Category: 2020

Southfield Students to Receive Literacy Boost in Partnership with Rep. Lawrence and Jewish Community

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. – Ensuring young students receive the proper tools to be fully literate by the end of the third grade is of utmost importance to school districts across Michigan. Per a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, students who were not proficient in reading by that time, were four times more likely to drop out of high school than those who were proficient readers.

Committed to ensuring Southfield schoolchildren have a strong chance of success, Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, who, herself, is a former Southfield Public School Board president, has launched the “Brenda Lawrence Educational Initiative,” a literacy tutoring program in partnership with the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC (JCRC/AJC) and Southfield Public Schools.

Said Congresswoman Lawrence, “I am so proud to be a part of this critical initiative that brings together our community to help improve the educational trajectory of our children. It is of the utmost importance that we provide our students with the support they need to succeed in school and gain the confidence to know that they have the ability to achieve anything.”  

Through the Initiative, several metropolitan area synagogues will be providing congregants to serve as literacy tutors to students in kindergarten through the third grade in Southfield. Each congregation, including Congregation Shaarey Zedek, Young Israel of Southfield and Temple Emanu-El, will be assigned to a school, with volunteers conducting tutoring sessions virtually for the time being.

Said Charles Hicks, Southfield Public Schools Board of Education president, “I appreciate the partnership and collaboration between the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC and the Southfield Public School District. We must do whatever we can to mitigate any literacy loss as a result of challenges that arise as a result of the pandemic. Together, we can do what is in the best interest of our most valuable stakeholders … our children.”

Added Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC Executive Director Rabbi Asher Lopatin, “According to the 2017 results from the National Assessment of Education Progress, Michigan ranks in the bottom third of states for fourth grade reading. For our organization, it is imperative that we give our local schoolchildren a chance for a bright future beginning at an early age. It is an honor for us to partner with Congresswoman Lawrence and Southfield Public Schools, as well as volunteers from throughout our community, on this important project.”

JCRC/AJC has a long history of literacy advocacy. For more than 10 years ago, the non-partisan nonprofit has served as the administrator for the Detroit Jewish Coalition for Literacy, an umbrella organization that seeks to increase the Jewish community’s involvement in the fight against illiteracy. In non-pandemic times, the group mobilizes and trains volunteer readers, tutors and book drive organizers who serve thousands of students in programs established in Detroit Public Schools and public schools throughout Oakland County.

For more information and to get involved, contact Sandy Lippitt at

JCRC/AJC’s mission is to represent the metropolitan Detroit Jewish community, Israel and Jews throughout the world to the general community, and to establish collaborative relationships with other ethnic, racial, civic and religious groups. JCRC/AJC educates and advocates on important issues, seeking consensus with a commitment to Jewish values. For more information visit

For more than 70 years, Southfield Public Schools has served families from birth to 12th grade and beyond. The district, operating 14 schools, serves nearly 6,000 children in the cities of Southfield and Lathrup Village. Preparing innovative learners for a global society, Southfield Public Schools is one of 28 public school districts in Oakland County

Public Invited To Learn How To Advocate For Uyghurs in Crisis

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. – The Uyghurs, a Muslim-majority Turkic people are facing deplorable human rights abuses at the hands of the Chinese Government. Their plight has garnered the attention of religious and human rights organizations across the globe, including within the Jewish community. The Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC (JCRC/AJC), Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) and European Union of Jewish Students will host “Uyghurs in Crisis: The Jewish Response” at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 22. 

Approximately 11 million Uyghurs live in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which has been under China’s control since 1949 and is known to the Uyghur people as East Turkistan. Due to their Muslim faith, more than one million Uyghurs have been interned in hundreds of “re-education centers” within the region since 2017. Likened to concentration camps due to the reported abusive acts taking place there, as well as the presence of watch towers, prison-like gates, armed guards and more, they are purportedly operated outside the Chinese legal system. The country’s government has long denied the camps existence, although there are images showing their construction.

“As Jews, we know first-hand what happens when a government aims to extinguish a people – both culturally and physically. We also know what happens when the world sits idly by,” said Rabbi Asher Lopatin, Executive Director, Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC. “It is our moral responsibility to stand up for the Uyghur people and join with others of good conscience around the world to end this systematic human rights violation being committed on a vast scale.”

The program is slated to include testimony from a Uyghur camp survivor; one-on-one discussion with a Uyghur activist; and remarks from UHRP and former United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein. The event will culminate with an overview of the advocacy landscape and how the Jewish community can get involved.

