Category: 2018

Annual Christmas Day Tradition Continues

November 14, 2018 –Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC (JCRC/AJC) will host its 22nd Annual Mitzvah Day this Christmas Day at nonprofit organizations throughout metropolitan Detroit. The word “mitzvah” is Hebrew for “commandment,” and commonly refers to performing a good deed. The daylong event is held in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

On Tuesday, December 25, nearly 1,000 volunteers of all ages will visit a growing list of nearly 40 locations to work shifts beginning as early as 6:30 a.m. and ending as late as 6:30 p.m. Activities available at these social service projects will range from meal and toy delivery to visiting with older adults and cleaning out storage closets. Volunteers have several weeks to pre-register for a specific site, such as Detroit Rescue Mission, Mariners Inn and Cass Community Social Services, as well as the VA Hospital, Michigan Humane Society, Jewish Community Center and Sanctum House, which are all new to Mitzvah Day this year.

Mitzvah Day, which is the single largest day of volunteering by Detroit’s Jewish community, was founded in 1996 by JCRC in order to fill staff shortages or to allow organizations to reduce staffing on Christmas Day. It has grown exponentially since then and now includes several interfaith sites, which are coordinated in partnership with the Michigan Muslim Community Council.

“It’s truly special to see returning and new individuals, groups and multi-generational families come together to perform meaningful acts on Christmas Day,” said JCRC/AJC Executive Director David Kurzmann.

“This year, giving to others will take on a special meaning to many of our volunteers, given recent events. Members of our community are eager to reciprocate the good deeds we experienced following the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.”

The 2018 co-chairs are JCRC/AJC Board Members Micki Grossman, Milt Neuman, Illana Stern and Ellen Yashinsky Chute.  

Site registration is available through December 20 at Volunteers under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. For more information, contact Naomi Levine at 248-642-2656 or


JCRC/AJC Responds to Surge of Violence in Israel

November 13, 2018 – The Jewish community of metropolitan Detroit stands in solidarity with Israel as it faces the worst surge of violence since the 2014 Hamas-Israel war.  More than 400 rockets have been fired by Hamas at civilian targets in southern Israel over the past 24 hours.

While Israel’s Iron Dome Missile Defense System has intercepted one-quarter of these rockets, many buildings and other structures have been hit. Sadly, this barrage of rockets has resulted in many injuries.  A 48-year-old Palestinian man lost his life when a rocket from Gaza struck an apartment building in Ashkelon, Israel.

As the rocket fire continues, life for those in the cities affected has come to a halt – schools have been closed, all public events have been canceled and residents have been told to stay in or close to bomb shelters. To help protect these people, the IDF is moving additional tanks and infantry units to the Gaza border region and striking terrorist locations throughout Gaza.

Here in metropolitan Detroit, we are monitoring the situation closely and with great concern, but from afar. However, tomorrow we will welcome Gil Hoffman, the political correspondent and analyst for The Jerusalem Post, to two events where he will provide insight into Israeli politics and the relationship between Israeli and American Jews. Now, he undoubtedly will address this escalation in violence and explain how Israel is responding.

We remain hopeful that a ceasefire will follow soon and we keep the victims, families and individuals in southern Israel in our thoughts.


Update: Community Solidarity Events in Honor of Pittsburgh

October 28, 2018 – As a follow up to our email this afternoon, we are writing to share an update about community solidarity gatherings taking place this week.

A list of vigils confirmed to take place throughout the community can be found below.

Monday, October 29

6 p.m.: Community-Wide Vigil in Capitol Park – JCRC/AJC is one of the numerous co-sponsors.

6:30 p.m.: Teen Vigil at Temple Israel

Tuesday, October 30

6:30 p.m.: Interfaith Vigil at Temple Beth El

7:30 p.m.: Interfaith Vigil at Congregation Beth Shalom (hosted with Temple Emanu-El)

Friday, November 2 and Saturday, November 3

Solidarity Shabbat Service at Congregations throughout the community

The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit has set up a web page for information about solidarity events. We encourage you to check this page for updates:

We Mourn the Victims in Pittsburgh and Stand in Solidarity

October 28, 2018 – JCRC/AJC mourns the 11 Jews murdered at Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh yesterday. We pray for those wounded, including the police officers who were injured in the line of duty. The horror of a synagogue being targeted on Shabbat, on the morning of a bris, is the worst nightmares of our community come to fruition. We are shaken to our core. This hate crime not only inflicts immense pain on those who were attacked, but also terrorizes the entire Jewish community. We are strong and resilient. We will not cower in the face of such evil.

We are grateful for the many expressions of support and sympathy from the diverse communities of metropolitan Detroit. Community leaders and individuals have raised their voices publicly and privately to let us know that we do not stand alone in our pain and grief. These expressions of solidarity strengthen us in this dark time.

