Let their People Stay: Detroit Jews Respond with Support for Chaldean detainees

As Jews, we’ve seen this before. 

We have been singled out. Persecuted. At the threshold of sanctuary, we have been sent back to the hands of our oppressors only to be murdered.

We have been strangers and therefore are commanded to remember the stranger who sit at our gates. 

Only, in Detroit, Iraqi Chaldean nationals are not strangers to us. They are our neighbors whose kids are classmates to our kids. They are the business owners, the cashiers who happily greet us at the check out lines at the supermarket and drug store. Over the decades, the Jewish and Chaldean communities have built bridges with interfaith programs and projects. 

It was only natural then that so many in the Jewish community responded to the news that 114 from this community are being detained for possible deportation back to Iraq – a place that is now foreign to these people – with anguish, legal counsel and moral support.  We stand with them because we know what happens with silence. 

Here is my coverage of the Jewish response to the roundup of our Chaldean neighbors in the June 29 issue of the Detroit Jewish News. 

When news broke on June 11 of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) roundup of 114 Iraqi Christian immigrants with fears of deportation, the phones at the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC lit up. Executive Director David Kurzmann said his agency received fearful calls from rabbis and other leaders in the Jewish community asking what they could do to help.

“As soon as the arrests happened, we received dozens of phone calls asking how to support our Chaldean neighbors,” Kurzmann said during a phone interview and again reiterated at a June 21 anti-deportation rally held outside the U.S. District Court Clerk’s office in Detroit.

“As Jews, it is very distressing to hear about this,” he said. “We recently commemorated the anniversary of the return of the St. Louis to [Europe], where Jews seeking refuge in this country were turned away and sent back to their deaths. The U.S. risks repeating this same dark mistake. The Jewish community knows the tragic consequences of shutting down pathways to safety for people in harm’s way. We must not let this happen again. ‘Never Again’ is as applicable today as it has ever been.”

On June 21, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith listened to a class-action lawsuit filed by area attorneys and the American Civil Liberties Union designed to postpone deportations to Iraq, where Christians have faced brutal persecution, torture and death in recent years because of the rise of ISIS. Goldsmith concluded the detainees would not be deported to Iraq until at least June 28.

David Kurzmann

Inside and outside the courthouse, and in the days leading up to the filing of the lawsuit, Jews and other ethnic minority groups reached out to the Chaldeans with legal, moral and social support. But until the deportation ruling is appealed or reversed with reopening of individual cases, the fate of the detainees is grim.

Still, leaders in the Chaldean community are holding out hope their loved ones, now being held in a detention center in Youngstown, Ohio, will be released and expressed appreciation for the support of other minority communities.

“There is no community like the Jewish community,” said Martin Manna, Chaldean Chamber of Commerce president. Since the arrests, Manna has received many calls of concern and support. Rabbis have phoned in asking how their congregants can help. The Chamber retained the legal services of former Sen. Carl Levin, now with Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP.

“You would have thought it was his own child in danger of being deported from the way [Levin] responded so quickly,” said Manna, adding that Levin worked with other attorneys and the ACLU to file the lawsuit with the federal court to postpone deportations.

Temple Israel Rabbi Paul Yedwab, one of several local rabbis who reached out to Manna with support, said he cannot understand why the Chaldean population is being targeted.

“Our own government officially recognizes there is a genocide right now being committed against Iraqi Christians, so how can we possibly send them back?” Yedwab asked.

As a congregation, Temple Israel informed members about the situation and encouraged them to attend the June 16 and 21 rallies. Also, “hoards” of congregants are on standby offering to volunteer in any way they can to show their support for the families affected by the arrests.

“While we are coordinating closely with the JCRC/AJC and many of our members have offered up pro bono legal services, there is a bit of a feeling of helplessness. This truly lies in the fate of the legal system,” Yedwab said.

Legal Support

Bradley Maze, a lawyer at George P. Mann and Associates in Farmington Hills, is representing five of the detainees and is hearing from other Chaldeans fearful of being detained in the future. Maze said he is working to file motions of appeal to reopen their individual cases to delay or reverse their order for deportation.

“My clients have served their time for minor crimes they committed decades ago,” Maze said. “They are now completely rehabilitated and contributing members of society with jobs and families. They check in with immigration officers every six months like they are supposed to, some even within the last few weeks. If they are sent back to Iraq, the Iraqi government cannot guarantee their protection as Christians, and my clients fear torture or worse by ISIS.”

Maze noted the irony that many involved in the class-action lawsuit — from Michigan ACLU Executive Director Kary Moss who filed the lawsuit to attorney Margo Schlanger, former civil rights chief in the Department of Homeland Security in the Obama Administration, to Judge Goldsmith — are all Jewish.

“The notion of people being taken from their homes in front of their families and thrown on a bus conjures up scary images for Jews,” said Maze, who has practiced immigration law for a decade, six of those years working as an immigration attorney assisting refugees at Freedom House. “The ethos of helping the refugee is part of the Jewish family legacy. It is Jewish tradition.”

Robert and Gail Katz of West Bloomfield

Though the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center did not directly represent any of the 114 Iraqi detainees, Ruby Robinson, MIRC supervising attorney, said his organization provides guidance on court filing procedures and processes to parties filing immigration lawsuits, including the lawsuit filed last Wednesday by the ACLU designed to postpone the deportations.

“All of the detainees entered the U.S. lawfully but committed a crime before they were eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship,” Robinson said. “For 20 or 30 years, they served time for their crimes and have since lived their lives, starting jobs and families and checking in with immigration officers like they were supposed to. Because things have gotten so bad in Iraq, many of them didn’t think anything like this could ever happen. Now, all we can do is assist their attorneys to figure out the best strategy of what can be legally done to postpone deportation.”

Moral Support

While some in the Jewish community offered their legal services, others have offered moral support by attending impromptu rallies, such as the one held outside the court where a diverse crowd stood in solidarity with Chaldean Christians, who waved American flags and bore red crosses expressing their anguish of the thought of their loved ones facing possible persecution if deported to Iraq. They spoke directly on the podium or listened to the distress of family members who fear they will never see their loved ones again.

Martin Manna, executive director of the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce, with Deavin Konja of Franklin, who came to support his uncle Najah Dawood Konja of Clawson, who is being detained even though he won an appeal with a federal court to open his case two days before he was picked up and detained Sunday morning.

