The Lost Synagogues of Detroit » B'NAI DAVID
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Post Number: 118
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Posted on Friday, May 13, 2005 - 12:22 am

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My grandfather, Herschel Belinsky, was one of the earliest members of B'nai David. I have fond memories of the synagogue from almost 50 years ago. I would really appreciate any interior images. Thanks.


I belonged to Bnai David for 60 years. To the Sisterhood forever; to the
Synagogue over 40 years. I remember many wonderful times with Bnai David. The
Sisterhood was a very important pillar in the existence of Bnai David. My life with Bnai David went through three rabbis: (Sparks, Donen &Yolkiet) and one wonderful Cantor, Adler. In the early years of the sisterhood, we had all our meetings at night at Elmhurst and Fourteenth. We walked there. Some had cars and picked up other members. Most of our luncheons were prepared at night. Many times we had spaghetti up to our elbows. Our children were home asleep with fathers as "sitters". The sisterhood with time and fund raising took pride in everything they did for the Synagogue. Just to mention some of what they did: Furnished the foyer with new upholstered benches. Placed beautiful plants in the sanctuary. Curtained the beama and placed fresh flowers in front of it. Polished the benches. Remodeled the Bridal room. Had new fixtures installed in all lavatories painted the small Social hall and put in new Venetian blinds. In the large social hall we bought and installed new curtains. Polished all wood walls. For the stage we bought and installed new velvet draw drapes. Carpeted the stage. And bought 500 new chairs. The small chapel had all its brass and wood cleaned and polished. Bought the installed new Venetian blinds. To beautiful Presidential chairs were reupholstered.
The kitchen was completely remodeled with new stove, refrigerator, and freezer , sink, disposal , New cupboards with locks, Pots and pans.

In 1942 I attended Sunday School at the B'nai David. By 1944 I then attended the United Hebrew School which was housed in the Central High School Building at Tuxedo & LaSalle.

Between 1947 and 1950 I was the Cantor of the Junior Congregation which was run by the United Hebrew Schools. A teacher by the name of Rottenberg was in charge. I believe he was the principal of the school which held classes at Central High School after 3:00 pm. when the High School closed down for the day.

Rabbi Sperka was the original Rabbi. He performed my parents' wedding ceremony which took place in Mt. Clemons in 1932. Rabbi Donnin also officiated at the Elmhurst synagogue. Rabbi Adler was the Cantor.
Nelson Samuel Magedman


Lenore and I were married at B'nai David on Elmhurst &14th on Dec. 7,1947. Rabbi Sperka and Cantor Adler officiated. Our kids, Mona, Arlene and Jerry all attended Hebrew school at the Southfield site. My brother-in-law, Harry Koltonow was president one year on Southfield, but I'm not sure of the year. I'm sure his wife Lottie, or his kids, Marlene, Leonard or Carolyn would remember.
- Shap28

Rabbi Joshua Sperka was the Rabbi when it was on Elmhurst - then when it moved to Southfield - Rabbi Donin z'l, was the Rabbi - Cantor Chaim Adler officiated at both Shuls --- it was Traditional after it had mixed seating - never conservative! The last Rabbi was Yolkut.
- Ruth M.

On your Web page on "The Lost Synagogue's of Detroit", B'Nai David is incorrectly described as moving to "western Oak Park". The new 1956 location is in Southfield, (Southfield @ 9 » mile) not Oak Park.
- Ira

This is actually the former B'Nai David. I grew up in this synagogue. The congregation moved sometime in the late 50's or maybe early 60's to Southfield. If you go inside, you will see on the ceiling a number of memorial plaques and other memorabilia. When the congregation turned 100 (in Southfield), a film was done of the old synagogue. This was B'Nai David's second home, I believe. The Southfield synagogue is now the Southfield Center for the Arts. The congregation split about ten years ago and the remnants of the original congregation are dissipating pretty fast. I believe that when B'Nai David was first formed (prior to 14th and Elmhurst), it was formed by Hungarian Jews.
- Maxine

I went to Hebrew school here from 1938 until 1942 and was prepared here for my Bar Mitzvah although it did not occur at this synagogue. My paternal grandfather was responsible for my religious training. I suspect he picked out this synagogue because of its proximity to where I lived with my parents, which was 1721 Collingwood, just east of 12th street. We had no other connection with the synagogue and I don't remember a lot about except the musty smell in the basement classroom.

