Monday, June 17, 2013

Say Something Good About Detroit: Detroit's Only but Thriving Synagogue

From the Huffington Post)
In recent years, the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue has served as the focal point of a resurgent Jewish community. Not long ago Detroit's last free-standing synagogue was on the verge of shutting down.
"The only thing that was happening in the building four to five years ago was Saturday morning services that could barely get a minyan [religious quorum] there," Leor Barak, president of Isaac Agree's board of directors, said. "Now look at us ... We have hundreds of people going through our doors every day. We're a hub for Jewish life in Detroit." (This building is in downtown Detroit, an area where there are very few Jews. However, many younger people are trying hard to revitalize the city by living there). 
Isaac Agree, which belongs to the conservative tradition of Judaism, was founded in 1921 -- a time when Detroit was home to a large, vibrant Jewish population. As the Jewish population migrated from the city, however, the synagogue's membership diminished. By 2008, the institution's congregation had dwindled to a handful of older, largely suburban members.
The recent transformation has been dramatic. The congregation now has 250 member units -- a figure that includes both individuals and families -- and its Friday evening and Saturday morning services regularly draw around 40 people. In addition, Isaac Agree now hosts regular Thursday morning services, Torah studies, Hebrew lessons and a wide array of other programming.
What led to this resurgence? Barak, the board's 32-year-old president, credits his predecessor Marty Herman with securing a $50,000 matching grant from the Kosins Family Foundation in 2006.

But it was an influx of young people like him that brought renewed vitality to the congregation.


George said...

Two recent developments bring hope to Buffalo (trending towards Detroit). Governor Cuomo finally settled the dispute with the Seneca Indians over casinos. The Senecas are building a 300 room hotel and casino in downtown Buffalo. And the Governor has pledged a billion dollars for the "Medical Corridor." Slow progress, but it's progress.

Anonymous said...

Well, that will make Jackie happy.

Fascinating story about the synagogue, Patti.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

There is a thriving Jewish community in many of the northwest suburbs. Just not in Detroit lately.
I wonder if the casinos are the way to go. Thriving from people's addictions seems sort of sad.

Margot Kinberg said...

What a great story, Patti! Thanks