When the folks at Federation, Quicken Loans and NEXTGen Detroit speak of “attracting, engaging and inspiring” young families, Heyden and Shari (Katz) Graham are just the sort of people they have in mind to return to the city.
Heyden, a businessman originally from Calabasas, California, and Shari, an attorney from Farmington Hills, were graduate students at the University of Michigan when they first met in 2005. They still speak of it as besherit – a meeting meant to be — at a Federation mixer Shari took part in planning three weeks into Heyden’s first year of business school and her second year of law school. Technically, Heyden’s interest in Shari began before they even met. Prior to making his decision as to where to attend B-School, Heyden performed a bit of “diligence” into the female grad scene at the University, and found Shari’s picture online. “I thought to myself, ‘Okay, there are Jewish women I could date in Ann Arbor!’” says Heyden with a grin.
Married in 2007, Heyden and Shari moved after graduation to establish careers in New York City – he at American Express and she at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom, one of the largest, highest grossing law firms worldwide. It was their desire for proximity to family, a vibrant Jewish community and a more affordable, accessible city that drew them to Detroit last year. And ever since, life has been good – and busy.
Working at the pulse of new developments in the city, Heyden is a Senior Financial Analyst for Quicken Loans. Shari is an employment attorney and works with the law office of Sue Ellen Eisenberg and Associates in Bloomfield Hills. She also recently began working with a start-up, Talks On Law, a forum for cutting-edge discussion of issues affecting the legal community. Heyden and Shari are new parents to baby Hannah Joy, born in May.
In addition to their day jobs, Shari and Heyden have jumped into new roles in the community. Shari serves on the Federation’s NEXTGen Board and on the Adult Board of Michigan Region BBYO (she served as BBYO’s International President from 1997-1998). Heyden is a liaison to the Federation’s Finance Committee and is also involved with Hebrew Free Loan of Metropolitan Detroit. He and Shari also are two of the founders of Kesher Detroit, an egalitarian, young adult, Carlebach-style minyan, which meets at Congregation Shaarey Zedek where they are members.
It’s a picture perfect late afternoon on a crisp Indian summer day: the Grahams, with baby cooing on Dad’s lap, find a spare hour to share a snapshot of their busy life in Jewish Detroit . . .
On “Opportunity Detroit”
myJewishDetroit: You each took time to establish your careers in New York, yet chose Detroit to build your future. What opportunities have you found here?
Heyden: New York served as a great launching pad for our careers. We worked hard and played hard. But we had practically no family living on the East Coast. So, when we began thinking about starting a family of our own, we immediately considered Detroit, because Shari’s parents live here.
As I started learning about the opportunities in Detroit, I kept hearing more and more about Quicken Loans and all of the exciting work Dan Gilbert was engaged in. I knew that working for Dan, who has such passion about the revitalization of downtown, would provide me with a chance to make a significant impact with a national player, while also giving me a front-row seat to the rebirth of a great American city. When I came out for an interview, I just fell in love with the company, as well as the distinct culture.
Shari: The opportunities that Detroit offers are not limited to our day jobs. Here, young adults can meaningfully participate in a number of not-for-profit organizations that are the pulse of this community. This year, for example, I am co-chairing Federation’s Liaison Program, where we provide NEXTGen leaders (age 21-45) with the opportunity to serve as guest members on agency boards (such as BBYO, JFS, Tamarack and JVS) and Federation committees for a two-year period. Each liaison has the chance to learn from the best, while also sharing their own valuable insights with fellow board members. I doubt that such a unique opportunity exists in New York City, where young people would be required to make significant financial contributions to receive a seat at the boardroom table.
myJewishDetroit: Any surprises moving to Detroit?
Heyden: How happy people are to live here – even despite the winter weather! Also, culturally it’s super mellow – and that’s a good thing. After living in New York, I forgot that people could wait in line (and in traffic) patiently.
Shari: (1) There’s a lot of great nightlife in Detroit and not just the surrounding suburbs, (2) No matter how many times I drive through these traffic circles, I never quite seem to understand what lane I’m in and (3) Free refills on pop/soda still exist somewhere in the USA!
On community involvement
myJewishDetroit: Over the past six months, you’ve relocated, found jobs, become parents and moved into a house. You’ve also managed to become involved in community work. What drives you in that direction?
Shari: While we are both fortunate to enjoy our day jobs, our profession has never defined us. What brought us together in grad school, and what keeps us together today, is our commitment to the values and traditions of Judaism and our desire to be a part of a dynamic Jewish community. NYC’S Upper West Side (the 2.5 square mile neighborhood where we lived) has approximately the same number of Jews as all of suburban Detroit (around 70,000), yet we never experienced the cohesiveness or haymish-ness (warmth) that is one of the hallmarks of the Detroit Jewish community. Therefore, upon moving, the question wasn’t, “are we going to get involved,” but rather, “how quickly can we?”
On relocating to the Detroit area
myJewishDetroit: What would you tell someone considering moving back to metropolitan Detroit or into the city?
Heyden: It’s a great environment to start your own business. Because Detroit is a smaller market, there is less competition from large companies, making more room for entrepreneurs to start their own business to serve the needs of the city and suburbs.
Shari: There’s no perfect city. If there were, everyone would be living there. But Detroit has a lot going for it, not to mention proximity to Ann Arbor and the majestic Up North. Also, when Detroit friends want to meet up at Coney Island, you must know that they aren’t referring to the iconic amusement park in Brooklyn.
On new parenthood
Shari: Hannah is less than six months old, but it’s impossible to imagine life without her. It’s also impossible to remember what it is like to sleep in!
Heyden: People are right when they say that your whole life changes in an instant. She’s amazing. We feel incredibly blessed.
Restaurants: Joe Muer Seafood, Downtown / Café ML in Bloomfield Township
Places to meet: The Great Lakes Roasting Company at the Maple /Roasting Plant, Downtown.
Buildings in the Detroit skyline: Comerica Park / The Qube (The Chase Quicken Building)
Places to take the baby: Nana’s and Grandpa’s house / the West Bloomfield Nature Trail
Jewish foods: Homemade challah / lox
Jewish expressions: Farschmutzed (messy) / farblondzhet (confused)
Caring for infants with Respect, Magda Gerber
From Beirut to Jerusalem, Thomas Friedman
Shari and Heyden are both triathletes. Notably, they both completed the NYC Triathlon.
Heyden is an avid blues guitarist. Shari likes guitar, but hates the blues.