That’s large enough so that members don’t have to prepare a paper more than once every seven or eight years but small enough so that they don’t have to wait 12 or 15 years for their turn to present, Alterman explained. The youngest member is 29; the oldest is 97. Though there’s nothing in the bylaws about religion, all current members are Jewish.

Most new members are in their 50s, joining when their children leave the nest, and they have more time. Those over 80 are not required to present papers — though many choose to do so, Alterman said. 

The Leonard N. Simons Jewish Community Archives at the Jewish Federation building in Bloomfield Hills has minutes of club meetings and papers dating back to 1943.

Reading some of the old papers can be chilling, said Robbie Terman, archive director. The oldest paper, by Josephine Weiner, was titled “Disposed” and concerned the slaughter of Jews in Europe. The author said perhaps a million Jews could be killed in the war, when we now know how much higher the actual number was. “The Argentine,” a paper by Ada Glazer presented in 1945, talks about how Nazis might find a haven in Argentina, which turned out to be the case.

The June 18 centennial celebration was extra special because it was the first time the group met in person since COVID struck in 2020.

The board of the Saturday Luncheon Club: Carol Ogusky, Lynn Lieberman, Wendy Goldberg, Randie Levin (president), Sue Kalisky, Cathy Cantor and Audrey Sobel.
The board of the Saturday Luncheon Club: Carol Ogusky, Lynn Lieberman, Wendy Goldberg, Randie Levin (president), Sue Kalisky, Cathy Cantor and Audrey Sobel. Arnie Collens

Schottenfels, 87, of Pleasant Ridge, did not know she would be honored at the luncheon. Widowed at 57, she earned a master’s degree in social work from Wayne State University and worked for many years for Oakland Family Services. She was a founder of Orchard’s Children’s Services and is a past president of the local chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women.

Schottenfels joined the Saturday Luncheon Club in 1960. Her papers have included “The Great City Schools Improvement Plan,” “Continuum,” “Foreign Students” and “Transactional Analysis.”

Alterman, a member since 1990, chaired the committee planning the centennial celebration, which included a program of music by Jewish composers with pianist Alvin Wattles and his trio. Alterman, of West Bloomfield, served for many years as the Jewish Federation’s archivist and was able to find some old photos of club meetings, as well as some dresses from the 1920s, to decorate the room.

Sixty-five women attended, including some former members and relatives of deceased members.

Current president Randie Levin of Bloomfield Township, who retired as director of agency relations for the Jewish Federation, joined the club in 2000. 

“What I like best is getting to know the members. It’s quite a diverse group of women, most of whom I didn’t know before,” she said. “The papers are so interesting. I like that there’s no restrictions of what subject is chosen.”

Levin has presented papers about Kalamazoo, her hometown, Orchards Children’s Services on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, and Louisa May Alcott. 

Nancy Bechek Bluth, former development director for ADL Michigan, is the second generation of her family to join the club. “My mother was a member forever, and her first cousin was almost one of the original members,” she said. She has presented papers on water management in Las Vegas and the Syrian/Israeli/American alliance providing assistance to Syrian war refugees. 

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