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History of the Jews in Metro Detroit

As of 2012, about 116,000 Jewish Americans live in Metro Detroit. In 2001, about 96,000 Jewish Americans lived in Metro Detroit. That year, 75% of them lived in Oakland County. Many are in walking distances to their synagogues.[1] In 2006 the Jews living in Windsor, Ontario, lived closer to Downtown Detroit than the Jewish communities within Metro Detroit.[2]

The Jewish community includes Ashkenazi, Hasidic, and Sephardic origin Jews who follow those traditions. The religious movements represented include common versions of Conservative, Orthodox, Reform Judaism.[2]

The nearby cities of Ann Arbor, Flint, and Ypsilanti have their own Jewish communities. Barry Stiefel, author of The Jewish Community of Metro Detroit 1945-2005, classifies these cities as being part of the "Greater Metro Detroit" region.[2]


  • History 1
  • Institutions 2
  • Education 3
    • Primary and secondary schools 3.1
    • Colleges and universities 3.2
  • Religion 4
  • Media 5
  • Notable people 6
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


1902-1922 Temple Beth-El, now the Bonstelle Theatre

The first recorded Jew in Detroit was Chapman Abraham, a fur trader from Montreal. In 1762, in order to trade he traveled south along the Detroit River. He was recorded that year. Until his 1783 death he had a residence in Detroit.[3]

In the 1920s and early 1930s, during the East Coast wrested control of the territory from the Purple Gang.[4]

In the 1930s several Jews leaving Germany under Adolf Hitler arrived in Detroit. In the 1940s the 12th Street/Linwood/Dexter area housed the Jewish community in Detroit. The community at one point moved to the Livernois-Seven Mile area. It later relocated to the Oakland County municipalities of Oak Park, Southfield, and West Bloomfield.[1] The post-World War II Jewish community began to suburbanize. Barry Stiefel, author of The Jewish Community of Metro Detroit 1945-2005, wrote that "The move from Detroit to the suburbs north of Eight Mile Road was not a Jewish event, but one of socioeconomic class and race." [5]

In 1963 Rabbi Sherwin Wine, located in Metro Detroit, founded the Humanistic Judaism movement there.[5]

Stiefel wrote that by the 1970s the exodus of Jews from the City of Detroit to the suburbs had increased from a "trickle" to a "deluge."[5] In the 1980s the Metro Detroit Jewish community lived in several municipalities.[5] Barry Steifel, author of The Jewish Community of Metro Detroit 1945-2005, wrote that in the 1980s "the new, collective foci of the Jewish community" were several municipalities in Oakland County and western Wayne County which housed "massive congregations".[6] Stiefel wrote that it was by then "nonexistent" in the City of Detroit.[5] Suburban municipalities defined by Stiefel as foci included Bloomfield Hills, Farmington Hills, Oak Park, Royal Oak, Southfield, and West Bloomfield.[6] Smaller congregations of Jewish people existed in other municipalities such as Livonia and Trenton.[2]

In the 1980s many Russian Jews arrived in Metro Detroit because of the Soviet Union's 1988 relaxation of travel restrictions and the processes of its dissolution. Oak Park received most of these Russian Jews.[1] The Metro Detroit Jewish community helped thousands of these Soviet Jews travel to Michigan.[5]


The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit is headquartered in Bloomfield Township, near Bloomfield Hills.[7][8] The headquarters, the Max M. Fisher Building, was dedicated on May 3, 1992.[9]


Primary and secondary schools

The Jean and Samuel Frankel Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit is located in West Bloomfield.

Hillel Day School is in Farmington Hills.

The Tushiyah United Hebrew School previously operated in Detroit.

Colleges and universities

Michigan Jewish Institute has its U.S. administrative office in Southfield and its primary campus in West Bloomfield Township.[10]


1922-1973 temple of Temple Beth El in Detroit

In the early 20th Century Jews of many nationalities had settled Detroit. The German Jews, who predominately lived north of Downtown Detroit, usually worshiped at Reform Temple Beth El. Russian and Eastern European Jews tended to worship at lower east side Jewish district Orthodox temples.[11]

In Delray the First Hebrew Congregation of Delray or the Orthodox Hungarian Jewish Congregation was located on Burdeno, near Fort Wayne. It was operated by Hungarian Jews and it was Detroit's first Orthodox Judaism synagogue that was east of Woodward Avenue.[12]


The Detroit Jewish News serves the Jewish community in Metro Detroit.

In 1951 there were Jewish community newspapers in Detroit in the English and Yiddish languages. Two English-language newspapers, The Jewish News and the Jewish Chronicle, were weekly. There were Detroit editions of The Jewish Daily Forward and one other paper, two daily Yiddish papers.[13]

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ a b c Woodford, p. 188.
  2. ^ a b c d Stiefel, p. 8.
  3. ^ Cohen, p. 7.
  4. ^ Gribben, Mark. "Bootlegger's Paradise." (Archive) The Purple Gang. Crime Library. Retrieved on December 14, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Steifel, p. 7.
  6. ^ a b Steifel, p. 7-8.
  7. ^ "Contact" (Archive) Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit. Retrieved on January 19, 2014. "Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit 6735 Telegraph Road Bloomfield Hills, MI 48301"
  8. ^ "Bloomfield Township Street Map." (Archive) Bloomfield Township, Oakland County. Retrieved on July 30, 2013.
  9. ^ "Dedication of the Max M. Fisher Building of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit" (Archive) Max M. Fisher Archives. Retrieved on January 19, 2014.
  10. ^ "Contact Us." Michigan Jewish Institute. Retrieved on July 9, 2015.
  11. ^ Babson, p. 28.
  12. ^ Cohen, p. 64.
  13. ^ Mayer, p. 36. "Like most other groups in Detroit, there are in the Jewish community, newspapers which are specifically published to keep Detroit Jewry informed of matters pertaining to Jewish life. These newspapers are in both English and Yiddish. There are two weekly English-Jewish newspapers, The Jewish News, 708 David Stott Bldg. and the Jewish Chronicle, 900 Lawyers Bldg,; and in addition, two Yiddish Daily papers which have Detroit editions, The Jewish Daily Forward"


  • Babson, Steve. Working Detroit: The Making of a Union Town. Wayne State University Press, 1986. ISBN 0814318193, 9780814318195.
  • Cohen, Irwin J. Jewish Detroit. Arcadia Publishing, 2002. ISBN 0738519960, 9780738519968.
    • Focuses on the Jewish community from the beginning until 1945
  • Steifel, Barry. The Jewish Community of Metro Detroit 1945-2005. Arcadia Publishing, 2006. ISBN 0738540536, 9780738540535.
  • Woodford, Arthur M. This is Detroit, 1701-2001. Wayne State University Press, 2001. ISBN 0814329144, 9780814329146.

Further reading

  • Bolkosky, Sidney M. Harmony & Dissonance: Voices of Jewish Identity in Detroit, 1914-1967. Wayne State University Press, 1991. ISBN 0814319335, 9780814319338.
  • Applebaum, Elizabeth. "‘What A Place This Was’ A longtime Jewish resident of the Motor City ponders a town down but perhaps not out." (Archive). The Jewish Week. October 9, 2013.

External links

  • Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit
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