The Post-COVID-19 World I’m Optimistically Awaiting

Due to social distancing, we regret there will not be a podcast episode of FedRadioDetroit this month. We look forward to connecting with you there soon. In the meantime, we hope this column finds you and your family healthy and well.

Society and the lives we’ve known have temporarily changed. We have swapped out conference rooms for telecommunicating; break rooms for our kitchens and in-person Shabbat services for video services. We are adapting to our new normal while maintaining our optimism that life as we know it will return.

While recently watching The View (I’m already learning the daytime TV schedule) the ladies were discussing how in-person greetings might change once COVID-19 has come and gone. Bowing instead of handshakes? Curtsies instead of hugs? Elbow bumps instead of kissing on the cheek? While there is plenty of time to work out the details surrounding salutations, I’m much more interested in how humanity will change post-COVID-19.

I’ve often found some of the world around me operating in an ‘every man or woman for themselves’ kind of way. The same technology that is currently assisting in connecting us – ironically – is the same technology that was making us more disconnected in the pre-COVID-19 world.

The defeat of this virus demonstrates a lesson we can all take with us when this ordeal is a memory: Each individual decision has a collective impact. We are staying in our homes, keeping our distance and checking on those around us via technology because we know defeating this virus is predicated upon these actions.

I’m heartened that each of us is exhibiting the ability to make the world around us a better one. Prior to this pandemic, it was easy to look at collective measures to make the world a better place as elusive – not always able to see the benefits.

As we optimistically look toward the future – let us take the principles of combating this crisis and apply them in our own community. Every donation you make to Federation’s campaign – that has a collective impact. Every volunteer hour you lend – that has a collective impact. Each and every life you touch everyday, that too — a collective impact.

This crisis has renewed my belief that this world thrives on the spirit of one another. Once we head back to work, go out for dinner or attend a show – it’s my vision that we’ll be living in a kinder, gentler and more giving world.

On behalf of my co-host/ Federation’s president Beverly Liss, we wish you and your family an abundance of health and strength as we get through this crisis together.

Bringing People Together

There is not one person whose life hasn’t been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Whether directly or indirectly, the virus has touched the old and young, black and white and male and female. It has been blind to boundaries.

Dr. Mahmoud Al-Hadidi, chair of the Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC), began an effort to collect donations to buy meals for hospital staff throughout the region.

While many have lived with fear, anxiety and sadness during these historic weeks, they also have lived with beauty, kindness and understanding. Young men and women have gone to the grocery store for elderly family members and neighbors, many have donated food and supplies to medical facilities and young children have drawn beautiful pictures with chalk on their driveways for people walking and driving by to enjoy.

Sadly, crises bring people together.

Several weeks ago, upon learning that schools and businesses were closed and many events canceled, staff at the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC (JCRC/AJC) knew immediately that they needed to create opportunities for people to come together as one, both within and outside of the Jewish community.

On March 26, the Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity, which is an initiative of JCRC/AJC and the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity, hosted “An Imam, a Pastor and Rabbi Enter Zoom: How our communities are facing the Coronavirus Crisis.”

The event featured JCRC/AJC Executive Director Rabbi Asher Lopatin; Bishop Glenn Plummer, Bishop of Israel for the Church of God in Christ; and Imam Mohamed Almasmari, of the Muslim Unity Center. It was moderated by Rabbi Marla Hornsten of Temple Israel. The clergy shared how their communities have been dealing with the crisis and what could be learned from it.

For Bishop Plummer, who has sadly lost colleagues and parishioners to the virus, the discussion illustrated for him how we are all facing the crisis together. 

“It is fascinating to me that while all our communities, the Jewish, Muslim and Christians, have differences and divisions, we’re all in the same place right now,” said Bishop Plummer. “We had this call where . . . we were all in our homes, not at our distinctive houses of worship, and found ourselves in agreement. . . . For me, that was a new and different place.”

Rabbi Lopatin added, “It is a blessing that, even in the sadness and devastation of this pandemic, we can still find ways — new, powerful ways — of connecting and deepening relationships between the Jewish and broader communities, which give us all strength and hope.”

Added Bishop Plummer, “The call helped me move closer to a new paradigm of understanding. Love, peace, safety and health are things we all celebrate and in the midst of our differences, we can find the place of celebration, healing and appreciate that. I pray when we come out of this we do things differently and learn to value and appreciate our differences with respect and honor.” 

Proud of their strong relationship with the local Muslim community, JCRC/AJC recently launched the local council of the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council (MJAC), convened by AJC and the Islamic Society of North America in several cities throughout the country. Recently, local members met over Zoom to discuss what the group could do to help those most affected by Covid-19. 

