It’s that time of year again. On the Jewish Detroit calendar, Tuesday September 10th is the date for the combined Annual Meeting of the Jewish Federation and the United Jewish Foundation of Metropolitan Detroit. As is the time-honored tradition on this day, the meeting will conclude with the presentation of the Fred M. Butzel Memorial Award, Federation’s highest honor for distinguished service to the community – going this year to Eugene Applebaum.
With this recognition, Eugene Applebaum joins the ranks of the 62 previous awardees, all remarkable men and women who have given generously of their energy and resources to the community.
In 1951, Julian Krolik received the first “Butzel” to honor the memory of the man who earned the titles:
“Dean of Michigan Jewry”
“Folks-mensch, Man of the People”
“A one-man Federation”
“A Detroit Institution”
Fred M. Butzel. Many are familiar with the name, but who was the man?
Fred M. Butzel (1877-1948) was an attorney – one of Detroit’s most sought-after counselors, in practice with his brother, Henry. As the “Lawyer Butzel,” Fred built a reputation helping individuals who would flock to his door, taking a special interest in immigrants and aiding hundreds of newcomers to the U.S.
With his philanthropic interest in working with youth, during World War I, Fred was active in the Detroit Patriotic Fund, predecessor of the Community Chest (later the United Foundation), which he also helped to organize. He was president of the Servicemen’s Bureau, Detroit Community Union and Legal Aid Bureau, which he and his brother Henry founded. He served as commissioner of the House of Corrections.
As founder and for many years president of the Boys Republic, he organized the first self-governing Boys Club, as well as helped to organize the first Boy Scout troops in Detroit.
Deeply concerned for the well-being of African Americans, Fred served for 30 years on the board of the Detroit Urban League, was president of Parkside Hospital and helped finance the college education of many African-American boys.
One of the few American-born Jews who actively espoused Zionism in its early years, Fred was honorary president of the local Zionist Organization and chairman of the Michigan’s United Jewish Appeal. Upon his 60th birthday, a multitude of friends from Detroit and around the nation planted a forest in Israel (then Palestine) in his name.
Though a favorite activity was his work at Federation, Fred was also a director of the American Red Cross, Legal Aid Bureau, Hebrew Free Loan Association, Jewish Vocational Service (JVS), United Hebrew Schools and Jewish Community Council.
Google the name Fred M. Butzel: No one man, and certainly no one in the Detroit community has done more to earn the esteem of so many. An article in the 1947 Detroit Jewish News states, “No man has helped so many students through college; no other leader has become as well known to as many men, women and children in an entire state; no one has done as much to help people become established in business; and no one person has done as much to alleviate suffering.”
Now you know: This was Fred Butzel.