The Lost Synagogues of Detroit » SHAAREY ZEDEK
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Post Number: 142
Registered: 1-2004
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Posted on Friday, May 13, 2005 - 1:01 am

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I attended Hebrew school here, on Sunday mornings and two afternoons a week--either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday--in the years leading up to July 9, 1960 when I was Bar Mitzvah'ed in this building. The main sanctuary made an impression on me, as it seemed enormous and featured a balcony at the rear. It was quite a treat to go up there, which of course was not part of the school day, but somehow this little boy found his way there when he should have been in class. The rabbi at that time was the celebrated Morris Adler of blessed memory, and joining him was Rabbi Irwin Groner. If my memory serves me correctly, the chazzan at the time was Jacob Sonenklar; if I'm in error on this, I hope someone will set the record straight.
On warm weekdays in the fall and spring, Murray the ice cream man was outside the building when we arrived via buses which transported us from the various Detroit elementary schools we attended. About halfway through the weekday Hebrew school sessions it was time for a milk break. I distinctly recall drinking chocolate milk from brown and white half-pint cartons. The school buses then took us home at the end of the weekday sessions, which concluded at about 6:10 P.M.

The Hebrew school teachers during my time were Mrs. Nelson and Mr. Kelman, along with others whose names I cannot recall. As must be evident, I was not much of a Hebrew school student, and in fact never really learned how to daven until I said Kaddish for my father. This is terribly ironic--whenever I asked him why I had to go to Hebrew school, he always replied, "You've gotta know your stuff," some of which, he explained, included the ability to say Kaddish for loved ones.

To me, the Chicago Boulevard home of Shaarey Zedek epitomizes synagogue architecture at its zenith. I've never been able to develop much enthusiasm for the modern styles currently in vogue.
- Morrison

When I was much, much younger I attended meetings for Cub Scout Pack #104, Den 9 at Shaarey Zedek. This was around 1950.
- Nate

The synagogue, which was featured in The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, is a jewel. Before I rage headlong into a description for my scroll brethren, let me remind hissonor, The fair Scottish Lord-mayor of the Forum, that he passed several Jewish houses of worship between his digs near Wayne State and 2900 West Chicago Blvd.,the Shaarey Zedek. Try to find B'Nai David (Beth David?), 2201 Elmhurst @14th, and the Albert Kahn collection of Temple Beth El(s) at 8801 Woodward Ave. and others.

I also recommend Temple Israel, 17400 Manderson. You post 'em, I've got the descriptions for you. Try to find the B'nai Moshe and the Hebrew School next door on Dexter Ave. It's a big place on the W. side of Dexter. See what you can still find in the Oakland-Westminster area. Congregation Shaarey Zedek was built by Albert Kahn in 1932. It is now called Clinton Street Greater Bethlehem Temple. 2900 W. Chicago Blvd., corner Lawton St.

On High Holiday service days, the sanctuary was packed out with the faithful, and the Lawton Ave. entrance to the basement was also overflowing. People would stand on Lawton Ave. just to hear the chanting and be a part of the Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Although it was Depression, Kahn and the congregation were able to raise the building. It was the sixth home of this Conservative congregation.

The Romanesque Revival facade of polychrome brick round arched edifice, has a triple entry through a colonetted arcade. Inside is a masterpiece of impressive wooden trusses, twin colonnades, and a beautiful ark wall. The current Afro-American congregation has taken great pains to keep the building intact, much to their credit.

In 1962, Congregation Shaarey Zedek engaged Albert Kahn Associates and Percival Goodman to build at 27237 Bell Road, and 11 Mile Road, Southfield, Michigan. That jutting concrete pylon flies up at you as you are driving North on Northwestern Hwy. on a stretch called "Rabbi Morris Adler Highway." The building recalls FL Wright's Unitarian Meeting House in Madison, Wisconsin.

Both buildings should be seen in the same day. They moved from W. Chicago to a site of 40 acres, to a place seating 3,600 people. The educational wing has 20 classrooms. There are numerous smaller chapels, social halls, a library, gift shoppe, and administrative offices. Acres of parking. The 40 foot tall marble ark has a Tree of Life as its core.

Now, about Shaarey Zedek and Hammerin' Hank Greenberg. Hank grew up in The Bronx and played for The Tigers 1933-47. He missed four seasons during WWII. He wouldn't play on Yom Kippur and he worshipped at Shaarey Zedek. He was befriended by many families there and when he parked the car at synagogue, anxious mothers and their daughters would stand on their porches excited to wave. When he set team and league records, home-made plates of gefilte fish would arrive for him.