“Uyghurs are facing unrelenting persecution in China. What started as forced assimilation has escalated to genocidal policies meant to eliminate the Uyghur identity,” said Omer Kanat, executive director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project. “It is in these moments where cross-community solidarity is so necessary, and potentially so effective.”

There is no cost to attend, although registration is required at Questions? Contact

JCRC/AJC’s mission is to represent the metropolitan Detroit Jewish community, Israel and Jews throughout the world to the general community, and to establish collaborative relationships with other ethnic, racial, civic and religious groups. JCRC/AJC educates and advocates on important issues, seeking consensus with a commitment to Jewish values. For more information visit

The Uyghur Human Rights Project promotes the rights of the Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim peoples in East Turkistan, referred to by the Chinese government as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, through research-based advocacy. It publishes reports and analysis in English and Chinese to defend Uyghurs’ civil, political, social, cultural, and economic rights according to international human rights standards.

Founded in 1978 and with its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) is a pluralistic, inclusive and non-partisan umbrella organisation for 36 Jewish student unions across Europe, spanning from Russia to Scandinavia to the United Kingdom. EUJS is the democratic and peer-led representation of roughly 160,000 young Jews in Europe.

JCRC/AJC Statement on Israel/UAE Agreement

More engagement, relations and dialogue are always beneficial on local, national and international levels. No matter our disagreements, we always do better when we can come together with respect and civility to talk about our perspectives. In fact, Jewish tradition is filled with big-time arguments in the Talmud – the rabbinic writings – and even in the Bible. Our JCRC/AJC salutes Israel, the UAE and the United States on this historic move forward. 

Seth D. Gould Named President of JCRC/AJC

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. –  The Board of Directors of the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC (JCRC/AJC) has named Seth D. Gould as president. The announcement was made by Executive Director Rabbi Asher Lopatin.

Gould joined the organization in 2011, when it was AJC Detroit. He continued after the nonprofit partnered with the Jewish Community Relations Council to become JCRC/AJC. Since then he has chaired the Development and Israel Programming Committees, and served as Vice President and First Vice President. 

“I am passionate about advocating on behalf of the metropolitan Detroit Jewish community, Israel and threatened minorities, as well as fostering tolerance among interfaith and intergroup communities,” said Seth Gould, who will serve a two-year term. “I am honored to have the opportunity to lead an incredible group of activists who comprise our Board of Directors.”

Gould, a member of the Shalom Hartman Institute’s Detroit Community Leadership Program cohort, is an alumnus of Legacy Heritage’s OnBoard development program for Detroit, which taught best practices for nonprofit board governance.

A partner at the Miller Law Firm, a litigation boutique in Rochester Hills, Mich., the Bloomfield Hills, Mich. resident received his bachelor’s degree in industrial and operations engineering from the University of Michigan and law degree from Wayne State University Law School. He previously served on the board of the Cranbrook Kingswood Alumni Association.

For its 2020-2021 programming year, JCRC/AJC has also welcomed four new board members: Rabbi Yonatan Dahlen of Southfield, Jeri Fishman of Southfield, Sheldon Freilich of Bloomfield Hills and Sheri Shapiro of Farmington Hills.

JCRC/AJC’s mission is to represent the metropolitan Detroit Jewish community, Israel and Jews throughout the world to the general community, and to establish collaborative relationships with other ethnic, racial, civic and religious groups. JCRC/AJC educates and advocates on important issues, seeking consensus with a commitment to Jewish values. For more information visit

JCRC/AJC Statement Regarding the Murder of George Floyd and Recent Protests

The Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC stands in solidarity and partnership with the African American community, decrying the horrific murder of George Floyd and the racism that tragically still engulfs our nation and even permeates so many of our police forces. We pledge to work with the religious, civic and political leaders in the African American community who are working to bring a peaceful, but forceful, message of protest, truth and hope, not only in their own community, but to all Americans. There is no place for racism, discrimination, antisemitism or hatred in our country. George Floyd’s death, and the unjust deaths of so many other African Americans, tell us that racism still exists, but we know that if we work together, in peaceful, even loving protest, we will overcome and will prevail. We are all choked by racism, we all cannot breathe with racist hate, and we will never stop until it is eliminated from our society.

Welcome from Seth Gould

Greetings JCRC/AJC family!

Beginning today, I have the honor of serving as board president of JCRC/AJC. I’m following in the footsteps of my parents and grandparents who each played an active leadership role in the Detroit Jewish community, through their respective synagogues, temples, and Jewish communal agencies. My family on both sides first came to Detroit in the late teens (over 100 years ago) because they believed, like many others, that Detroit was THE place to be, full of opportunity, fed in large part by the success of Ford Motor Company’s Model T vehicle.

