Barbara “Bunny” Kukes Kratchman
Barbara “Bunny” Kukes Kratchman. (William Davidson Archive of Digital Detroit History)

There are too many career highlights to name for Barbara “Bunny” Kukes Kratchman in this column.

The editorial staff recently conducted brief interviews with Mumford High School’s 1960 Jewish graduates for the JN’s 80th Anniversary Issue, which will be published next week. I greatly enjoyed interviewing four of them, all very genial and all highly accomplished. One of my assigned interviewees was Barbara “Bunny” Kukes Kratchman. 

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
Alene and Graham Landau Archivist Chair

First, let me let you in on a little secret. At the outset of my interview with Kratchman, I learned that, although most people know her as “Bunny,” she really doesn’t like her nickname. I will honor her wishes.

My interview with Bun… ah, I mean, Barbara, was a lot of fun. We had a few laughs, and I learned a bit about her career. Then, when writing my “Looking Back” about the new Top Gun movie a few days later, there she was again, quoted in an article about Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Nov. 10, 2005, JN). So, I just had to see what I could find about Barbara in the William Davidson Archive of Digital Detroit History. 

First, Barbara is mentioned on hundreds of pages. She grew up in Northwest Detroit and graduated from Mumford and the University of Michigan. After sojourns in California, Washington, D.C., and Cleveland, Barbara returned to Detroit to stay. She is married to Michael Kratchman, and they have four sons, a daughter and six grandchildren.

Barbara’s work and interests are intertwined; that is, politics and the arts. There are too many career highlights to name in this column. I would need a few pages to note them all, but perhaps Barbara’s greatest impact upon our state began when Michigan Gov. James Blanchard appointed her director of the Michigan Council for the Arts. 

From 2006
From 2006 William Davidson Archive of Digital Detroit History

Since that time, Barbara has been profoundly engaged in supporting the arts in our city and state. For example, in addition to the Council, she was the founding President of ArtServe, 1997-2007. In 2008, Barbara received the Governor’s Art Advocate Award. Recently, Barbara was instrumental in establishing the Creative Expressions Program with Kadima — now known as Gesher after Kadima merged with JVS (Sept. 25, 2021, JN).

To understand Barbara’s passion for the arts, read her letter in the Aug. 15, 2013, JN. Its message is that “Support for Arts must be [a] Jewish Communal Priority” in our modern society is still relevant today.

The Archive also provides a vivid portrait of Barbara as someone who has made significant contributions to various cultural endeavors beyond art itself. For example, the Jewish Ensemble Theater honored her work in 2010 (Aug. 26, 2010, JN). Barbara also served as a member of the advisory board for the Detroit Public TV and Sue Marx documentary Detroit Remember When: The Jewish Community (Nov. 20, 2008).

From 1917.
From 1917. William Davidson Archive of Digital Detroit History

Barbara was also a “Cover Girl” for the JN, appearing on the cover of the Nov. 9, 2017, issue of the JN with Mary Romaya. The featured story of that issue was about the new Chaldean Museum. Indeed, Barbara is mentioned in several JN stories regarding efforts to build relationships between the Metro Detroit Jewish and Chaldean communities.

The moral here is — Barbara doesn’t sit still. She is still actively supporting the arts, as well as local Jewish communal organizations, the Federation and Shaarey Zedek. I had a blast chatting with her. 

Barbara was also a “Cover Girl” for the JN, appearing on the cover of the Nov. 9, 2017
Barbara was also a “Cover Girl” for the JN, appearing on the cover of the Nov. 9, 2017. William Davidson Archive of Digital Detroit History

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

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