Edgar Guest, the wonderful Detroit poet: "Come Yom Kippur-holy fast day worldwide over to the Jew-and Hank Greenberg to his teaching and the old tradition true, spent the day among his people and he didn't come to play. Said Murphy to Mulrooney, 'We shall lose the game today! We shall miss him in the infield and shall miss him at the bat. But he's true to his religion-and I honor him for that'."

Without a doubt, this adopted Jewish Detroiter, gave all of American Jewry a sense of pride never to be experienced since in our lifetime. And as a Detroiter, take pride with me as it happened here.
- Arnie

I think Shaarey Zedek had a location on the street that is just north of I-75 and east of Woodward. I'm also afraid the building is in ruins. Shaarey Zedek has in their lobby in the their building on Bell Road little models of their previous homes.
- Joel

I lived right next door to this synagogue @ 2930 W. Chicago Blvd. from 1937 - 1941 and loved to 'peak in' during holiday services. My parents were not financially able to be members......but we loved it anyway. I remember learning to ride a two-wheel bike, by 'pushing off' from the steps in front. This brings back many fond memories. Thank you.
- Barb

This congregation was established in 1861. The first building was at Winder and Brush, it was a small wooden structure. From there the next move was Brush and Willis, now part of the I94 freeway. This was a beautiful building which included a gym along with classrooms and a magnificent sanctuary. In 1933, the move was made to Chicago Blvd. The land for this building was purchased from the Archdiocese of Detroit. Clinton Street Greater Bethel Church occupies this edifice. It is still a beautiful building, lovingly cared for by the parishioners. Bell Road opened in 1962. Shaarey Zedek also has 2 other buildings, The Shaarey Zedek B'nai Israel Center on Walnut Lake Road just west of Orchard Lake Road, and the Laker Educational Center on Walnut Lake Road just west of Inkster Road. There are models of all the current and old buildings on display in the outer foyer of the Bell Road building.
- Ruthe

I was Barmitzva'd at Shaarey Zedek. Today you would say that I "was" a Bar Mitzvah. Back then we thought of the word as a verb. What did we know? It was in the summer of 1940 when I recited my Maftir. Rabbi Hershman was the head Rabbi then, but I can't remember the Cantor's name. I used to tolerate and every once in a while enjoy the music but was unhappy about spending an off day from public school in yet another school. But a promise was a promise, and my parents were glad that I honored it. World War II was raging and back then, a Yamika was a Yamika, not a Kuupeh. Today a Yamika is probably a Japanese Race Horse.

Inside, the synagogue was beautiful, elegant, and quiet. Lots of very dark wood. We had to be on our best behavior. There weren't too many smiles or laughing, as we were taught that religion was a very serious business, except after the Shabbas services ended. That took forever, and still does.

We lived near the Parkman Branch Library on Oakman Court near Linwood, and every Sunday I had to go to Sunday School at Shaarey Zedek. I had the choice to spend the 20 cents I was given for car fare (10 cents each way) or I could choose to walk, and keep the money . It was quite a distance, and it was much colder there than my present home in Florida. I always tell my grandchildren that it was at least 5 miles, through snow that often reached to my armpits, but I don't really know how far it was. I think I had to be laying down in the snow to make it reach my armpits, but we did that too.

So did I take the Linwood Streetcar to Sunday School, or did I walk with a mouthful of cheap candy? What do you think? Here's a clue, I still have some of own teeth, but not much of the 20 cent allowance. I guess it was just another one of those compromises that we all make throughout our lives. I did walk when I felt that I could make it without getting frostbite, specially if I had a friend to keep me company for at least part of the way. Sometimes when I tired I just hopped on the streetcar at the next stop. It didn't go all the way to Oakman Court anyway, as it turned on Davison, heading West, I believe, and I still had about 4 blocks to walk to Oakman Court.

I measured the distance then with a pedometer that I proudly wore on the belt of my knickers. It was a prize that I saved cereal box tops for, for years, in order to get. I wore that pedometer periodically up to the 12th grade when I graduated Central High School, and then went to serve in the Navy as the war ended.

The memories are a bit faded, but it seems as if I remember more than I thought I would.

I never knew that Hank Greenberg went to services at Shaarey Zedek. That would have been a very compelling reason for me to be more interested in going to services. How did my folks miss that one? I still remember a few other names on the Detroit Tiger's Roster when they won the World Series in 1939.
- Bud

I was bar mitzvahed in this building in February, 1962. My father and I went
to shul there almost every Shabbos. During Rabbi Adler's long (at least to a
12-year old) sermons, my father and I would walk around the neighborhood and
return just in time for Musaf.