Iraqi American Deavin Konja of Franklin came to support his uncle Najah Dawood Konja of Clawson, who is being detained even though he won an appeal with a federal court to open his case two days before he was picked up and detained June 11.

“By that Monday morning, we filed for his release; it was ignored completely and has been ignored ever since,” Konja said. “He served time for his crime he committed over 30 years ago. He was one of the few that should have been immediately released because of the federal appeal on his case. We know our attorneys are doing everything possible.”

Lori Lutz of Bloomfield township came to the rally with Detroit Jews for Justice and held up a sign bearing a quote from Exodus about the commandment to “remember the stranger.”

“Today, this is too reminiscent of rounding up groups of people throughout our history and deportation, not letting them stay in a safe place and possibly sending them back to a place of real danger,” Lutz said. “As Jews, we have seen this before and we cannot let it happen again.”

STACY GITTLEMAN

Stacy Gittleman
Contributing Writer/Photographer

 

 

 

Why Deportation?

Chaldeans, including several who spoke at the anti-deportation rally, said they campaigned and voted for Trump because of his campaign promises to protect Christians in the Middle East.

Yet the recent sweep of arrests of Iraqi nationals in Michigan is the result of a revised executive order on the initial January executive order banning entry from seven Muslim majority countries into the United States, including Iraq.

After quiet negotiations, the U.S. and Iraq negotiated a new policy that removed Iraq from one of the banned countries and also eliminated the priority of allowing Christians and other religious minorities over Muslims, according to the Washington Post.

U.S. law states that any non-citizen, including legal residents, who commits an “aggravated felony” under U.S. immigration law — a term that includes serious crimes as well as many nonviolent offenses and misdemeanors — is deportable, the Washington Post story stated. An example of a nonviolent crime could be drug trafficking or possession of marijuana. However, for the past several decades, immigration officials and federal judges have been slow to carry out deportations or completely stopped deporting Iraqi nationals because the situation on the ground was deemed too dangerous and the deportees would be put in harm’s way.

The Iraqis who face deportation do not have visas to live in the United States. Many of them lost their green cards because they were convicted of crimes. Because of their past criminal record, they are targeted by President Trump for deportation regardless of their nationality, the Washington Post story said.

Nationwide, there are approximately 1,400 Iraqi nationals in the U.S. who have final orders of removal.

Detroit Jewish Community Comes to Aid of Syrian Refugees Near and Far

I do believe it is true. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. In this time of devisiveness, it is good to know there are many who are coming to the aid of families from Syria who have fled their country because of the brutal civil war.

Here is my cover story on how Jews in Detroit are bringing awareness to the plight of the refugees and helping them settle into their new life.

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Post a photo of your Front Door Mezuzzah: A social Media Experiment

I am beyond fed up.

Really, I have had it.

There has been a LOT of anti-Semitic (it doesn’t sound harsh enough, so let’s just say it for what it is: Jew hating) incidents in the last several months.

Bomb threats called into JCCs and Jewish Day Schools. Yes, they were called in by a Jewish teen sitting in his room in Israel, but they were and still should be dealt with as a hate crime.

Desecration of cemetery headstones in Jewish cemeteries in several cities.  In fact, the headstone of a great grandfather of one of my daughter’s friend was vandalized in Rochester, NY.

Hate emails going out to Jewish students at the University of Michigan. My friends’ son was the recipient of one of them.

And now, a former colleague of mine posts that his front door mezuzzah, which belonged to his wife’s grandmother, was ripped off from the door of his apartment in an inside hallway in a security enclosed building.

The Mezuzzah. Let’s explain to you – and if you are a warped hate mongering ignoramous who knows nothing about Judaism, let’s get you Hebrew Schooled, shall we?

I am no Hebrew scholar, and I don’t know if there is a direct translation to English, but a mezuzzah is a piece of parchment paper where, written in hand by a scribe, is the Shema – the Jewish affirmation calling all of Israel to listen and understand that there is only One Gd and this Gd commanded us to post this prayer into all our door posts and teach it dilligently to our children. There are three paragraphs rolled neatly into a tiny scroll, that is the mezuzzah:

 “And you shall inscribe them on the doorposts (mezuzot) of our house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:9, 11:20). What is to be inscribed? Divine instruction is very clear: “The words that I shall tell you this day”: that you shall love your God, believe only in Him, keep His commandments, and pass all of this on to your children.”

So, listen up, haters, you mess with a Mezuzzah, you mess with Gd.

The mezuzzah encasement, artistically, is open to many interpretations. Some are simple, some are more ornate. But they clearly mark and distinguish that in that dwelling dwells a Jew.

You may, in old apartments in Brooklyn, that once had a lot of Jewish tenants, see the slanted remnant, now covered in layers of paint. My African American neighbors who lived across the street from me in Rochester still had a mezzuzah on their front door, left by the previous Jewish owners of the house. I asked them why they never took it down. They said, they felt protected by it.

Indeed, some interpret the mezuzzzah they post to one’s doors as a sign of protection. Often, the Hebrew Letters, Shin Dalet and Yud – spelling Shaddai, a name for Gd, is translated to “Protector” or Guardian.

It is customary, when one Jewish family sells their house to another Jewish family, to leave their mezzuzot behind, or at least one as a symbolic gesture.

Though, in Nazi occupied Europe, Jews started taking them down for fear they would be turned in. Sadly, in Europe today, Jews are thinking twice before affixing this quintessential symbol of a Jewish home to their doors.

But this isn’t Nazi Germany or 2017 Europe.

This is America. And I’m not taking my mezuzzah down.

Here is my front door Mezuzzah. 20170415_232756.jpg

It was given to us as a wedding present nearly 24 years ago by a college friend. From the day we got it, my husband and I decided it would be our front door mezuzzah, and it has held this status for four different homes now.  And there it will stay. We are not moving or removing it for anyone.

In addition to our front door, every doorpost in our home, except for the bathroom doors, have a mezuzzah attached.

Most were gifts and I can remember each person who gave us each of our mezzuzot.

So, here is the social media experiment:

In solidarity with my friend’s mezzuzah which was just vandalized, let’s show the haters we are not afraid.

Please email me photo of your front door mezuzzah to stacy.gittleman@yahoo.com. And please share this widely with your friends, family and community.

Let us bring light into this dark world.

Thank you.

