The Lost Synagogues of Detroit » Early Detroit Jewish History
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Posted on Thursday, May 12, 2005 - 3:21 pm

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Posted on Friday, June 03, 2005 - 4:18 pm

First, I'd like to commend you on the work of your website. If you would like additional information regarding the history of Jewish Detroit, I suggest you take a trip to the prestigious Leo M Franklin Archives located on the top floor of Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Hills. There is a tremendous amount of information available there, along with archival pictures. Also, I believe there is also a website for them as well.

The following are excerpts from a brief history I wrote about Temple Beth El for their 150th anniversary celebration in 2000. Beth El is the first synagogue in the state of Michigan. I am sure you will find their story of interest. Most of the information I gathered for this history has pictures and supporting data available at the archives.

The Best of Beth El

Our story began in the fall of 1850 when Sarah and Isaac Cozens opened their home to twelve of their fellow Jewish immigrants to hold what would be the first of many minyans to come in our spiritual home, our house of God- Bet El. Marcus Cohen conducted the first service. Soon after, Rabbi Samuel Marcus became our first spiritual leader whose duties included those of Cantor, teacher, schochet, and Mohel...all for only $200.00 per year. The Champlain Street Cemetery, Detroit's oldest Jewish Cemetery was purchased. Later than year, our day school opened to provide Jewish students with a secular education.

The BET EL SOCIETY as our congregation became known, was officially incorporated in April of 1851, and a single room rented about the Silberman and Hirsch storefront became our first synagogue.

Although our congregation began as Orthodox Ashkenazik by design, the immigrants desire to assimilate into American culture while still maintaining their Jewish identity, led toward the acceptance of the teachings of Isaac Meyer Wise, the founder of the American Jewish Reform movement. Then, due to many of the reform changes: mixed seating, the new prayer book, a mixed choir to sing at services, and the abolition of the wearing of talit, a number of traditionally orthodox members left to form the Shaarey Zedek Society.

In 1867, Beth El moved once again, after it refurbished the Tabernacle Church on Washington and Clifford, which was our home from 1867-1902. In 1870 Temple Beth El became a member of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. There were several important firsts for our congregation. Dr Wintner was the first rabbi ever invited to offer a sermon at a Christian church...we purchased our first organ...and a junior choir was formed to sing at Friday night services.

Businesses flourished and became etched in our economic landscape, Park Davis manufacturer of pharmaceuticals, and Michigan's first pharmacist, James Vernor developed his world famous formula for Ginger Ale, and a man called Alexander Graham Bell invented his telephone. This decade saw its first automobile on Detroit's city streets. Some examples of successful businesses of our temple members included Heineman Butzel and Company, a wholesale clothing store, Morris C Fecheimer Co, the Haverich Brothers and the Werthheimer Cigar Factory.

During the next decade still more reforms to our rituals and practices continued to be made, including a resolution that no Bar Mitzvah would be permitted to recite anything but the blessings before of after the reading of the Torah. The preaching of sermons on the eve of festival services was eliminated, Friday night services were reintroduced. . Memorial services were limited to once per year on Yom Kippur, followed by a rule that prohibited the use of head covering. In 1898 Leo M. Franklin was installed as our Rabbi, a position he held for over 40 years. Beth El founded the Hebrew Ladies Relief Society, and the Beth El Self Help Circle. These groups along with the Hebrew Ladies Sewing Society formed the United Jewish Charities.

In the 1890's the Women's Club of Temple Beth El was founded. It was the precursor to the Detroit Section of the National Council of Jewish Women.


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Posted on Friday, June 03, 2005 - 4:19 pm

In 1903 Temple Beth El moved to its new temple on Woodward and Elliot, the current home of the Bonstelle Theatre. That decade brought about the first Temple Bulletin, our first Intercongregational Thanksgiving Service, unassigned seating, and the establishment of our philanthropic funds. And in order to accommodate the needs of our Temple members, services were added on Sunday mornings.

As we celebrated our 60th anniversary in 1910 Dr Franklin spearheaded the development of the Student Congregation at the University of Michigan, the forerunner to the B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation. Synagogue membership here as well as at other congregations increased concurrent with the Detroit Jewish population due to the influx of Eastern European Jews who fled to escape the oppression and poverty of their homes. The growth of industrialism Fords implementation of the $5.00 work day made Detroit, the Arsenal for Democracy an attractive location for new immigrants looking for steady employment. By the end of the decade, Temple Beth El was the third largest Reform Congregation in the United Sates.

In 1921 we moved to our newly built congregation on Woodward and Gladstone.

In 1925 we organized our first Girl Scout Troop. In 1926 the North End Clinic was opened to provide affordable health care to underprivileged Jews in Detroit, laying the framework for what was to become Sinai Hospital. Temple Beth El was incorporated into perpetuity on its 80th anniversary. This decade saw the arrival of Jason Tictkon and his wife Mamie who enhanced our musical programming for over 50 years.

Concurrent with the Nazi Holocaust, which ran from 1939 to 1945, there was an increase in Zionism in this country. Under the leadership of Rabbi Leon Framm a former associate Rabbi at Temple Beth El, a new congregation called Temple Israel was founded in 1941.