I did attend some Saturday services and my recollection is that I was impressed with its ambiance.
- Ron

1928. [Architect] John L. Popkin. Early Romanesque with a decided Byzantine feeling. Large two story arch frames a triple entrance. The tablets of the Law (Ten Commandments) pierce the roofline at the center of a large arcuated frieze. Solomonic columns and winged lions lend an exotic eastern air.

Financial problems in the Depression led them to reorganize as B'nai David. This is one of the major Detroit conservative congregations.

In 1956, B'nai David moved to 24350 Southfield Road, in western Oak Park, Michigan. By about this time, most of the congregants had moved either to the Curtis-Wyoming area or in new Oak Park and Southfield tracts. Noteworthy, the Jewish Community Centers, the Jewish social agencies, Hebrew Schools, and other Jewish institutions were also out in NW Detroit or the suburbs by 1956.

You might want to tie the Butzel Bldg. on Madison Ave. (Jewish Federation) to this. The Federation held on downtown long after Jews lived nearby. The Federation bldg., now law offices, is nicely maintained I think.
- Arnie

I first was inside this synagogue when I was 4 yrs. old...participating in my Aunt & Uncles wedding in 1936. My brother & I were a junior usher & junior bridesmaid. When we practiced walking down the two isles, looking across the empty rows at each other, it was a cinch. But when we did it for real at the wedding, it was impossible to see each other because those rows were filled with PEOPLE!! What fond memories!
- Barb

I was the "last" Rabbi to serve as spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai David at its magnificent structure on Southfield Road and 9 1/2 Mile Road. I arrived in Southfield in August of 1977 and served until May of 1994 when the doors of the Southfield Bnai David closed for the last time. We have many fond memories of our years with this historic congregation and recall a magnificent Centennial celebration in 1992. Bnai David was known as the "Russische" shul because it was founded by a group of 14 Jews recently arrived in May of 1892 from Russia. We would love to hear from our former congregants and friends of their special memories. We currently live in Philadelphia and serve a congregation very similar in philosophy and ritual to that practiced at Bnai David. We look forward to reading other comments on your website about this historic synagogue.
-- Rabbi Morton and Aline Yolkut

I had my Bar Mitzvah at B'Nai David in 1944. Sort of a renegade, I was expelled from Hebrew School at Central a few weeks before the ceremony, but made it through okay ( reason for expulsion available on request).

I saw a writing from " Nelson Samuel Magedman." I knew Felice Magedman as a teenager. Wonderful girl with a voice of an angel. Could anybody hook us up? I'd love to reminisce.
-- Morton Newman

Sue 12 (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted on Friday, June 03, 2005 - 4:53 pm

I have a postcard of B'nai David Synagogue from 1968, the address being Nine Mile and Southfield Roads, Southfield. My grandfather sent it to us when he visited the USA with the comment that it was the synagogue that my great great grandfather founded. His name, I believe, was S Rabinowich, although I am unsure of the spelling.

I would like to know if there is any truth in this. I know that in the 1920s he was living at 940 East Ferry Avenue Detroit.

Can anyone help please?

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Pesach (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted on Sunday, November 13, 2005 - 10:33 pm

Circa 1960 or '61 I attended High Holiday services at this shul at this location. I think my father did not want to pay high prices for tickets that year, and therefore went to this shul in a then declining neighborhood. The shul was still Orthodox,and services were assisted by the first grade rebbe from Yeshiva Beth Yehuda. I'll remember his name later.