During the meeting, Dr. Mahmoud Al-Hadidi, a committee member and chair of the Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC), shared firsthand what he had seen while working in the ICU at Ascension Macomb-Oakland Hospital. Within hours of the virus arriving in Michigan, he began seeing the desperation on the faces of doctors and nurses as they were forced to quickly ration supplies, wear inadequate gear and skip meals due to lack of time and room in the cafeteria. He immediately began an effort to collect donations to buy meals to send to different hospitals throughout the region.

After hearing Dr. Al-Hadidi’s stories, which unfortunately have become all too common throughout the country, the members of MJAC immediately committed to help by sending kosher and halal meals to the front line health care providers of all backgrounds. Now, the group is encouraging the public to donate, which can be done through the MMCC’s PayPal account. Once on the page, please write “MJAC Food to the Front Lines” in the “add note” section. Questions can be sent to Sam Englender at

Essential workers need moral support now.

“While millions of masks will be coming in a few weeks, essential workers need the moral support now. This is our way of showing appreciation to those taking the risk,” said Dr. Mahmoud Al-Hadidi. 

Added Rabbi Asher Lopatin, “Together, we are united in our commitment to help doctors and health care providers in any way possible. This is what our communities coming together is all about.”

It also has been vital that the local Jewish community come together. On Saturday, March 28, JCRC/AJC, rabbis and cantors from seven metropolitan Detroit reform, conservative and orthodox congregations led a Community-Wide Havdalah on Zoom. Approximately 500 people on 220 screens took part. 

To learn about upcoming programs and learning opportunities offered by JCRC/AJC and its partners, visit them on Facebook at

Living with dementia, with dignity.

For the Dorothy and Peter Brown Jewish Community Adult Day Program it’s simple: dementia might hide the person underneath, but there’s still a person inside who needs love and attention. As they celebrate their 20th Anniversary, the Brown Program continues to honor the person inside, connecting those they care for to a clearer sense of self. 

Brown Center’s Jennifer Kellman and Merle, a program participant, on an outing

The Brown Program was created by Dorothy and Peter Brown from their own experience of caring for a loved one living with dementia. A joint venture between JVS Human Services and Jewish Senior Life, with locations in Southfield and West Bloomfield, the program offers individualized programming for people struggling with cognitive change — and a reprieve and support for their family care partners. 

Programs such as music, art, yoga, exercise, field trips, cooking, group discussions and cognitive exercise are all designed by the Brown Program to purposefully engage participants, always with the aim of enhancing their dignity and boosting their self-esteem.  

Debra Yamstein, VP Senior Adults Services & Community Inclusion, says that the Brown Program provides a place where people feel safe, engaged and have renewed meaning in their lives. “We regularly have participants say: ‘You have given me my life back’ and we have an equal number of family care partners saying the same thing,” says Yamstein. “We do everything we can to bring their ‘personhood’ back, to help them to connect to who they were before the onset of dementia.” 

“I feel very fortunate that I’m in a position where every morning I wake up and I’m excited to go to work,” said Jennifer Kellman, Site Supervisor at the West Bloomfield location who is celebrating her 20th year with The Brown Program. “It is a privilege to work with a really special population of people. The memories and experiences they share with us are a huge resource in how we can help them live their lives to the fullest. Really, they are so much fun, and you can see how much they enjoy being in a social setting with their peers, actively engaged and making new friends.”

The Brown Center’s Dorothy Moon and Brad, a program participant, in the garden

The longevity of the staff, in an industry which has a fast turnover, is just one aspect of what makes the program so powerful for the people who attend. “Our direct care staff have been with us for an average of 12 years. In an industry where one to three years is the normal turnover, our situation is unique, but it shows how deeply our staff are invested in our mission, to bring joy to the lives of people living with dementia,” says Yamstein. 

The Brown Program has a dual mission: to support and enhance the lives of people affected by dementia, while at the same time assisting their family care partners. This support of family is something social worker Dorothy Moon, who’s been with the Southfield-based Brown Program for 20 years, takes pride in. Her role, which includes assisting family care partners, running support groups and handling case management for future planning, is vital for an important part of the Brown Program’s mission, to keeping people living in their homes, in their familiar surroundings, for as long as possible.  

Moon appreciates how the center constantly strives to implement new strategies to benefit participants. “These people have a right to live life to the fullest and there are still ways to engage them, even if they have trouble with cognition,” she says.  

With half a million family members in Michigan caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia — frequently juggling work-life, home-life and caregiving — resources such as the Brown Program are necessary and welcome. Helping to restore a more profound sense of self to everyone.  