In 1950 our 100th year, a Gala Celebration was held at the Book Cadillac Hotel, which included simultaneous television and radio broadcasts. In 1953 Rabbi Richard Hertz became our Rabbi after the sudden death of Rabbi B Benedict Glazer. Rabbi Hertz revitalized Sabbath morning services, and the participation of the confirmation class. He introduced a children » s choir, and brought back Bar and Bat Mitzvah service, the reading of the Torah on Friday nights, and the lighting of Sabbath Candles.

In 1974 we dedicated our newest building (on 14 Mile and Telegraph in Bloomfield Hills) which was designed by world renowned architect Minouri Yamasaki (architect of the World Trade Centers). In 1981 Rabbi Daniel Schwartz was installed as our Senior Rabbi. In 1988 Rabbi Daniel Polish assumed that post after the departure of Rabbi Schwartz. During that decade the temple hired its first Cantor Gail Hirshenfang. Additional staff members included Rabbi Julian Cook, and our current executive Director Tom Jablonski. In 1996 the dream team of Rabbi Danny Syme, Cantor Stephen Dubov, Rabbi David Castiglione, and educational director Joyce Seglin. Rabbi Shela Goloby came on staff, along with Educational Director Elizabeth Block. Temple Beth Jacobs merged with us. In 2002 Cantor David Montefiore also joined our staff. As we celebrate the 153 rd anniversary of our proud history we must take time to reflect upon where we have been, how far we have come, for in the words of Leo M Franklin, "We are what we are because we know what we have been."


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Deborah Glassman
Posted on Friday, June 03, 2005 - 4:23 pm

I was just on your site "The Lost Synagogues of Detroit." Art and historical resource at the same time, so I can both congratulate you and thank-you.

Can you help me find out about a synagogue in Detroit which was called Beth Yaakov or Beth Jacob? I think it might be the Beth Jacob listed for Montcalm and Hastings. Would that location be near 181 Montcalm? I am trying to learn about a synagogue that was supposedly built by immigrants from the Belarussian town of Lyakhovichi (called Lekhovitz by them) and the obituary for a prominent Detroiter from that town mentions in his 1931 obituary that he helped build that synagogue and from another source I know he lived at 181 Montcalm. Here is an extract from that obit which names several places that are on your webpages.

His philanthropic work was divided between the United Hebrew Schools and well known National Jewish institutions. Under his presidency, the Kirby Center was built; it was the first large building of the United Hebrew Schools. Later he became treasurer of the Schools and helped greatly in the construction of the Philadelphia-Byron Center. He held the office of treasurer continually until his untimely death. Although a member of Congregation Shaarey Zedek, he helped build the Beth Yaacov Synagogue and at the same time was an honored (honorary?) member of the Jewish Welfare Federation and of Bnei Brith. He was a director of HIAS, of the Denver Sanitorium and of other national and local institutions. For many years Mr. Robinson, as president of the Robinson-Cohen Company, also had the occasion to participate in the development of diverse enterprises together with the Detroit Jewish community.

My interest is as the webmaster of a site devoted to the history of the Jews of Lyakhovichi.

In small return, for your use in your researches, here is some of what the 1907-1908 American Jewish Yearbook says about some of the synagogues they list for Detroit that year -

1. Assembly of David and House of Shelter - 90 Division Street. Pres Harris Cohen
2.Benai Israel, 55 Mullet, Organized July 1, 1873. Rabbi Judah Levin 168 Montcalm. (Lists other officers with their addresses; synagogue's annual income; membership in governing body; and says has 60 members.)
3. Beth Abraham , 444 Hastings, Org May 1892. Rabbi Judah Levin 168 E. Montcalm (Lists other officers with their addresses; membership in governing body; and says has 50 members.)
4. Beth David 292 Adelaide Org 1892, Rabbi H. Ashiskin 312 Alfred (Lists other officers with their addresses; and says has 10 members.)
5. Beth El 580 Woodward - (describes the large prominent synagogue and its organization - I'm guessing its not in the lost category so let me know if you need it but I'm skipping it otherwise)
6.Beth Jacob Montcalm and Hastings. Org Sept 1879. Rabbi Judah Levin 168 E. Montcalm Lists two officers no addresses or other info
7. Shaarei Zedek of Detroit - (describes the large prominent synagogue and its organization - I'm guessing its not in the lost category so let me know if you need it but I'm skipping it otherwise)

I have all of the American Jewish Year Books from 1901 through the 1920s. Some years they listed every organization, but most years they listed only new synagogues and organizations that were reported that year. If you would find it helpful, I can extract the other Detroit listings, so you could append them to your pictures.

In any case, I thank-you again for your valuable site and hope if you have a suggestion or a lead for me you will send it my way. Though as I write this tonight there are still two broken links on my site that I hope will be fixed tomorrow, this is the website I have created.
http://www.shtetlinks.jewishge html

Deborah Glassman

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Posted on Monday, December 12, 2005 - 11:48 pm

Stolin is big thriving community all over the world as matter of fact there is Stolin school in Karlin today (Pinsk)

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Posted on Tuesday, July 29, 2008 - 9:33 pm

Stolin is also very big in Brooklyn, NY, Monsey, NY, Lakewood, NJ and in several cities in Israel complete with full school system from nursery through Post Graduate and Shules (synagogues). The Stolin presence in Russia is also more wide spread than just in Pinsk.

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