There was only one elderly lady on the Ezras Nashim balcony, where I played. The seats there were very dusty, and sanctuary obviously underutilized. I would guess that there were 60 mispalelim total in this grand edifice. It was sad seeing this beauty in decline.

It must have moved shortly afterward.

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Pesach (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted on Monday, November 14, 2005 - 12:37 pm

The name of the Rabbi who assisted was Rabbi Brown.

Does anyone know if this shul was the 'Russische' or the Hungarian shul? My mother told me it was Hungarian.

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Claire Epstein (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted on Monday, April 09, 2007 - 10:23 pm

My Grand Parents were Cantor Hyman J. and Ruthy Adler. I was born in 1957 and I was their first grandchild. My brother Mark was born in 1959 and shortly after Bnai David moved from the Elmhurst location in Detroit to the Southfield Rd location in Southfield, Michigan. My Grandfather loved all the Bnai David Member's. Both my Grand Parents had such a wonderful relationship with everyone in the Synagogue. It was as if all the members were our family! We were engulfed in the wonderful feeling of Jewishness and Family it was as if every member was part of our family. My grandfather had one of the largest choirs in the area in the 1960's and 1970's. He recruited alot of men, woman and children to his beautiful choir. He could be a taskmaster and we all learned well. His accompanist was Bella. If he needed a Soprano and you could hit a high note that's where you were placed. If he needed an Alto and you could hit the low notes then that's where you were placed. Being in our Bnai David choir was quite and experience we would appear on local Television, at nursing homes, at Zimriahs, and in the Synagogue. But, only the men and boys could sing in the choir on the holliday's and on Shabbos. My cousin Mordechai Adler was the Shamos of the Shul. Mordechai, Bertha, Benny, Moshe, and Adina moved to Florida when I was about 10 years old. Moshe is a Pediatrician in Florida and Benny is a Cantor in Atlanta, GA. The sisterhood was very big group of such nice and beautiful women. My Bubby used to call all the girls in the sisterhood her girlfriends. The mens club too was a very big group of very kind hearted men who my Zady loved dearly. My Grand Parents would have buffet meals at their home where they would invite all the shul members into their home for a very elaborate kiddish (they only lived a couple blocks away from the shul). My Grand Mother, My Aunt Shana and My Mom (Prissy) would cook everything themselves. Bnai David had the largest membership in the area in the 1960's and early 1970's. My Aunt Shana, My Uncle Haskell and My Uncle Usher all taught barmitzvah lessons and hebrew at Bnai David. My Aunt Shana was a youth group advisor with the Synagogue. Bnai David had the best hebrew school in the area too... The youth group was huge in the 60's and was affiliated with N.C.S.Y.
which was an orthodox organization. Many past members that were in the youth group and were brought up reformed or conservative are now orthodox jewish adults. Bnai David was a special way of life for all of us. It is a shame that it is no longer a strong synagogue with it's own building. I miss my Grand Parents and My Aunt Shana and think about them everyday!! I think about the great times at the shul...The holidays (where both sancuary's were always filed) & the simchas too! All the wonderful families that are too numerous to name here but, I'd like to name all of you!!!

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Al Friedman (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted on Wednesday, April 25, 2007 - 11:12 pm

I have fond memories of B'nai David, Not only was my Bar Mitvah there in 1951, but I was a member of the Boy Scout Troop 135 there from 1947 until 1952. The Scoutmaster all those years was Irv Ratner. What a great guy. He kept us off the streets and out of trouble.

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David Donin (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 12:52 am


Although the shul usually was mixed seating (Traditional, not Conservative) - some sections were men or women only for those that wanted. The only time I recall entirely separate seating was during my own bar mitzvah in 1969. The complex also had a chapel for weekday services and a full set of classrooms for the school.

