Tag Archives: jews

800 pack Jewish Community Center in Oak Park, Michigan, to stop it from closing

Hundreds jammed the Jewish Community Center in Oak Park Monday night to strongly object to the center’s closing, accusing Jewish leaders of favoring the wealthy in the community.

It was standing-room only inside the center as residents lined up to blast the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and Jewish Community Center leaders for moving to close the center. About 800 attended, with police preventing additional people from entering because of fire safety regulations.

Leaders are “only caring about the country-club set instead of worrying about those in need,” said Alan Hitsky, 69, of Southfield, to loud applause.

“Something has to be done to save it,” said Tova Schreiber, 26, of Oak Park. “It provides a very valuable service for different segments of the community.”

Some at the Monday discussion suggested setting up a grassroots fund to raise money to save the center, with one woman writing a $1,000 check.

Alan Hitsky, 69, of Southfield, speaks out against the closing of the Jewish Community Center in Oak Park, Michigan, on Jan. 12, Monday.

“I have tears in my eyes,” Florine Mark, president of the Jewish Community Center, said at the meeting. “I’m so proud of this Jewish community. I just got a check for $1,000. Let’s save this building.”

But center officials stressed Monday that any such effort to save the building would probably have to be independent of the Jewish Community Center.

Leaders with the center and Federation are recommending the center be closed because it is losing up to $1 million a year. The plan has led to a sharp pushback from some in the Oak Park area, with a petition against the closing drawing 650 signatures so far, said Aaron Tobin, 53, of Oak Park, who opposes closing the center.

The meeting on Monday night was to hear the concerns of the public; all of the speakers from the audience opposed the closing.

“We’re not abandoning this neighborhood,” said Scott Kaufman, CEO of the Jewish Federation. “We’re going to continue servicing the community, but at a price we can afford.”

Built in 1956, the Jewish Commmunity Center in Oak Park is the oldest and smaller of the two main Jewish community centers that is largely funded by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. The other center is in West Bloomfield. Residents say the closing of the Oak Park center would hurt the Orthodox and less wealthy members of the community, who tend to be more concentrated in the Oak Park area.

In fiscal year 2013-14, the Jewish Community Centers in Oak Park and West Bloomfield lost close to $1.4 million, said Jim Issner, interim executive director of the Jewish Community Center. The centers were projected to lose $1.2 million for fiscal year 2014-2015.

“They have been losing a significant amount of money for a number of years,” said Issner. “A significant portion of the losses can be attributed to the Oak Park facility.”

But Issner says he understands the concerns that some may have.

“No one is taking this lightly,” he said.

Schreiber said that Jewish leaders are not aware that a growing number of young Jewish people have moved to the Oak Park area in recent years.

She said the center is a great place for different denominations in the Jewish community, and age groups, can come together.

“It would really be a shame if it closed,” she said.

Marvin Berman, 80, of Southfield, suggested teaming up with the Chaldean community to create a joint Jewish-Chaldean center. He also said the Federation should spend more locally on the community than on helping Israel.

“The needs of the local community are more important than the financial needs of Israel,” Berman said.

Shirley Zimberg, 84, of Southfield, said the center plays an important role.

The Oak Park center “offers a face-to-face experience for all people, young and old, disabled, all kinds of religions and races,” she said.

Contact Niraj Warikoo: nwarikoo@freepress.com or 313-223-4792, Follow him on Twitter @nwarikoo

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Interview with Rev. Gary Hall, Episcopal priest who’s new dean at Washington National Cathedral

Rev. Gary Hall, new dean of Washington National Cathedral. Photo credit: Washington National Cathedral

The new dean of Washington National Cathedral, Rev. Gary Hall, made headlines in recent weeks with his calls for gun control and announcing that the cathedral – considered America’s house of worship – will perform gay marriages.