Social Justice Jews: Standing Up for anyone but themselves

I believe in social justice. One of the most-quoted verses of the Torah: Zedek Zedek Tirdof – Justice, justice, you shall pursue – is one of the key life values in Judaism. 

I was raised on the values of Tzedek, Tzekaah and Tikkon Olam and social justice, and all those wonderful things, in my Jewish upbringing, including my involvement in United Synagogue Youth. In its leadership structure, there is even a position – Social Action Tikkun Olam – set aside to fundraise for various social causes, Jewish and non-Jewish

Social action meant collecting food and school supplies.

It also meant making phone calls and marching for our Soviet Jewry bretheren to be free to emigrate to the U.S. or Israel.

It also meant learning about and speaking out for Ethiopian Jewry.

It also meant studying the formation of the modern State of Israel and marching for her proudly in the Israeli Day Parade.

Being a Jew who believes in social justice for others does not mean that I believe in ideological or existential suicide.

I also believe in Jewish self-preservation. In the belief that Jews have a right to live freely and more than survive but thrive in their own ancient homeland and from there be a light unto the nations.

That is Zionism.

I do not believe in appeasing one’s enemies in the name of justice. That is simply suicidal.

The Jewish Voice for Peace Convention is underway right now in Chicago. Its key speakers are two Palestinian women who led the Women’s March on Washington, Rasmea Odeh is a convicted Palestinian Terrorist who murdered two college students in 1969 and the other, Linda Sarsour, recently was interviewed stating that Zionism and feminism are incompatible.    In my latest

 In my latest article about Jewish Millenials, when I asked them where they are in their own Jewish journey, three out of the four young, bright women I spoke to have actively been involved in Jewish Voice for Peace.

One is a rabbi. One is a lesbian. Which I completely do not get, because homosexuality is not a human right that is preserved too much under the magnanimous terrorist organization Hamas which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2005. 

Overall, in my opinion, which I can express here in my blog but not in my reporting, I think the work they do, fueled by Jewish values, is fantastic. 

It is fantastic that they fight for housing rights for the poor in New Orleans. Or the rights for the LGBTQ community in New York. These are all strongly tied to Jewish values. 

But Ahavat Yisrael – a love of Israel, and standing up for Israel and therefore the Jewish people and therefore themselves, is a value that you seemingly can no longer carry out in the name of all other leftist values. 

It troubled me that when it comes to Israel, these young people become involved not with AIPAC or Stand With Us, but Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization that does not question the meaning of the term “occupation” because if they did they would have to admit that it is the occupation of 1948, not 1967, that the oppressed that they so willingly and lovingly support are talking about. 

It troubles me that if they truly cared about Palestinian genocide, they would be calling out governments such as Lebanon and Syria, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been murdered. 

I could not write about this in my article. And I was so congratulated today by a reader that was “so glad” that the left is being covered in a Jewish newspaper. 

I am hoping that other readers read between the lines and see that this is a generation that has lost its moral compass and has little to no understanding of Jewish history. 

Avodah’s work toward social change attracts many Detroiters

Stacy Gittleman Contributing Writer

Perhaps it is because they grew up just outside a city that has seen its share of poverty and segregation or maybe it’s their strong desire to find meaningful ways to express their Jewish values through pursuing social justice causes.

No matter the case, many Detroit millennials have taken the directive “Justice, justice you shall pursue (Deuteronomy 16:20) to heart by spending a year participating in New York-based Avodah’s Jewish Service Corps. They said Avodah shaped not only their career paths in standing up against poverty and discrimination, but also forged a new and inclusive Jewish identity for them.

For nearly 20 years, Avodah has worked on social change and anti-poverty issues in New York, Washington, D.C., New Orleans and Chicago. More than 1,000 have participated in its Jewish Service Corps program. In the last four years alone, at least 15 of the organization’s alumni hail from Detroit, says Steve Bocknek, the organization’s senior director of external affairs, who is also a native Detroiter. Executive Director Cheryl Cook also is from Detroit.

Rabbi Alana Alpert of Reconstructionist Congregation T’chiyah participated in Avodah in 2006. The program inspired her to become a rabbi. In rabbinical school, she continued to organize communities for change on a range of causes, including prison reform, Palestinian rights issues in Hebron and in the LGBTQ community.

“I can’t imagine my career happening without Avodah,” said Alpert, also co-founder of Detroit Jews for Justice, a group that strives to make social change central to the life of Congregation T’chiyah and then spread these efforts into the entire Jewish community of Metro Detroit.

“I was empowered to do serious work at my placement right out of college,” she said. “I gained skills for leadership and self-care that sustain my work, and I joined a Jewish community that continues to nourish and support me.”

Just as she does with other Jewish holidays, Alpert engaged millennial Jews this Purim with a spiel that sits at the intersection of tradition and current events. Last year’s theme centered around the poisoning of the water in Flint. This year’s Haman was portrayed by Secretary of Education Besty DeVos threatening the schoolchildren of Detroit.

According to Alpert, this project is led by Jews in their 20s and 30s. They do not see synagogue membership as a mechanism to their Jewish identity, she says, but are making Judaism relevant to them. They want to immerse themselves in social justice causes, and this is the language and framework to which they respond.

Alpert said within Detroit’s younger generations of Jews there is a great desire to heal the rift that occurred between urban and suburban populations during the ’60s and ’70s. She says Jews for Justice wants to help heal Detroit. However, she cautions that alleviating the short-term symptoms of poverty — like collecting food and school supplies — may feel good to the volunteer, but real change will only come by influencing policy change at the city, county and state levels. She is looking to inspire a Jewish generation that is into social change and justice for the long haul.

While Avodah attracted transplants like Alpert, a California native, to make a go in Detroit, it also led others elsewhere.

Native Detroiter Elizabeth “Lizzy” Lovinger, 28, participated in Avodah in 2010 and now lives in Brooklyn. A longtime activist in the LGBTQ community, her work through Avodah with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis led to her current position in the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

She said moving to a new city when you are young and single can be very lonely, and she is thankful for her year with Avodah and the professional and social support it provided.

“I lived with other Avodah participants that year,” Lovinger said. “After a hard day at work, I came home to supportive Jewish housemates. We cooked dinner together and talked about the challenges of our work and shared advice.”