I’m grateful to a cousin who posted on Facebook a cherished black and white photograph of my mother’s family picnicking on Belle Isle in the early 1920s, ironically not long after the last terrible pandemic. Great-grandparents, grandparents, great uncles, great aunts, and cousins can be seen relaxed, in close contact, and hugging each other. After the current pandemic ends, after social distancing is lifted, I’m looking forward to greeting all of you with hearty hugs and handshakes, because JCRC/AJC is truly a family to me.  

We did our best version of human connection, and then some, during our first ever “virtual” Annual Meeting conducted on May 13, 2020. The meeting included emotional and well-earned tributes to our late Board Member Sheri Schiff and outgoing president, Alicia Chandler. For those of you who were unable to make it, here is a recording of that memorable evening.

Until hugs and handshakes become a reality, I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing all of you during one of our exciting “virtual” programs described below. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, JCRC/AJC continues full-steam ahead with its mission of representing and strengthening the Detroit Jewish community, and increasing the connection of our community to the rest of Detroit and beyond. JCRC/AJC remains the linchpin of connection with our partners in the diplomatic, legislative, media, interfaith, and intergroup communities.  

Building a strong coalition of partners allows us to cultivate support for democracy and pluralism. During these ever-increasing turbulent times, what’s more important than that? Truly!

Thank you for supporting JCRC/AJC! All my best to you and yours. Stay safe and well!


JCRC/AJC Statement- Hate Imagery During “Operation Gridlock”

April 16, 2020 – At a protest yesterday in Lansing, several people demonstrating as part of “Operation Gridlock” used flags and posters featuring swastikas and verbiage comparing Governor Gretchen Whitmer to Adolf Hitler, as well as the Confederate battle flag. Regardless of one’s political views, the use of such imagery and symbolism is inexcusable. The Nazi imagery is particularly galling as it comes only days before Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), which begins on Monday night. 

It is the position of the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC (JCRC/AJC) that the use of symbols of hate are never appropriate as part of political discourse. The JCRC/AJC condemns these actions and asks the organizers of the protest, the Michigan Conservative Coalition, to immediately condemn the use of all hate speech and, specifically, the imagery used at yesterday’s rally.

March eNews Letter from Rabbi Lopatin

Dear Friends,

Alicia has set such a beautiful tone of gratitude and I want to begin my note by thanking her for her leadership as JCRC/AJC president. She has truly been a mentor for me in my first six months with the organization. Even during this difficult time, Alicia’s smile, wisdom and positive attitude has permeated the organization and given us all the confidence we need to make it through any adversity and upheaval. We are all so privileged to have her leadership, and I know, even after she leaves the presidency, we can rely on her character and strength to continue to move us forward.

And move forward we must! 

Our staff is learning how to cope with working from home, social distancing and isolation. Importantly, we are using our mission of relationship building and advocacy to transform our work in this new era where geographic limitations, in a way, are lifted. Even though some amazing programs were indeed cancelled or postponed, we are discovering that we can create new initiatives based on internet communication and gathering. These events  can bring faiths, communities and government leaders together in an even more ambitious way than before. Already this week we are bringing rabbis, imams, pastors and the community-at-large together to wage our mutual war against the coronavirus.

This situation reminds me that our rabbis have told us that the astrologers correctly predicted that our forefather Abram (his original name) would not have a future. Yet the trick was to change his name from Abram, meaning the father of one nation, to Abraham, the father of all nations. Abram would not have a future, but Abraham would have a legacy that would change the world. So, too, our old way of doing things – of bringing people together physically around metropolitan Detroit – will not work for the time being. Yet our own “Abraham,” our desire to impact people around us in every way possible, will usher in a new era for JCRC/AJC when we re-engineer our mission to build relationships and advocate on a broader and more profound level – across geographic divides and into hundreds of homes. We are committed at JCRC/AJC to make the creative pivot to enable us to fulfill our mission of being the Jewish voice for the broader community.

So with all the challenges, we do feel gratitude. To our flexible and visionary staff. To our lay leadership for their wisdom, commitment and engagement. To the Federation and our Jewish community who understand how vital our mission is, especially in this period when people are physically isolated and distanced. 

JCRC/AJC will not let the Jewish community be isolated, and we will always be the advocate for the needs of one another, and for others where we live. With your help we will find the creative, innovative ways to accomplish our mission in ways we could not even imagine. Together, we can do this!