Coincidentally, I have been back to the building for a couple of funerals at
the church.
-- Steve

My Great Grandfather, Moses Rogoff, was a cantor at this temple, around 1903. I can get more info from an article that describes the temple, but have to wait until it is sent to me from my uncle.
-- Kirsten Rogoff

it was in the 30's. i was a teenager and I lived across the street from the sharah zedek. I remember that on the high holidays we kids would dress up our finest clothes and sit in the balcony and have a great old time. When we would leave, there was the ice cream man parked right in front of the temple and would buy our good humor ice cream on a stick. It was a pleasure living across from this wonderful building. gertrude
-- Love Gerti

Many years ago I attended Sunday school at Shaarey Zedek. It took up an entire corner. The front of the building faced Rochester and the back faced Chicago Blvd. It was off of Linwood-I don't know the other street. I remember as a young girl being so impressed with the grandieur of the building. Please give me more info if you have it. Thanks for the website.
-- Bobbi Gorevitz (Zucker)

carol (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted on Friday, November 25, 2005 - 4:09 pm

I attended Shaary Zedek on Chicago and Lawton since I was five years old. I was consecrated in 1956. My family were not members. I remember walking from Calvert and Dexter by myself as a child to attend Shabat services as well as the High Holidays.

Rabbi Adler will be forever in my mind. I can still see him standing on the bimmah giving his sermon.

I still go to Shaarey Zedek as to my grandchildren.

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Moshe M. (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted on Sunday, January 22, 2006 - 3:26 pm

I remember the Great Shaarey Zedek as it was yesterday. The Building on Chicago Blvd and Lawton was and is magnificent. I had my Bar Mitzvah there in 1962;one of the last to have their Bar Mitzvah in that Building,before they moved to Southfield.
Rabbi Adler ZT'L, was so precious. There was never a Rabbi like him. I was so nervous on the day of my Bar Mitzvah. He calmed me down. He told me jokes and made me laugh before I read my Haftorah. I laughed so hard I cried. Then when I went to the Bima to read my Haftorha, I was relaxed and made no mistakes.
Some of the Teachers I remember were Mr Karbell, Mr Kallman, Mrs. Karr, Mrs. Norber, Mr Bodzin who taught me Kadima( Putting on Tefillin) and Mr Grossbard,who taught me my Maftir.
I went to School at the 7 Mile Branch two days a week and on Sunday,we were bussed to the Building on Chicago and Lawton.
What wonderful memories I have!!!

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Allen Weiss (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted on Saturday, July 08, 2006 - 3:57 pm

My wife and I were married at Shaarey Zedek on July 8, 1951 and are celebrating our 55th anniversary today, 7-8-2006. Rabbi Adler officiated the ceremony and Cantor Soniklar lent his voice as well. In my opinion, at the time, the synagogue and Rabbi Adler were the most prominent in the Jewish community. The memories are vivid and lasting. Nothing remains as was, and we now attend Temple Israel with our children and grandchildren, a most happy experience. We feel blessed.

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jjaba (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted on Tuesday, July 25, 2006 - 2:23 pm

Mazel tov on the occasion of 55 yrs. of marriage to the Allen Weiss family.

Be sure to treat yourselves to the "Baseball Sluggers" stamps now on sale at the US Post Office. They were issued on July 16, 2006.
One of the sluggers stamps is Hank Greenberg, our Shaarey Zedek hero, our Detroit Tigers hero. On the reverse, the PO has given some info. about each of the four players honored. They are 39 cent stamps.

jjaba. (Arnold Panitch)

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Ira H (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted on Monday, December 04, 2006 - 5:24 pm

I attended Shaarey Zedek on Chicago Blvd as a young boy in the late 1950s with my family. My fondest memory is of Mrs. Adler handing out hard candies to children at the end of the service.

As for Hank Greenberg, according to his "autobiography," which was really written by Ira Berkow, Greenberg attended Shaarey Zedek on Yom Kippur 1934, in the heat of the Tigers first pennant race since 1909. When he entered, the congregation gave him a standing ovation, and he identifies that incident as the first tiime that he had a real sense of how much he meant to the Jewish community. There is no evidence, however, of him attending Shul at Shaarey Zedek or anywhere else with any frequency.

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trollteriit (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted on Thursday, March 05, 2009 - 9:06 am


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