Now, she enjoys the inclusiveness of the Park Slope Jewish Center, in addition to hosting Shabbat dinners where topics of conversation range from building communities for Jews of color to fighting racism.

She also is an active member of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a Jewish American organization that supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, and works toward a just solution for Palestinian refugees.

Avodah’s Bocknek says there is no relationship between Avodah and JVP.

Elizabeth Lovinger

Lovinger said her involvement with JVP, which developed independently from her involvement with Avodah, along with her activism in Brooklyn-based Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and at her synagogue, are central parts to her Jewish life in Brooklyn.

“I’ve long been opposed to the occupation, and I wanted to find a Jewish community that contained a wide variety of opinions and experiences about Israel and Palestine,” she said.

“This was actually something I was looking for when I started in Avodah, and something that is just as important to me as my community’s commitment to racial justice, economic justice, LGBTQ justice and ending other forms of oppression. By defining Judaism on my terms, I have truly found my Jewish community.”

Work In New Orleans

AvodahNewOrleans.jpgSeveral Avodah participants who grew up in Detroit headed south and worked for the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) to fight against housing discrimination issues.

At an early age, Lisa Tencer, 28, became aware of Detroit’s “extreme segregation issues” and decided anti-poverty work, through a Jewish lens, would become her life’s calling. Upon her 2015 graduation from the University of Michigan, she enrolled in Avodah’s program in the Crescent City.

Tencer continues to work at GNOFHAC and is now a testing coordinator monitoring trends in housing discrimination. She maintains her Jewish connections in her new city by living in the local Moishe House and being an active member of Jewish Voice for Peace.

“My childhood neighborhood in Huntington Woods was just a few miles away from neighborhoods vastly different than mine,” Tencer says. “When I moved to New Orleans with Avodah, I saw many of those same painful similarities. It helped me redefine my Jewish identity. Just because I do not attend a synagogue does not mean I do not have a deep connection to Judaism. I choose to identify through social action.”

Miriam Liebman

Another Detroiter who spent her Avodah year fighting for fair housing at GNOFHAC is fifth-year Jewish Theological Seminary rabbinical student Miriam Liebman, 30, of Farmington Hills.

During her Avodah year in 2009-2010, she helped GNOFHAC in its lawsuit that overturned a discriminatory “blood relative” ordinance in St. Bernard Parish that violated the Fair Housing Act. The ordinance prohibited property owners from renting to non-blood relatives. At the time, 93 percent of the population in the parish was white.

“What I saw and did in New Orleans through Avodah strengthened my resolve to someday return to my native Detroit,” said Liebman, who grew up going to Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills and had a day school education through the 10th grade.

“I know the reality of the job market for young rabbis, but someday I hope to be back to work and live in Detroit. To me, this is what it means to be grounded, to come home to a place where my family roots are.”

Liebman said her Avodah experience reinforced her knowledge of justice being a core pillar of Judaism.

“Justice affects how we see and look at other individuals and makes us realize they, too, are created in the image of God,” she says. “The question is: How can we mobilize communally in how we see and change the world around us?”

2015-2016 New Orleans Corps member graduation, with Corps members and alumni. Lisa Tencer of Huntington Woods is seated, third from left

Hate. Ignorance. This is what it looks like.

Over 25 years ago, when I was a student reporter at the Daily Targum at Rutgers University, I wrote a story on how students and campus officials reacted to a spate of racist and anti-Semitic graffiti that cropped up all over campus in the winter of 1990. The article rests in a dusty portfolio somewhere in my basement. 

It’s still all out there. The cowardice too. The kind of cowardice that makes a person go into the dorm suite at the University of Minnesota and draw a swastika and a concentration scene on the white board outside a Jewish student’s bedroom.  The student – a 3G Holocaust survivor. 

With the current person running the White House, I fear it will only get worse. 

Here is my current story in this week’s Detroit Jewish News. 

Following last week’s rash of antiSemitic incidents on two Michigan college campuses, including emails rigged to look like they originated from a University of Michigan computer science professor and a Valentine’s Day card delivered at a Central Michigan University event featuring the image of Adolf Hitler, administrators, students and several Jewish organizations are standing up against the hatred.

Campus Hillels continue to offer support to those disturbed by the incidents as well as programs that engage Jewish students and encourage dialogue with the wider student body.

At U-M, the FBI, along with campus police, continue to work to uncover the distributor of the emails. Though their origin is not clear, they read as if they came from Professor Dr. Alex Halderman.

The messages, sent to Computer Science and Engineering students on Feb. 7, read:

“Hi (N-word), I just wanted to say that I plan to kill all of you. White power! The KKK has returned!!!”

An email addressed to Jewish people read:

“I just wanted to say the SS will rise again and kill all your filthy souls. Die in a pit of eternal fire! … Heil Trump!”

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the emails were sent from a “spoofed” account attributed to Halderman. Unlike a hacked email where someone gains control of an email account, a spoofed email is a forgery designed to look like it came from out of the country.

“These messages were spoofed,” Halderman wrote in a statement on the U-M website.

“I did not send them, and I don’t know who did. As I teach in my computer security classes, it takes very little technical sophistication to forge the sender’s address in an email.”

In fact, computer science and engineering student Daniel Chandross, 20, of West Bloomfield, who received the spoofed email, said he and fellow students figured out in 15 minutes that the email was a fake.

In a Feb. 8 statement to U-M Hillel students, parents, alumni and donors, Hillel Executive Director Tilly Shames said Hillel is working with the FBI and U-M authorities regarding the next steps to take and are being kept informed of any developments in the investigation. “The messages sent to our students were deeply disturbing and upsetting to our Jewish community,” Shames’ statement said. “It is important we come together in this moment to show this kind of hate will not be tolerated. Hate has no place on our campus. We will not be defined by these hateful messages but rather by the way we come together in response to them, showing our support for one another. We stand with all students and faculty impacted by these emails, and will continue to seek ways to offer support and unite as a campus community.”

The leaders of the U-M Central Student Government in a written statement also expressed disturbance at the “overtly racist, anti-Black and antiSemitic” emails and stressed “they have no place on this campus.” “An offense against any member of this university is an offense against all,” the CSG statement read. “Even if you are not a member of a targeted group, it is still your place, today and every day, to stand against injustice and fight discrimination. To our Black and Jewish friends, classmates and peers: You matter, and you belong here.”