My Father left the pulpit at the conclusion of Yom Kippur in 1973 (the outbreak of the Yom Kippur war did not hinder my parents » plans in anyway) and moved to Israel where he continued to write in Jerusalem until his untimely passing.. I have not been in Detroit for many years. I was last in B » nai David was during the memorial service the congregation held after my father » s passing. I have in my father » s library pictures and » year books » of the congregation.. I have a beautiful picture of the main sanctuary as well.

I too now live in Israel and have four children. My eldest son, Hayim Halevy is named after my late father. My mother currently lives in B » nai Brak in Israel as well with my youngest sister Miriam nearby. My other two sisters Haviva and Rena live in the NY/NJ area.

I could probably write on .I would be happy to hear back from anyone who wishes to write or pass regards onto my mother. I am sure she would be happy to hear from everyone. I saw above that a film was made of the congregations 100th birthday. I would be happy to see this. If anyone knows how I can get hold of it I would be grateful.

For me B » nai David was an integral part of my childhood and early youth. I was saddened to hear that the complex was sold and the congregation basically dissolved. I guess that is part of life of the Jewish community.

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David Donin (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 12:51 am

Hello to everyone. I just came across this thread and for me it brought back many many memories. I am just sorry that it is titled under » The Lost Synagogues of Detroit » . It definitely did not deserve that. I grew up in B » nai David and for me it was home. My father was the late Rabbi Hayim Donin. I was » the Rabbis » s son » . My late father came to Detroit as a young rabbi in 1953, served and led the congregation for 20 years starting when it was on Elmherst and then moved it to the Southfield location. During those years the membership grew to one of the largest in the Detroit area, together with a vibrant Hebrew school.

Many memories lie in that shul, of friends from my childhood and of members who were an integral part of the shul and the community. As a boy, Cantor Adler taught me to sing (something that I must say needed teaching it seems), I sang in the Shabbos choir, I blew shofar a few years on Rosh Hashana, , led the youth minyan, participated in NCSY (youth group) and more. Indeed the Adler » s annual Kiddush on Sukkoth was special treat. I also recall many of the little items of growing up there » , being a » page boy » during the services responsible for the signs indicating the page number in the sider, seeing my mother running out with my crying baby sister during one my father » s sermons, my father selling the Hametz before peasach, the shul » s office staff in the office next to my father » s or even to caretaker who lived in a house right next to the shul. And many more.

The Southfield location was built in two stages with the main sanctuary added after many years. I believe the move to Southfield was in 1958. when Southfield Road and 9.5/10 Mile road was considered rural area. (So I was told) At first the social hall doubled as the synagogue until the main sanctuary was completed. The social hall was also used as the second or overflow minyan subsequently during the High Holidays. Both services were always full.

I remember the building of the main sanctuary and the expansion of the classroom for the Hebrew school. I believe that the synagogue was designed by Sidney Eisenstaedt from LA. The shul had a round interior with beautiful stained glass windows. Colors of the glass started in the rear in the dark browns and gradually working its way though all brighter colors to the blues in the front, symbolizing the path from earth to heaven. The ceiling was very high The exterior of the sanctuary had four high wall surrounding the circular interior each curved at the top symbolizing the four corners of the temple alter. The exterior wall were covered in pieces of white marble stone. (I even remember when the workers were applying the stones during construction). I don » t remember the year but I believe that the first service held in the new sanctuary was New Years services.. The Aron Hakodesh (Torah Ark) was high to the ceiling with a gold backing that could be seen thru the curtain that covered the torahs. I think the shull sat close to a thousand or at least a good many hundred. It was most beautiful and although very large was a very warm synagogue indeed. The round interior provided for fantastic acoustics as well.( I can understand how it became a music center)

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Steven Saxe (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted on Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - 10:05 pm

My mother Heather Saxe sang with Cantor Adler's Choir in the late 50's. My uncle Joe Biederman was active in the Men's club.

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