by Vivian Henoch

Long recognized as a Detroit booster, a trailblazer and bridge-builder, Dulcie Rosenfeld has collected her share of awards throughout her storied career in community service – a career spanning more than seven decades. Dulcie was the recipient of the Fred M. Butzel Award, Federation’s top honor in 1995. Given the many other accolades awarded to her over the years by organizations throughout the community, the last thing Dulcie expected this year was to be honored by Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy as the Detroit recipient of the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award.

“Winners of the Kipnis Award are chosen by their peers as Women of Valor those who exemplify the spirit of the Lion of Judah through a lifetime commitment to the Jewish world,” explains Betsy Heuer, President of Women’s Philanthropy. “For her generation, and for those who now follow, Dulcie’s contributions continue to inspire, engage and spur Federation’s women into leadership positions. We are thrilled to celebrate with her locally at our Ruby Lion of Judah Event, on October 7, 2021, and Kipnis Awardees will be honored at the International Lion of Judah Conference in Phoenix in December 2022.”

When asked to comment on the Kipnis Award in a recent phone interview, Dulcie deflected the question with her characteristic humility and good humor, “Awards? At my age? I consider them like whipped cream on top of cherries. But I still do whatever I can when I’m called.” Currently, Dulcie is a member of the Federation Board of Trustees, as well as a passionate supporter of a long roster of charitable organizations, including Gleaners Detroit, where she recently was invited to tour the new warehouse in Taylor, Michigan.    

Always a doer, getting it done

Dulcie got her start in community leadership in her early 20’s as an officer of Hadassah Detroit. Her leadership with Hadassah naturally led to Federation, where she quickly moved up the ranks to President of what is now called Women’s Philanthropy, then to Vice President of Federation’s Board of Trustees. Over the years, Dulcie has served on the boards of the Jewish Community Center, Jewish Home for the Aged (now Jewish Senior Life), JVS, Jewish Community Council (now JCRC/AJC-Detroit), JET Theatre, the Sinai Guild, National Council of Federations, United Way, Roundtable of Christians and Jews, and Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeast Michigan. She is Past President of Friends of Hillel at the University of Michigan.  She is also a Founding Board Member of the Greening of Detroit and Founder of the Jewish Information and Referral Service (now Jewish Assistance Network – “JAN” at Jewish Family Service). 

Dulcie’s contributions to Detroit’s cultural and civic life include board and committee roles with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Wayne State Theater, the Detroit Historical Society, and the Detroit Institute of Arts, where she chaired the Precious Legacy Exhibit in 1985, a collection of Jewish religious artifacts confiscated by the Nazis.

Self-described as a “compulsive producer,” Dulcie believes in bold start-ups. To support Gleaners’ mission to end childhood hunger, she created the Women’s Power Breakfast, an annual fundraiser, now in its 28th year. That effort alone has raised more than $3.5 million.

Recently, Women’s Philanthropy launched a new campaign leadership training program for volunteers utilizing support from the Dulcie Rosenfeld Family Leadership Enrichment Fund which she started in 2006. “At the time, the Women’s Board had a wonderful office staff and wonderful executives,” Dulcie noted, “But we all felt that we needed to provide more professional training for volunteers to strengthen their fundraising efforts and leadership skills. The current program, called Inspire, is a refinement of my original vision:  to invite and engage more women to become a part of the Federation picture. For me, that is what volunteerism is all about – we are all a part of the bigger picture.” (Inspire was further made possible by program sponsors Susie and Norm Pappas.)

A legacy of service to the community

In an oral history interview for the Leonard N. Simons Jewish Community Archives recorded in 2018, Dulcie talks about her life and times as a volunteer in Jewish Detroit. Reflecting on her many roles as a wife, mother and community leader, she commented, “The most important thing any of us can do is involve other people in our dreams and our hopes for the realization of those dreams.” 

“As many times as the community has given me certificates and plaques, I have kept going – in new directions. Guess I don’t know how to quit.” Those were Dulcie’s own words, spoken 26 years ago at Federation’s Annual Meeting in her remarks upon receiving the Butzel Award.  When we reminded Dulcie of that statement, she laughed heartily. “I don’t recall those words, but it sounds like me, and it’s absolutely something my husband, Norman, might have suggested.”

“When I think of all the things I did – or didn’t do in my career as a volunteer – it was my husband who always supported me. He’d always say, ‘“Go! Do it! Why are you asking me? You know what you want to do. Go out and just do it.”’ Norman was absolutely, the most confident man I’ve ever known. He knew who he was, and what he had to do. He was very accepting and gentle.”

Dulcie met Norman Rosenfeld (z”l) through his involvement in Federation’s Young Adult Division shortly after he came back to Detroit from service in the army in 1946. They were married 67 years and raised their four children in Detroit, where Norman located his business headquarters for Sibley Shoes. “Norman and I were deeply committed to the city,” said Dulcie in her interview for the Archives. “We had a big house on Hamilton Road in the ’60s, but I always said if they build anything on the river, let’s move there. And we lived at the Riverfront Apartments from the time they opened in 1984 until Norm retired (in 1990).”

These days, Dulcie divides her time between Bloomfield Hills and Carlsbad, California, maintaining homes close to her daughters, Jill in Delmar, and Nancy in San Diego; and sons Hank in Santa Monica and Jim (married to Peggy) in Huntington Woods. “If you ask me what I’m proudest of, of course, it’s my family. Thinking of all the work and play and fun – of all the things we’ve had and done, our family is the best thing Norman and I ever did.”

Ever the party and event planner, Dulcie celebrated her 90th birthday four years ago with a trip to London with her family. In August, she continued the celebration in what she called “Encore La Costa” – a 40th birthday party reunion for her grandson. “I’ve always loved throwing a party,” she said. “I used to keep track of every event I held at the Riverfront – the menu we served, the people who were there. I loved the work, you know why? Because it was fun. Whenever I did a project, I tried to make it fun, something people wanted to be a part of – so much fun!”

What a life. So well lived. A heartfelt mazel tov to Dulcie Rosenfeld, from a grateful community.