On Sunday, the Detroit FBI field office stated, in part: “If, in the course of investigation, information is developed suggesting a federal violation of law, the FBI will coordinate with the United States Attorney’s Office to identify the best course of action toward prosecution.”

CMU INCIDENT

At Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, another hate incident took place, this time involving a Valentine’s Day card distributed at a Feb. 9 College Republicans event with a message containing a photo of Adolf Hitler that read:

“My love 4 u burns like 6,000 Jews.”

A statement on CMU Hillel’s Facebook page and website as well as the Hillel Campus Alliance of Michigan site said they are “deeply concerned and disappointed students would use anti-Semitic rhetoric and references to the Holocaust in a joking manner. We find these references to trivialize an incredibly dark period in history when more than 6 million Jews perished.”

The College Republicans apologized for the incident, saying they were not aware someone had slipped such a note into one the Valentine’s Day candy bags they were giving out. According to the Associated Press, school leaders Feb. 10 said the woman responsible for distributing the card was not a CMU student and admitted her “misguided action.” CMU said members of the student group “were unaware of the card when distributing the party gift bag containing it.” ADL Detroit Regional Director Heidi Budaj said, “The message conveyed in this Valentine’s Day bag is outrageous and deeply offensive. This anti-Semitic distribution not only affects the campus community, but also trivializes the horror that Holocaust victims and their families have experienced.” Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon

According to the Associated Press, school leaders Feb. 10 said the woman responsible for distributing the card was not a CMU student and admitted her “misguided action.” CMU said members of the student group “were unaware of the card when distributing the party gift bag containing it.”

ADL Detroit Regional Director Heidi Budaj said, “The message conveyed in this Valentine’s Day bag is outrageous and deeply offensive. This anti-Semitic distribution not only affects the campus community, but also trivializes the horror that Holocaust victims and their families have experienced.” Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wisenthal Center (SWC) in Los Angeles harshly criticized the CMU incident and said universities do not go far enough in their reactions when such incidents arise on campus.

 

 

In an interview, Cooper said he was not satisfied the woman responsible for creating the card at CMU was not named by the university and still wanted to know who within the student organization invited her to the event.

“It is very nice the club apologized, but they still owe the community full disclosure as to how this vile incident happened,” Cooper said. “At the minimum, it is time to begin to name and shame such cowards.”

Cooper said harsher consequences for perpetrators of anti-Semitism and better protections for Jewish students cannot be implemented at colleges and universities because there is no legal definition of antiSemitism. According to Cooper, the SWC is working with other groups to pass legislation in Congress to sharpen discrimination and hate acts aimed at Jews. Late last November, the bipartisan Anti-Semitism Awareness Act was introduced to Congress and, in December, passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate. In response to the rising hate acts against Jewish students, the SWC in 2014 developed a mobile app called “combathateU” to help Jewish students and other supporters of Israel deal with hate, bias, anti-Semitism and extreme anti-Israel harassment on campus. Submissions to the app are answered within 24 hours so the SWC can elicit additional information and suggest possible solutions.

RESILIENT STUDENTS

On both campuses, Jewish students reacted to the events with shock and confusion, but also continued to engage Jewish students as well as non-Jewish students in inclusive programming to pave the way to dialogue and understanding.

Chandross, a U-M sophomore, said he was “surprised and confused” when the email landed in his inbox. But he and fellow computer science majors who received the same email learned quickly from the email’s metadata it was a fake.

“We’re all pretty much reacting in the same way,” Chandross said. “Some people are bigots and you just can’t let it phase you. It’s just not a way to move forward.”

U-M junior Mara Cranis, 20, of West Bloomfield, who has a leadership position at U-M Hillel, said that since September, there has been an increase in antiSemitism on campus.

The day after the email, she and other students and professional Hillel leaders were on hand at the Hillel building to serve as a support source for students. The organization also went ahead with its already-scheduled Jewish Engineering Students Associated Shabbat and extended the invitation to the National Society of Black Engineers.

Hillel at CMU President Hadley Platek, 21, of Woodhaven was preparing a Tu b’Shevat “unplugged” Shabbat event when she received a text from a friend containing the photograph of the offensive card. In response, she and other concerned students quickly assembled an anti-hate rally attracting approximately 60 students, where she shared her dismay about the card as well as her experience of visiting Yad Vashem on her recent Birthright trip to Israel.

“Many of my friends were shocked that something like this could happen at our campus,” Platek said. “I know that in stressful times people use humor to cope, but I don’t know how people can think this is funny. There was a clear lack of judgment from the person who created this.”

Platek, a senior, said this was the first time she could recall something of this nature happening at CMU and that, in general, she said there has been a “great coming together” against hatred and racism toward minorities, especially since the Trump administration’s temporary ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. “Our campus [student body] is very good about inclusion, coming together to make things better.” •

 

 

Eulogy for a Friend & Fellow Transplant

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I hope you never have to write a memorial speech for a friend. I hope that by the time you lose a friend in life, you are too old to stand, your mind too weathered with old age to focus, your voice too weak to make a sound. 

But that’s not the case when you lose a friend when they are young. 

It hurts. But writing for a writer is a healing salve. Thank you, Peter, for asking. 

The first time I truly understood the courageous character of our beloved Amy was during a telephone conversation I had with her in the fall of 2011. I was a newspaper reporter writing about Rochester New York’s upcoming annual Ovarian Cancer walk. Amy, as she did many times in her short but brilliant life, offered to share her story publicly and candidly to put a face on the statistics.

Unfortunately, my call caught her driving home from a friend’s wake. Her friend had just died from ovarian cancer.

Deadline or not, I was afraid that the timing of this interview was insensitive on my part. So I gave Amy an out. I apologized for reaching her at such a sad time. But instead of not wanting to be interviewed, she did just the opposite. “No, I want to talk to you. My friend was so strong, such an inspiration to all of us. Any time a treatment was not responding, she refused to get down and would instead say to her doctors, what else can we try? What’s next?”

Does this sound like someone we all knew and loved?

Amy truly lived during the fight of her life. Just as she connected to life here in her new community in Michigan, Amy, with her feisty wit and that warm win-you-over in a heartbeat smile, was a vibrant presence back in Rochester.

She worked for over 20 years in real estate as an apartment rental specialist and served on many leadership positions in the community and at our synagogue back in Rochester, NY.