As the tragedy unfolded yesterday, JCRC/AJC’s first focus was to fulfill our role as the media spokesperson for the Jewish community. We worked closely with local news outlets to make sure that the voice of the local Jewish community was represented in their stories. Some of our published and recorded comments can be found at the bottom of this e-mail.

We commend the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit for their eloquent community message, which can be read here, and thank them for their partnership with JCRC/AJC as we work together to respond to this tragedy.

JCRC/AJC and our partners are working now on opportunities for the community to mourn together. We will share updates as soon as the details are available. Please follow our Facebook page for updates and when plans are confirmed, we will email you again.

We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh and communities nationwide. May those who are injured find complete healing and may the memories of those lost forever be a blessing.

Detroit Free Press




Community Briefing: Response to Events at the University of Michigan

October 10, 2018 – Over the past few weeks, events have unfolded at the University of Michigan that are deeply troubling. First, a professor reversed his decision to provide a letter of recommendation to a student wishing to study abroad when he learned that the student intended to study in Tel Aviv. Second, a guest lecturer in the Stamps School of Art and Design gave a presentation that included a grotesque image equating Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Adolf Hitler. Earlier this week, we learned of a second instructor denying a letter of recommendation to a student who intended to study in Israel.

We are disturbed by these incidents on campus that have understandably drawn the attention and concern of many within our community – locally and beyond. We feel your frustration and we share your concerns. We know that many people are anxious to see a response from the University. To that end, we are in close contact with the University’s leadership, and have made a number of strong recommendations in private conversation. We are pleased that some of these recommendations have been enacted very recently, including the University taking action to discipline the professor who denied the first student a letter of recommendation.

Read more in this article from The Detroit News.

This latest news is an important step in the right direction, but more work remains. The proposed policies and programs listed below are specific actions that we are seeking from the University to address recent incidents and to create meaningful change going forward.

Federation, JCRC/AJC and ADL are working together in partnership with Hillel at the University of Michigan to ensure a safe and supportive campus environment for Jewish students. This remains our top priority. No student should feel targeted or isolated because of their support for Israel.

Proposed Policies and Programs for University of Michigan

The University’s commitment to inclusive excellence must have means for addressing campus climate. This effort needs to specifically include issues affecting Jewish students and issues of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism. Discrimination, bias and harassment have no place at a university. All federal and state anti-discrimination laws apply and must be implemented through an institutional accountability framework for addressing allegations and supporting victims as well as providing due process for the accused.

It is in that vein that we call upon the University to do the following:

  1. Establish a University policy on letters of recommendation: In light of the multiple incidents in which students have been denied letters of recommendation, we call upon the University to set up guidelines for such letters so that students wishing to go abroad for academic purposes are not penalized because of their professors’ political viewpoints. News of the University’s discipline of the professor who abused his authority is encouraging. It is critical to make sure policies are in place to prevent this from happening again — ensuring students are always supported in their academic pursuits.
  2. Implement training that addresses anti-Semitism: Administrators, faculty and staff should receive regular (at least annual) training on campus climate issues and methods for addressing issues of racism and bigotry, including anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism, on campus and in the classroom. It is critical for administrators, faculty and staff to have the ability to identify problems and address them in the context of both the first amendment/free speech protections as well as disciplinary codes for disruption that set boundaries on where speech and behavior cross the line. This type of training should be included in efforts by the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. There should be appropriate resources and designated professionals who will resolve these issues.
  3. Apply the University’s non-discrimination policy equally: The State Department’s Working Definition of anti-Semitism can provide useful guidance on the changing nature of anti-Semitism. Most incidents of anti-Semitism on campus are unrelated to anti-Israel activity. But there are instances in which anti-Israel activity – including anti-Semitic stereotypes and anti-Israel or anti-Zionism expressions coded as political discourse – cross the line to targeted, intentional, unlawful, discriminatory intimidation and harassment of Jewish students. The University must develop a system for handling anti-Semitic incidents with a transparent process that students can follow when these situations arise. Tolerating anti-Semitism, including anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism, where one would otherwise condemn such hatred is allowing a destructive double standard to fester.

JCRC/AJC to Welcome Major Party Candidates at Forum

August 17, 2018 – Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC (JCRC/AJC) will host its Candidate Forum, 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 6 at Adat Shalom Synagogue (29901 Middlebelt Rd., Farmington Hills). Major party candidates from Congressional Districts 9 and 11 and the gubernatorial race have been invited to address topics of concern to the Jewish community including the U.S./Israel relationship, immigration, healthcare reform and global affairs.

Moderating the congressional discussions will be Melissa Weinberg Spence, AJC’s Deputy Director of the Office of Government and International Affairs (OGIA). A native of metropolitan Detroit, Spence is based at AJC’s Washington, DC office where she provides operational and management oversight within OGIA and to the Washington, DC office. In addition, she helps set and implement the department’s strategic vision and oversees all administrative, human resources, strategic and operational functions of OGIA for staff located domestically and in international offices.