Asher Lopatin

March 2020 E-news Letter

To our JCRC/AJC family,

Today I wish to express gratitude. Honestly, it’s hard to find gratitude in these moments of chaos and confusion, fear and uncertainty. But on Monday night, I was able to go on Zoom and participate in the Glazer Institute’s program, which we were a partner on, listening to one of my favorite authors, Yossi Klein Halevi, as he sat in his apartment in Jerusalem. I have been able to join rabbis from all over the community while they lead different prayer services on Facetime Live; my son has been able to continue his Mandarin coursework by studying with a native Chinese speaker in Europe; and my daughter has had the opportunity to draw along with acclaimed author Mo Willems. The technology that I have been known to curse for invading every aspect of life is now enabling us to stay connected even as the virus demands that we stay, physically, apart.

From our perspective at JCRC/AJC, we have:

  • been using technology to allow our staff to work remotely. This way we can continue to accomplish the mission of this agency without endangering anyone;
  • uncapped our staff’s sick time so they can be confident that even if they are stricken with this virus, they will not have to suffer financially; and
  • been and will continue to reach out to our contacts in the diplomatic, legislative, media, and interfaith communities as well as our own, Jewish community.

The work of community relations – of building communities – remains vital during these times of isolation. Our staff and leadership will continue to rethink what we can do to maintain and build relations during these times. From sending Pesach baskets to the diplomats that would normally be at our Diplomatic Seder to creating Ramadan gifts for our Muslim friends when we cannot be with them at our annual Interfaith Iftar – we will continue to creatively and relentlessly pursue communal connection.

Professionally, to each of you – our friends and supporters – I say “thank you.”

Personally, I have to say that I never could imagine that my three years of presidency would likely end by sitting on my couch as a reluctant homeschool teacher, rather than with you. I have been so thankful for the support of this agency and its mission. As always, for us, the relationships come first and I have been blessed to form amazing bonds through this organization.

While our amazing Executive Director Rabbi Asher Lopatin will likely have something appropriate from our Jewish tradition for us at this trying moment, what comes to mind for me is a quote from one of the many movies that my children have been watching during their extended screentime:”Be excellent to each other” (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, 1989).

With prayers for your continuing good health,

Alicia B. Chandler

JCRC/AJC Board President

Aspects of Muslim and Jewish Religious Freedom to Be Discussed

January 16, 2020 – Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC and the Michigan Muslim Community Council will host its 5th Annual “A Shared Future” Lecture Series with Wayne State University Professors Howard Lupovitch and Saeed Khan. This year’s topic is “Are We Religiously Free in America?”

“A Shared Future” will consist of three presentations all beginning at 7 p.m., followed by a dessert reception:

  • Wednesday, February 12, Muslim Unity Center (1830 Square Lake Rd.) in Bloomfield Hills
    • Topic: The navigation and implementation of Halacha and Sharia in the United States
  • Wednesday, February 19, Congregation Beth Ahm (5075 West Maple Rd.) in West Bloomfield  
    • Topic: Attitudes and applications of separation of religion and state
  • Wednesday, February 26 at Wayne State University, David Adamany Undergraduate Library (5150 Anthony Wayne Dr.) in Detroit
    • Topic: Attitudes toward the First Amendment as they pertain to constructive debate and civil discourse.

Established in 2014, “A Shared Future” is an interfaith dialogue series which unites members of the Jewish and Muslim communities to learn together and build relationships. There is no charge to attend the program for which advance registration is required. It can be completed at

Howard Lupovitch is Associate Professor of History and the Director of the Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies at Wayne State University. He received a Ph.D. in Jewish History from Columbia University and has taught at Cornell University, Colby College, the University of Western Ontario and University of Michigan, where he was also a fellow at the Frankel Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies. A published author, Professor Lupovitch is the 2009 winner of the Bernard L. Maas Prize for Achievement in Jewish Culture and Continuity in the Area of Humanities.

Saeed A. Khan works in the University’s Department of History and is a lecturer in the Department of Near East & Asian Studies, where he teaches Islamic and Middle East History, Islamic Civilizations and History of Islamic Political Thought. A Research Fellow at Wayne State University’s Center for the Study of Citizenship, he also is an Adjunct Professor in Islamic Studies at the University of Detroit-Mercy and at Rochester College, where he co-teaches a course on Muslim-Christian Diversity. He is a Ph.D. Candidate at Wayne State University; Thomas M. Cooley Law School, JD. 

Professor Khan has served as a consultant to the US-Arab Economic Forum and has founded the Center for the Study of Trans-Atlantic Diasporas, a think tank and policy center examining and comparing the condition of ethnic immigrant groups in North America and Europe, consulting the US and UK governments on their respective Muslim communities.

For additional information, contact Corey Young,

A Shared Future is generously sponsored by the Ravitz Foundation.