What truly drew us together was my second understanding of Amy’s courage to embrace life’s changes while she faced the realities of her cancer.  On a sunny October day in 2012, not unlike the one we had today, General Motors threw us all for a loop. It announced the closure of its Rochester-based research facility where both our husbands worked and the relocation of their jobs to Michigan.

I’ve moved around a lot. But Rochester was the only home Amy ever knew. That’s the town where her entire support network existed: family, friends, co-workers, doctors and other healthcare providers.   Moving away from everything familiar when you have cancer must have taken immense bravery.

During the moving process, we became comrades in relocation . We scoped out Detroit together on week-long house hunting trips. Back in Rochester, we met for walks and early breakfasts to discuss the move process, how we were staging our Rochester homes for buyers and how our kids were handling goodbyes with their friends.

We shared the frustration of long-distance house hunting,  in a post-foreclosure Detroit housing market and shared with each other listings we found on Zillow.

Once we found our houses, together we began to make them feel like home. Craig and I went to Amy and Peter’s house to hang up their front door mezuzah. Then, Amy and Peter came to our house before our furniture had even arrived to hang out on the rug in our family room, have a drink and play a cut-throat game of SET.

Amy, with her meticulous taste and her zest for shopping, went on to quickly decorate with a color wheel of paint samples to repaint the bedrooms upstairs, and wall hangings and picture frames with blank spots marked “reserved” for the main floor downstairs. It was as if she knew that time was not on her side, and she wanted to create the homiest home for Peter and Ben while her energies were still high.

As time went on, both of us gradually started making our individual paths. Though we joined different synagogues and our kids were in different school districts, we still found time to make new memories in our new town. I was amazed how quickly Amy plugged into life here, from her involvement and leadership in the PTO at Sheiko, her volunteer work for Blessings in a Backpack, and here at Beth Ahm, Amy quickly made an Army of friends. The next thing I knew it was Amy who was calling my kids to get them involved with planning the community-wide Purim carnivals.

Amy and I would talk on the phone. A lot. For a very long time. I cherished our lingering conversations because I knew there may be a time when I would no longer get to chat with my friend Amy.

Most of the time, we’d talk about our kids. School. The latest Groupon she scored. How we hated going food shopping here because once you shop at Wegmans, no other grocery store would do. Completely normal conversations between girlfriends.

On the occasion, and only when SHE wanted to bring it up, our chats were dotted with tumors that were either holding or shrinking. The date of an upcoming scan. When we needed to arrange to drive her to her next doctors visit or chemo treatment.

And then, we’d get on to talking about making social plans for date nights, either as couples or with the family.

You see, the Gittlemans and Harveys are forever connected by a few dates. Peter and Amy’s wedding anniversary is on my birthday. And Amy and my daughter shared a birthday on December 17. So, we celebrated on family date nights in search of a good Italian restaurant. Couple date nights where the four of us never got our meal served at the Bath City Bistro before seeing Howie Mandel. We waited two hours for their anniversary dinner that never came. Always the fighter, Amy made sure we did not pay a penny for our un-meal, not even for our drinks.

Then one winter we went to go see Amy’s boyfriend, STING, play at the Auburn Palace. The next morning, we met up to walk at the JCC and continued to swoon over her boyfriend’s performance.

But perhaps my favorite memory of our friendship was in the summer of 2014 when Amy and I took a girls’ road trip back to Rochester.

Anyone who has taken a long ride on the highway with Amy behind the wheel knows this. She had a lead foot.

We took her minivan.  She insisted – repeatedly –  on driving the whole way up and over Canada. For our listening pleasure, I brought along an audio book I thought she might like: “Confessions of a Shopoholic”  We also talked about our plans for the weekend and hoped that on the way back, a minivan loaded with grocery bags from Wegmans would not arouse suspicions from the Border Guards.

For one sweet summer road trip, we talked about anything but the Teal elephant in the car. We never talked about her cancer.

On the drive back on Monday morning, we got caught in some traffic snarls around Toronto. Amy was only worried about not getting home in time to get Ben off the bus. So her leaded foot got even heavier.

Now, I am a nervous driver. So every time Amy rode up behind a car in the left lane a wee bit out of my comfort zone, my right foot instinctively slammed down on the floor.

Coolly and calmly, Amy glanced at me and said: “I’m afraid to tell you this, Mrs. Gittleman, but you do not have a brake pedal on your side of the car,”

In an attempt to convince her to drive more slowly, I tried to come up with some solutions.

“Can’t Ben go to a neighbor?”

“No, I get him off the bus.”

“Can he even wait 5-10 minutes outside in case we are late?”

“Nope I get him off the bus.”

It was then I realized just how devoted, how strong and how fierce Amy’s love was for you, Ben.

Because, as long as she was around on this earth, as long as she had the strength, your mom was going to be sure SHE was the one to be the one to see you off that schoolbus at the end of the day.

I never knew a woman so dedicated to raising and nurturing a child as Amy. Ben, she was so involved at your school, and in this synagogue where she and your dad did and will continue to raise you to be the mensch that you are and will continue to become.

Social workers at Karmanos told me that above Amy’s being an inspirational role model to other young cancer patients, they never met a woman who spoke so lovingly about her husband and son. Always with a smile. As sick as she felt, they said, Amy made sure to always advocate for Ben: preparing him for the future, Ben made it to his art therapy classes, and right after, Amy whisked him off to Karate.

Ben and Peter, I know nothing can replace Amy’s love, the clear blue of her eyes and her sweet voice. All the arms in the world cannot replace the loving embrace of her arms, but I do hope that you can feel us embrace you, not only tonight, but in the months and years to come.

On the morning that Amy died,  the rain fell and it seemed that it would never stop. Just like that song Fragile, by Sting  “On and on the rain did fall, like tears from a star, like tears from a star.”

Though we cry now, Peter and Ben, please know your friends and family who gathered here promise to stand with you, to give you all our love and support at this difficult time.

 

 

May you be comforted by the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

 

 

What is your wish/prayer for the Birthday of the World? How will you put it into action? A Rosh Hashanah press inquiry

 

Hayom Harat Olam – Today the world stands at birth

If Rosh Hashanah is the World’s birthday, then what do you wish for it?

Can you help me out?

I am sleuthing for good sources for another feature on a tight deadline (September 15) for the High Holiday issue of the Detroit Jewish News. And, if you help me out and write to me about your wish, in turn, you are helping yourself focus on the meaning of the High Holidays:

Kids and adults: What is your special individual hope, prayer or wish for this world?

