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Detroit Jewish group looking for a few young urban pioneers
August 5th, 2011
04:00 AM ET

Detroit Jewish group looking for a few young urban pioneers

By Joe Sterling, CNN

(CNN) - Jordan Wolfe and Leor Barak are Jewish and really dig living in the city of Detroit. But these two members of the tribe are demographic exceptions.

The vast majority of the 72,000 Jews in the Detroit metro area are planted in the suburbs, according to census figures. Just a sprinkling reside in the city.

However, a Detroit Jewish federation initiative is planting a seed or two to help the city grow, person by person. It is raising money for a rent subsidy program designed to attract 25 young people to live in the city.

The federation's CommunityNEXT has kicked off "Do It for Detroit," the umbrella name for a number of events in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and metro Detroit designed to raise $100,000.

If the money is raised, it will be used to provide subsidies of $3,000 a year - $250 a month - to live in the city. The program will accept applications in October.

The rent subsidy program is called the Live Detroit Fund and it will be administered by CommunityNEXT.

The goal of the program: Attracting and retaining young talent in the region. It is open to all, not just Jews, but it has a focus on the Jewish community.

To qualify for the aid, applicants must agree to host a monthly event that helps invigorate the Jewish community and the greater Detroit region.

The program and the sentiment behind it buck a long-time trend among Jewish-Americans.

Like other major American cities, Detroit has been ravaged by industrial decline and urban blight.

Like other hyphenated Americans, Jews have left for the suburbs from the inner cities where they first settled when they came to the United States.

The city of Detroit has a rich Jewish heritage and was once dotted with a few dozen synagogues. But today, it has only one free-standing congregation left, the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue.

Jordan Wolfe, the director of CommunityNEXT, lives in the Midtown neighborhood of Detroit and, ironically, commutes occasionally to work in the suburbs.

Several employers in the city have similar programs to get their own employees to move back to the city, Wolfe said. If the group can raise the money to kick off the subsidy program, it will be an exciting opportunity for young people to engage in what Wolfe calls an impressive economic development story - helping Detroit grow.

It's a worthwhile place for an urban pioneer and an opportunity to shape an environment, even though the effort has its obvious challenges as well, with the city being in bad shape economically, he said.

"If we're lucky and successful, we'll get a mix. I think we want 25 people who have a variety of occupations and that entrepreneurial mindset," Wolfe said.

Wolfe lives in the Midtown neighborhood.

"For me, it's great," he said. "I really like the urban feel and going places that are diverse in nature."

Leor Barak is hoping there will be "transparency of process" in the program's choices.

He also hopes the community understands the need for "an overall awareness about positive community-oriented development to avoid gentrification."

Just the same, Barak supports incentives to bring people to the city and is excited to see the Jewish community engaged in such an effort.

Barak says there are two major misconceptions about Detroit. One is that the entire city is devastated.

"That's not true," said the resident of the West Village Historic District. There are many nice neighborhoods, he said.

Another is the perception about large-scale crime.

"The second misperception is that you are going to get shot walking around," he said. "I bike to work every single day, and I've never had an issue.

Barak is an evangelist for the city. The Jewish community is hoping his attitudes are contagious.

"If you have a passion for change, this is the place. This is the most exciting place to be in the country right now."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Judaism • Michigan • United States

soundoff (212 Responses)
  1. Dave

    How will this idea fit into the "make Detroit into a Farm concept"??? Oh.. too much concrete to plow?? Geesh.... Get a clue guys...
    You need to ask yourself why people "do not" live in downtown Detroit. Correct that situation and people will move back into Detroit without bribes. Ignore it, and nothing will change. This really isn't rocket science.

    August 6, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  2. The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

    On Friday,August 5, 2011 at 7:58 pm Jumpin Jehosophat!!!!!!!!!! wrote “Atheists being rude and pushy on the internet is just a natural reaction, since in everyday life, in an overwhelmingly Xtian dominated society, we are not free to argue our point of view even politely without suffering very real consequences like being shunned, putting our employment in jeopardy, facing verbal or physical aggression from these "followers of the prince of peace", etc. Heck, even mention that you don't believe in a god (without criticising the belief in one) and you are usually mocked as an idiot who will burn in hell and/or looked at like you're some kind of creep, simply for not believing that people come back from the dead, or that a hypothetical deity who slaughters innocent babies by the millions in his supposed holy book doesn't sound like a wonderful guy...So, when you can actually say something without relegating yourself to revolting leper status at your job or etc, some tend to let loose a bit. Can you really blame them?????”