JCRC/AJC Executive Director David Kurzmann will lead the gubernatorial discussion.

“Our aim in hosting this Candidate Forum is to ensure that the metropolitan Detroit Jewish community is an educated and prepared electorate, especially when it comes to the most competitive races,” said Kurzmann. “We are particularly excited to welcome Melissa Weinberg Spence back to her hometown for this evening of informative discussions.”

The event is open to the public and advance registration is appreciated at For more information, contact Lauren Herrin at 248-642-2641 or

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, JCRC/AJC does not endorse or oppose any candidate for public office.


JCRC/AJC Seeks Volunteer Medical Professionals

June 27, 2018 – The Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC (JCRC/AJC) is seeking physicians and other medical professionals to volunteer at an Interfaith Health Fair for underserved residents of Detroit, to be held on Sunday, August 12, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. at Munger Elementary School in Detroit. Physicians and other healthcare providers are being recruited to offer their services for four-hour shifts during the program.

The Interfaith Health Fair is being held in conjunction with the National Council of Jewish Women’s/Michigan Back 2 School Store, which provides new clothing, backpacks, personal supplies and personal care items. The health fair will offer free medical screenings to the parents and guardians who accompany the children to the Back 2 School Store.

The August health fair is the seventh free clinic sponsored by JCRC/AJC in recent years. In addition to giving clients access to potentially life-saving information and referrals for their health care, the health fair affords participating healthcare professionals the opportunity to engage with their colleagues in different faith communities and enjoy a meaningful interfaith experience.

Protocols will be in place for patients referrals, and, if necessary, urgent treatment. The clinic will feature education stations with informational literature, and personnel will be on hand to assist with referrals to direct service agencies. For more information, contact Naomi Levine at the JCRC/AJC (248) 642-2656 or


Jewish Detroit to Celebrate Israel@70 on Detroit Riverfront

Marking the 70th year of Israel’s Statehood and sharing the celebration of Israelis and Jews around the world, the Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit — in partnership with GM River Days and the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy — will host festivities from 4 to 10 pm, in an exclusive preview event two days prior to the GM River Days opening to the general public. Community partners for the event include more than 30 local congregations and Jewish organizations.

The event will feature carnival rides and a host of happenings including: a “You are in Israel” photo booth, family tent offering activities from more than 40 Jewish organizations and synagogues, a strolling magician, and face painting.

WHO: Event performers include:

  • Sheldon Low – Family Pop Artist
  • Sami Mei – “Jewish Voice” Winner
  • Capaim – Israeli Dance Band
  • Persuasion – Eight-piece Party Band
  • DJ Phreddy

WHERE: Detroit RiverWalk, Detroit, MI 48243

WHEN: Wednesday June 20, 2018, 4pm – 10pm

Hon. Ron Dermer, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States to Present Community-Wide Address

The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit will present a community address by Hon. Ron Dermer, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States on Monday, June 4 at 7 p.m. at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills. Ambassador Dermer will share insights and updates about the about “The State of Israel,” which will be followed by a Q & A session.

The Hon. Ron Dermer has served as Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, since July 2013.  He earned a degree in Finance and Management from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) from Oxford University. He was a columnist for the Jerusalem Post for several years and co-authored with Natan Sharansky the best-selling book, The Case For Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror. From 2005-2008, Mr. Dermer served as Israel’s Minister of Economic Affairs in the United States; and from 2009-2013, he served as Senior Advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The cost to attend is $18.00. Tickets can be purchased online at Adat Shalom Synagogue is located at 29901 Middlebelt Road in Farmington Hills.

Workshop Trains Tutors on Milestones of Language Development

“Milestones of Language Development in School Aged Children,” is the subject of the Detroit Jewish Coalition for Literacy’s (DJCL) spring workshop for literacy tutors on Friday, May 11, from 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. at the Max M. Fisher Federation Building in Bloomfield Hills.

Designed to provide tutors with skills and techniques to build student success, the workshop will feature Suzanne Potter, M.A. ccc-sp., a Speech Language Therapist. Potter is Facilitator of “Play with a Purpose” and Early On Parent Groups at Oakland Schools, and is a 36 year veteran of Royal Oak Public Schools.

At the workshop, Potter will provide resources and strategies to help students who struggle with reading. She will discuss how to support literacy for students through the five building blocks of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and text comprehension.

Founded and facilitated by the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC (JCRC/AJC), the DJCL engages volunteers from local Jewish organizations, impacting kindergarten through fourth grade students in schools in Detroit and Oakland County through tutoring, and enrichment programs and book drives. The DJCL conducts training workshops and provides resources for its volunteer tutors. JCRC/AJC board member Sue Birnholtz chairs the DJCL.

To register for the May 11 workshop, or to learn more about DJCL volunteer opportunities, contact Literacy Coordinator Sandy Lippitt at 248-642-2649,