And, what, in the New Year, will you to do to work towards making that wish come true? Will you volunteer? Tutor a child? Check in on an elderly neighbor? Collect food and water for the hungry? Start a whole new organization for your favorite cause?

 

According to Genesis, when God created the world, God knew it would be incomplete. Imperfect. That’s why he created us: humans, to enter into a partnership with Him to keep the earth and repair it.

These days, the Earth – from the global to the most local levels, needs lots of healing. From the broken schools in Detroit where only 47 percent of adults are functionally literate to our polarized and ugly presidential election cycle.

From the fires in California, floods in Louisana and Zika in Florida.

Genocide in Syria and Iraq.

In the Jewish world, we face growing anti-Semitism from the college campus to a global level as the world grapples with growing radical Islam.

Indeed, the problems are overwhelming.

Are we truly up to the task of being God’s partner in a time like this?

But we must. Today’s problems provide us with plenty of food for thought as we approach the month of Elul and we prepare spiritually for the Jewish New Year of 5777

How can we as one individual live up to the task of being God’s partner in a time like this? But we must. Today’s problems provide us with plenty of food for thought as we approach the month of Elul and we prepare spiritually for the Jewish New Year of 5777?

So, let us, you, Jewish Detroit, and I,  start this conversation together.

Ask yourself and ask your children: What do you hope/wish/pray for this Rosh Hashanah for the world’s birthday wish?

And, how will you plan to fulfill this wish? Leave me a reply in the comments, 100 words or less, and your contact information. If I select it, I will let you know and will need a photograph of you for publication in the DJN.

Email me at stacy.gittleman@yahoo.com or leave me a reply in the comments, 100 words or less, and your contact information. If I select it, I will let you know and will need a photograph of you for publication in the DJN.

And, if you choose to act on your wish, as prayers should lead to action, I will feature you and your social action cause further this new Jewish year as a mensch of the month.

I look forward to reading, and writing about, your birthday wishes for the world.

 

 

 

Weaving Magic – Teen Network Weavers energize and engage Detroit’s Jewish teens

Another school year is off to a running start. Let us make a New Years Resolution of keeping our Jewish kids connected to their Judaism beyond Hebrew School and their coming of age Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony. 

For me, Hebrew school is where I learned, but Jewish Youth group is where it all came into play. And meet my partner for life, there’s that too. 

So, find ways to get your kids involved – whether it be USY, NFTY, BBYO or NCSY. These are the ties that bind for life.  It was a pleasure to speak to so many committed young staff committed to nurturing our Jewish youth. 

Weaving Magic: Teen engagement initiative aims to nurture the community’s next generation

By Stacy Gittleman, Contributing Writer

Posted on August 25, 2016, 10:35 AM . Filed in Uncategorized. Tagged , ,. Be the first to comment!

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Jake Provizer of Farmington Hills remembers being “anti” Hebrew school. After his bar mitzvah at Temple Israel, the incoming Michigan State University freshman begrudgingly attended Monday night school. It was not until he found himself encircled by his newest friends during Havdalah at his first NFTY convention in Chicago that he felt his Jewish identity taking hold.

“I was in the eighth grade, and it was my first youth group experience,” recalled Provizer over a phone interview from Camp George in Canada, where he is spending his second summer as a counselor. “Then and there, I realized there was no place I would rather be. I went to every NFTY event all through high school. Involvement with Jewish youth is the best way to build your Jewish identity while you pick up the skills to become an independent adult.”

Temple Beth El youth are out with their Teen Network Weaver Joseph Unger, right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jake Provizer of Farmington Hills, an active, committed teen, at Camp George in Canada during a Shabbat service

There are about 4,400 Jewish teenagersin Metro Detroit, but only about 1,000 — or 25 percent — think like Provizer and are active in Jewish living. The rest of this age group, though they value things like Jewish holidays and being with Jewish friends, are pulled in different directions in a post-religious society that values secular pursuits as they look to build their college application portfolio.

As teen free time dwindles, Jewish youth programming needs to be more meaningful to fulfill the teens’ social action desires as well as their need to socialize in a realm outside of social media.

The above findings are from a 2014 study conducted by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit’s Task Force on Jewish Engagement. Recognizing that a robust Jewish community can only continue by nurturing the next generation, Detroit is leading the nation in financial commitment to Jewish teen engagement with its Teen Network Weavers (TNW) initiative. The TNW term was coined by Rabbis Jen Lader and Josh Bennett of Temple Israel.

“It is crucial that we re-invest in our teens to connect them to their rich heritage that can offer so much guidance as they navigate their way through the many modern challenges they face,” said Jeffrey Lasday of Federation’s Education Department.“Success to us at the end of this second year will look like 90 percent of Detroit’s Jewish teens participating in at least one Jewish youth program.”

TNW funding is provided by a $150,000 grant from the Hermlin-Davidson Center for Congregational Excellence. The grant is then split and matched three ways between Temple Israel of West Bloomfield, Temple Beth El of Bloomfield Township and a consortium of local Conservative synagogues. The match calls for congregations and Federation to split the cost of each weaver, an administrator and some programming costs. Each weaver is hired on a two-year rolling grant basis.

The three weavers function at the highest community level instead of the individual congregation level as they are guided by a Teen Network Weaver administrator on Federation’s staff. The initiative strives to keep Jewish teens in the fold by meeting them where they are — both literally and spiritually.

Heading up the TNW team is Barrett Harr, Federation’s coordinator of Jewish teen engagement. Harr moved here from Texas after 15 years of congregational Jewish youth fieldwork and this spring completed the Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.The weavers’ jobs demand a much more proactive expertise than their part-time counterparts of previous generations. TNWs have backgrounds in social work and teen crisis management as well as a depth of knowledge of Judaism.

“Somewhere along the line, society has lost that village where every adult in the neighborhood looked out for one another’s children,” Harr said. “The Federation is determined to nurture more Jewish teens and we, as Jewish youth professionals, are blessed to have such a financial commitment from this community.”

 

Jewish Journeys

Shortly after she graduated college, Jacki Honing, 26, found herself at a dinner meeting with a potential employer on a Friday night.