    All people were, are and will ever be “rude and pushy on the internet” unless the practicing of being Malleable (not molded) is considered and becomes one‘s Norm. Even then there rushes up from one’s soul to sometimes become a damnification of wickedry’s wantonness towards ridiculing others regardless one’s ethnicity or culturalist agendas be they for the Gods or against even knowing the Gods and Goddesses that this world does only tend to remember by the watching of movies via theaters or on Tv! I for being but a Party of Oneness care little about what one’s stereotyped and Ritualized beliefs are! You can be a Monotheist or an Atheist. Makes no difference to me. 🙂

    August 6, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Dave

      What is up with you? This is not the place to hit the "paste" button... no one is going to read that much BS.. you are wasting your time.

      August 6, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • J.W

      The copy and paste technique seems to be used alot on this blog. I guess people find it easier than coming up with their own argument

      August 6, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  3. The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

    TruthMatters wrote on, August 6, 2011 at 2:38 am, "The whole nation will be like Detroit if America does not repent. Maybe already is."

    All the world is as hardened as a hard boiled egg. Only by cracking its' shell can one get at the food! 😦

    August 6, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  4. TruthMatters

    America's military will get weakened if her nation-wide immorality continues. Do something about that, Jews.

    August 6, 2011 at 3:48 am |
    • Reality

      And again we hear from the "red-neck" lady of many names.

      August 6, 2011 at 7:05 am |
  5. TruthMatters

    The Jews should read the Torah and the Gospels together in order to really know their God. All Israel will be saved by believing in Jesus, their prophecy-filled Messiah. There was no one besides Jesus who fulfilled all the numerous prophesies in the Jewish Bible. God prophesied His own sufferings, not of Israel, in Isaiah 53. The Gentiles put their trust in Jesus and so should the Jews. Jesus is the Savior of the world. (John ch.4)

    August 6, 2011 at 2:43 am |
    • The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      Another late night, early morning seminarian poster are we TM? Christendom does have many folk who proclaim that Their God to be the Only God. The God of Abram/Abraham, the God of Moses, the God of David. What about the bery first mentioned God who is the God of Adam? Where's the Beef? Here KITTIE Kittie kittie! Of GOD, By God there truly are gods and goddesses of every dimensioned Plain of Constant's Relativities! 🙂

      August 6, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  6. TruthMatters

    The whole nation will be like Detroit if America does not repent. Maybe already is.

    August 6, 2011 at 2:38 am |
  7. Reality

    Some things need to be repeated:

    origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times

    New Torah For Modern Minds

    “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

    The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

    August 5, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  8. The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

    Forgive me for writing off subject but a poster here did write about "muzzies" or Muslims living in Detroit. It was "lavakava"; who did such a post plus he/she added, "hopefully they won't blow something up."

    I don't know and/or am not aware of the situations regarding the societal cultures living in Detroit. This Blog states, "The federation's CommunityNEXT has kicked off "Do It for Detroit," the umbrella name for a number of events in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and metro Detroit designed to raise $100,000."

    My googling CommunityHEXT led me to a rather average website that had dates and such for "kicking off" events on a weekly basis in order to raise moneys for this "umbrekka" charity.based fundraising. Sounds like a worthy cause for but only "25 people" to benefit from this fundraising event. Although it is but a small gathering, it seems to me to be a Jewish "only" Endeavour. "

    'The goal of the program: Attracting and retaining young talent in the region. It is open to all, not just Jews, but it has a focus on the Jewish community." I GUESS that leaves out the rest of us who have no Jewish blood. 😦

    August 5, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • The Lionly Lamb of The Gods Does Roar

      I forgot to post; "If the money is raised, it will be used to provide subsidies of $3,000 a year – $250 a month – to live in the city. The program will accept applications in October."

      Let's add this up! $!00.000.oo $3,000.oo a year times 25 people. That equates to $75,000.oo a year. I guess $25,000.oo a year for the fundraisers is an OK Thang! 🙂

      August 5, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
  9. Nelson

    People will always fear the Jews because they are advanced, and are people of action. My Christian brothers and sisters they are The people we live with and they have been through a holocaust let's not make them upset because the fact is that they are helping us. Thank you Jews!

