A Message from Steven Ingber Federation Chief Executive Officer.
I wanted to take a moment to share some information on what was a very eventful week for both our global and local Detroit Jewish community.
To begin with, I just got back from a brief trip to Israel that I had planned in order to spend some time with our Motor City Mission. My plans changed, however, when I was invited to join an unprecedented “fly-in session” organized by JFNA to engage in open dialogue with Israeli leaders on concerns relating to the proposed judicial reforms.
Detroit was among over 30 communities in attendance. The impetus behind this effort came from our deep love and unbreakable bond with the Jewish state. We were there to maintain our strong and historical support, as well as to affirm the importance and concern we hold for Israel’s democratic institutions.
We held meetings with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, key Knesset members from both the coalition and opposition and several business leaders. We came to listen and learn, as well as to convey the views of our communities. In light of the unprecedented nature of this crisis, we supported the efforts of President Herzog to help forge a compromise and urged all sides to pursue an agreement that will be acceptable to the broad majority of Israelis.
We left this visit determined to never abandon our support of Israel, but also to work to ensure that it is the model democracy envisioned in its Declaration of Independence.
On a more personal note, I was moved and grateful for the opportunity to represent our community at these sessions, and proud of the close and deeply committed relationship Detroit has always had with Israel.
I also had a chance to join the Motor City Mission as I’d originally planned. More than 125 people are on the trip, over half of whom are visiting Israel for the first time in their lives. Watching the life-changing impact of their experience was yet another reminder of Israel’s essential meaning and importance to us as Jews.
While there, I also kept in close communication on the very disturbing incident at the Bloomfield Hills High School diversity assembly. As most of you know, a controversial speaker named Huwaida Arraf spoke at several student assemblies focused on diversity and inclusion. Her antisemitic and anti-Israel remarks were deeply upsetting to the many Jewish students who attended, and the school’s initial attempts to address this were vague and unresponsive to the offensive and harmful extent of the incident. (See story, p. 22.)
As soon as word got out, a group of Jewish community leaders — including rabbis, the JCRC/AJC, and the Jewish Federation — intervened to ensure that the school district understood the severity of the situation and was prepared to take swift steps to address what happened, in the immediate term as well as for the future. Following this effort, BHHS Superintendent Pat Watson released a statement that acknowledged the seriousness of the mistakes that were made and detailed a number of corrective actions, including a commitment to plan and implement staff training to actively identify and address antisemitism. We remain engaged with the school and district administration, as well as our community partners, to make sure the school follows through on its commitments.
This remains a troubling and painful incident for many, and we are still actively involved in measures to support the students, parents, and community members who have been affected. We ask the community to remain patient and supportive of the process, and we will continue to keep you informed.
I can’t help but close this message with a reflection on the relevance and centrality of the Jewish Federation. Whether we are working to help solve a historic political challenge in Israel, fighting against the scourge of antisemitism in our local community, or leading over a hundred community members on a life-changing journey, Federation is uniquely positioned to serve the Jewish people.
Thank you for the support and leadership that makes this possible. It truly matters after a week like this—as well as every day—in more ways than we can count.