“As a 20-something, I realized I had some choices to make: Do I opt for the corporate life, or do I want to work in the Jewish world?” said the Las Vegas native who moved to Detroit for the weaver job in January and works with teens in the Conservative movement.

She dropped her corporate ambitions and committed her professional pursuits to the Jewish community. Honig channels her memories attending Jewish preschool, day school and socializing in United Synagogue Youth and Camp Ramah as she mentors teens making personal choices of how to live more Jewishly. Well-versed in the teen mindset, she takes a “one-size-does-not-fit-all” strategy for finding just the right opportunity to spark a teen’s interest in Judaism.

“We realize that what may work for one teen will not work for another,” Honig said. “We are not proprietary to the particular youth groups we represent. What is most important is making these teens realize they are the future of our community by nurturing and mentoring them now. Then, when they are adults, they will want to give back, not only to the Jewish community, but to Detroit as a whole.”


“Without her, who knows where
MCUSY would be, and I’m so fortunate I got to work with her this past year as MCUSY co-president,” said Bloomberg, who has held leadership roles locally  and regionally. “USY has been an essential part of my high school experience. USY has taught me valuable leadership skills, and has introduced me to a plethora of friends I consider family. It has also given me the opportunity to further my Jewish education. I’ve had the opportunity to lead programs regarding lessons in the Torah as well as lead part of Shabbat services at every regional convention.”Allison Bloomberg, 17, of Farming-ton Hills, who will be a senior this year at Frankel Jewish Academy in West Bloomfield, said Honig has been “a huge help” in supporting MCUSY (Motor City USY) during a transitional phase and helped keep the Conservative-based chapter growing in the right direction.
Programs like this over the last year have attracted a core group of 10 kids, plus 35-40 others who have attended at least one program over the year. Other successful programs last year included Havdalah at the William Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse in Detroit with TBE’s Rabbi Mark Miller.Joseph Unger, the only native Detroiter of the weavers, works as the youth adviser at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Township. Much of the NFTY programming at TBE focuses on social justice and volunteering, such as monthly trips to soup kitchens or other work coordinated by Repair the World Detroit.

At 25, Unger likes to be honest with the teens, telling them he wishes he had taken his own religious schooling more seriously. He did get involved with Michigan State University Hillel and traveled with the group on a life-changing Birthright Israel trip.

“That trip really made me think more about Judaism and how I wanted to give back to my community,” he said.

 

Building  Israel Ties
If Ethan Bennett, TNW for Temple Israel, had his way, he would make sure each teen understands the connection to the Jewish homeland — not during Friday evening services, but by taking them on a hike into the Negev Desert and then studying a text that sources the very trail where they had just walked.

Bennett tries to do the next best thing by facilitating informal Thursday night programs at Temple Israel where teens can learn and discuss topics pertaining to Israel.
“Israel has shaped who I am and it is an important part of my work,” Bennett said. “Today’s Jewish teens need resources to define their own relationship with Israel. When they get to college they will be challenged, and that is OK. But they need to be prepared.”A native of St. Louis, Mo., Bennett was active in NFTY and spent a gap year in Israel, where he bolstered his skills in working with Jewish teens. He also finished his studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he studied Hebrew and Arabic and worked on youth partnership programs between Arab and Jewish teens in Israel.

Bennett finds his job as a weaver very fulfilling and says he is very grateful for the wide support he and his cohorts are receiving.

He began his position in October 2015 after working with Jewish teens throughout the country. However, he said he has never seen the devotion and commitment of a community for teen outreach as he has witnessed in Detroit.

“It is rare a community invests so much in its youth advisers and allows us to have so much influence in the community,” he said. “We have been given license to take our ideas and passions and run with them.”

 

What do you Say??

Nathanhopcat

My first short-lived job out of college I worked for a small weekly newspaper in a rural county in New Jersey.  So rural that the grounds for the county fair, complete with livestock competitions with pigs and cows,  was right out the back door of the newsroom.

That weekend, the staff worked a booth to promote the paper and increase circulation. I was in charge of blowing up helium balloons and handing them out to children who stopped by to visit.

With each child I gave a balloon, parents were sure to ask that child in a prodding manner:

“What do you say?”

It seems the thing you teach your kid to say, that kindest phrase, cannot be said enough in life.

Just saying thank you. Showing gratitude for every experience, some good, some not so good, but recognizing that each moment teaches and shapes you.

In addition to nurturing this practice in our children, for saying thank you for getting material things when they are younger, we hope that as our kids grow into adults, they keep saying it for the intangible things too.

So there I was, out at the Crofoot, a nightclub in Pontiac, Mich.,  trying to make eye contact with my 17-year-old son as he opened for touring folk-rock bands The Mountain Babies and The Cactus Blossoms, mouthing the words:

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

Now, I am not saying that he did not say thank you to his audience, or to the headlining band. But you just can’t say it enough.

This is the summer that my 17-year old son, soon to be a high school senior, truly hustled to get out his music as a solo guitarist and songwriter.  The band that he and his mates tried so hard to get off the ground during sophomore and junior year never took off. There were too many conflicts. Too many SAT prep classes and cross-country meets. Too many mothers filling up weekends with family obligations.

This summer, he did not get a job at Kroger, or Old Navy, or a summer day camp. It was not from a lack of trying.

What he did get were a few paid gigs.

So I just want to say, thank you.

Thank you to the Teen Council of Detroit and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit for fostering creativity through your rap and songwriting workshops, your uncensored teen Open Mike nights.

Thank you to the Farmington Civic Theater for letting my son busk  (yes, this is a verb that you learn when you know a starving up and coming musician) on a couple of Friday nights for dollar bills and pocket change, and a free drink and two movie tickets.

Thank you to Goldfish Tea in Royal Oak and all the tea sipping folks there who listened and cheered for my son on open mike nights.

Thank you to The Hopcat who, though he was underage, let my son open up your open mike night a little early at your upstairs bar before he had to get thrown out.  And, of course, thank you for Crack Fries.

And all along the way, I am thankful for the friends here, people I did not have in my life only three short years ago since moving to Detroit, who not only have come out to hear him play, but who ask me when he is playing next.

So, my son, I know you are never more comfortable than when you are up on stage playing, but when you are up there, you know what to say, and you cannot say it enough. Plug the band for whom you are opening. Give praise to your audience. You just cannot do it enough.

While I’m at it, I would be humbly thankful if you check out my son’s music here.

 

 

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