    August 5, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • Spiffy

      How are they helping you? Plus Christians have been killing Jews for centuries. Look at the Holocaust for the latest Christian endeavor to kill off "God's Chosen People".

      August 5, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  10. Jeremy

    I notice CNN has selectively trimmed away any posts questioning if this is elitist or racist. They're media, I guess they know not to bite the hand that feeds huh?

    August 5, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  11. Jumpin Jehosophat!!!!!!!!!!

    Maybe the hebraic hipsters can have a "Rodeo for Moshe" with their new edgy black neighbors???

    August 5, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  12. Liorava

    I just read this beautiful article which made me proud and wanting to also join this great association in helping all of gods children who are misfourtunate. Why hate the Jews for giving back to the community???? It's not this article that made some of you upset, it's the fact that you wake up early to get to work so your boss ( a Jew most likely ) will not be mad at you. It's the fact that you drank the coffee that the Jew imported. You visited the bank that the Jew owns. You read the news and saw many Jewish names. You had lunch in a restaurant owned by a Jew. You saw a movie made by a Jew. You live in a house that was built by a Jew. You listened to music that is ran by a Jew. You watched the news and heard about the Jew. People this list is endless and as you can see you need the Jews so come on now....what's another beautiful thing from the millions of things that Jews create and action? God bless America and god bless the Jews. With under 20 million people which is not even a percent of the world's population we are one of the main factors on this beautiful planet 🙂

    August 5, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • frank

      Can you get me some jewish pu$$y?

      August 5, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  13. BW

    What tribe would that be dude?

    August 5, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  14. lavakava

    jews are smart ppl. unfortunately, detroit has a lot of muzzies sympathetic towards hamas and hezbollah. hopefully they won't blow something up ....

    August 5, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
  15. Jumpin Jehosophat!!!!!!!!!!

    Atheists being rude and pushy on the internet is just a natural reaction, since in everyday life, in an overwhelmingly Xtian dominated society, we are not free to argue our point of view even politely without suffering very real consequences like being shunned, putting our employment in jeopardy, facing verbal or physical aggression from these "followers of the prince of peace", etc. Heck, even mention that you don't believe in a god (without criticising the belief in one) and you are usually mocked as an idiot who will burn in hell and/or looked at like you're some kind of creep, simply for not believing that people come back from the dead, or that a hypothetical deity who slaughters innocent babies by the millions in his supposed holy book doesn't sound like a wonderful guy...
    So, when you can actually say something without relegating yourself to revolting leper status at your job or etc, some tend to let loose a bit.
    Can you really blame them?????

    August 5, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • Bannister

      Nonsense. I would bet that VERY FEW people have "lost their jobs" for being atheists. It's probably equal to the number of people who have lost their jobs for being Christian. Very few.

      August 6, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • JP99

      Lol u hate the truth lol.

      August 6, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  16. Mommy Linda

    This situation is typical in every urban location. I live in a suburb of Kansas City. The largest temple and the Jewish hospital has moved to the suburbs in Kansas. There is a huge Conservative temple sitting empty and up for , as it has for the past 5+ years. There is only one temple left in KC, all of the others have relocated to Johnson County, KS.

    I am not Jewish, but I know that the fact that Kansas City, MO has lost so many religious people is tragic. They are still here; they live in Overland Park and other suburbs, and we have large and active synagogues and a Jewish School that goes thru 12th grade that has the best scholastic reputation in town. Do I think that my contemporaries are going to move back into the city? Can't believe that they would. I know that I would not, given the crime, poor education opportunities, and neighborhood deterioration. I would not do it to my children.

    August 5, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  17. Willy D

    Hey my fellow Jews, come settle in an ugly sh!thole where the other tribe thinks you're the devil and wants to kill you!
    You mean the West Bank?
    No, Detroit!

    August 5, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  18. heehawGoat

    This idea will fail epically... It's not their time to shine... This country is going down and unless you belong to the "IN CROWD" building something from nothing will not work!!!

    August 5, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  19. Jacob Singer

    The situation in my city of Newark, New Jersey is similar to the one in Detroit. It was once home to dozens of synagogues. Today it has one last operating synagogue which also operates as the Jewish Museum of New Jersey.

    August 5, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  20. Jonny J

    I don't understand this project
    Are they trying to start another Jew rap group like those 3rd Base dudes?

    August 5, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.