His previous position was rector of the biggest Episcopal church in Michigan, Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills. Before he left, Rev. Hall spoke with Niraj Warikoo of the Detroit Free Press on a range of issues.
——————————————-

Cranbrook rector bound for D.C. talks religion, politics

 By Niraj Warikoo

Free Press Staff Writer

Published in Detroit Free Press on Sunday, 10/7/2012

Page: 7A

     Raised in Hollywood amid celebrities as the son of a noted actor, Rev. Gary Hall wasn’t into church during his early years.  But that changed after he learned about the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s. He remembers Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visiting southern California and hearing Malcolm X speak when he was a teenager. He once wrote jokes for TV host Steve Allen, who influenced his social views. And during his freshman year at Yale, the university’s chaplain was arrested on the steps of the Pentagon, another act that drew Hall to liberal Christianity.

Last week, Hall, 62, became dean of Washington National Cathedral, the national seat of the Episcopal Church and considered America’s house of worship. The move came after he served as rector at Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, the biggest Episcopal Church in Michigan. He was also the chaplain at Cranbrook’s high school.

“There are people in this parish that think I have dangerously, crazy ideas about things, ” he jokes about his progressive beliefs.

Hall’s new position will put his liberal views on the national stage at a time when religion and politics are hotly contested issues. He wants to make the cathedral a place of interfaith dialogue and “conversation about the role of religion in public life, ” Hall said.

There are churches that “show you a kind of angry, not welcoming Christianity, ” Hall explained from his office. “We want to be the other side of that, to show there’s a humane, hospitable, inclusive, tolerant Christianity.”

Hall, who received a doctorate in English, spoke with the Free Press on a range of topics, from marriage to politics to other religions.

Among the conversation topics:

On religion and public policy: “I’m a believer in the separation of church and state. The First Amendment says: Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or the free exercise thereof…. It’s a very hard case to make that America ever was a Christian nation. I think it’s naïve to say the founders were Christian, that biblical values are behind the Constitution…. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean (religious people) shouldn’t have a voice in public policy. Faith communities taking positions on public policy matters is an important and established part of our public life.

“What I don’t think is appropriate is for one tradition to try to impose its own moral point of view on the populace.”

On the role of religion in presidential politics: “I get nervous when certain religious groups want to make religious faith a sort of litmus test. The religious affiliation of any candidate is unimportant to me. And whether or not God is mentioned in (either) party platform is unimportant to me. What’s important to me are the social values that are being advocated in that platform.”

On non-Christian faiths: “I do believe there is truth in every tradition. I’m not about trying to convert someone to Christianity. I don’t feel I’m supposed to convert Jews or Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists or Native Americans to Christianity so that they can be saved. That’s not an issue for me….

“I have much more in common with progressive Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists than I do with certain people in my own tradition, with fundamentalist Christians. The part of Christianity I stand with is the part in which we can live with ambiguity and with pluralism….

“I taught at Cranbrook a class (this year) where I had to teach the Quran, which I read for the first time in my life. I was stunned by how beautiful it was.”

On gay marriage: (Hall edited and contributed to a 2009 book used by Episcopalians: “Christian Holiness and Human Sexuality, ” which supports gay marriage.) “I don’t understand the argument when people say: ‘Gay marriage threatens your marriage.’ I want to say to them: ‘No, Britney Spears being married for a day and a half threatens your marriage. Or these reality TV shows. The gay and lesbian people I know take marriage as seriously as straight couples….

“I think straight people have a lot to learn from gay and lesbian families, about what real mutuality and real sharing is. (With gay couples), things are much more mutual and shared and equal. And I think that’s a powerful witness that straight people like me can learn from.”

Contact Niraj Warikoo: 313-223-4792 or nwarikoo@freepress.com or Twitter.com/nwarikoo

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Jews in metro Detroit mark Purim with eye on Iran

Click here to read my story about how the ancient story of Purim still resonates today for many Jewish people as they worry about Iran.

Leave a comment

Filed under Israel, jewish, Niraj Warikoo