More information

The Dorothy and Peter Brown Jewish Community Adult Day Program is a nonsectarian program dedicated to supporting people living with dementia and their family care partners. It is designed to enhance the dignity, self-esteem and well-being of each participant through engaging programming and socialization, provided in a warm, safe and secure environment. In collaboration with family care partners, the Brown Program helps participants age in place by providing support and respite services to their care partners, while enhancing the participants’ quality of life.  

Hours for participants are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., although arrangements can be made for needs outside of regular business hours. Participants attend on a schedule, a minimum of two half days a week, and the program is open to all people living with dementia, regardless of religious beliefs. Needs-based scholarships and funding through AAA-1B state programs are available. 

For more information please visit JVS Human Services or Jewish Senior Life

Come Full Circle

“I’m a walking billboard for all of the great things Federation does,” said FedRadioDetroit’s most recent guest, Carolyn Bellinson. But, as she explains, it took a mission to Israel at the age of 38 for it all to click. Once it did though, there was no stopping her.

As Federation’s Annual Campaign co-chair; restauranteur and co-founder of Peas and Carrots Hospitality; co-founder of Brilliant Detroit and past president of Hebrew Free Loan, Carolyn wears many hats on any given day. Her commitment to taking care of others and striving for personal and professional success come from life lessons she learned at an early age.

Growing up in a single-parent household and watching her mother work to take care of three children, with some much-needed support from Federation and its partner organizations, Carolyn experienced first-hand the importance of helping others.

Together with her husband Jim, Carolyn co-founded Brilliant Detroit, a non-profit that works with families to address issues of early childhood literacy in Detroit neighborhoods.

“I’ve been working on our elevator pitch for Brilliant Detroit, because we do so much, it’s hard to describe it in a 10-second clip.” True for this incredible organization — and for the life that Carolyn has built.

You can hear more about Brilliant Detroit, what it was like working at Stage Deli as a high school student when it first opened, how her mother’s gift to Hebrew Free Loan started her on a path to becoming the organization’s president and much more about Carolyn Bellison’s journey to being a true community leader in the latest episode of FedRadioDetroit.

Click here for the latest episode

FedRadioDetroit is Federation’s podcast series hosted by Sam Dubin and Beverly Liss and featuring big personalities from Jewish Detroit’s diverse cast of characters. Explore previous episodes and stay tuned for a new episode next month here.

Watch Our Heritage in Motion

Detroit Public Television (DPTV) believes in telling the stories of the past to impact the present and help build for the future. Nowhere is that more evident than in the hundreds of hours of historical and documentary programming DPTV broadcasts each year. On Sunday, March 15, 2020, that programming will focus on our history during the station’s Jewish Heritage Night. The best part? You don’t even have to leave your house to catch it all.

From 7:00 to 10:00 pm this live, prime-time event will feature in-studio guests, fascinating looks at Jewish history and culture, and reflections on Jewish Detroit’s past. Plus, these two amazing documentaries:

Detroit Remember When: The Jewish Community

From Detroit Public Television and award-winning producers Sue Marx and Allyson Rockwell comes this retrospective documentary about Jewish life in Detroit. The film traces the roots of Jews in Detroit from the 1700’s with the arrival of the first Jewish fur trader in Detroit and culminates in the importance of Jewish leadership in the political, civil rights, arts, cultural and educational life of the region today. Told through interviews, archival footage, home movies and historic photographs, the film will bring back warm memories of cherished traditions for those who grew up in Detroit’s large, close-knit community. Take a trip down memory lane of Jewish life including the early days, discrimination, religious and cultural traditions, politics and civil rights, education, philanthropy, and future leaders.

GI JEWS: Jewish Americans in World War II

This feature-length documentary spotlights the little-known story of the more than 550,000 Jewish Americans who served their country in all branches of the military during World War II. Filmmaker Lisa Ades brings the struggles of these brave men and women to life through first-hand experiences that reveal their fight against fascism, as well as their more personal war to liberate loved ones in Europe. After years of battle, these pioneering service men and women emerged transformed: more profoundly American, more deeply Jewish, and determined to continue the fight for equality and tolerance at home.

GI Jews features more than 25 original interviews with veterans who speak candidly about the impact of their war time experiences: Mel Brooks, who served in the Army; Henry Kissinger, a refugee from Nazi Germany who was drafted into the Army; and the late Bea Cohen, who was a member of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in England.

Tune in to history. Our history. Don’t miss Jewish Heritage Night on Detroit Public Television, WTVS, March 15th at 7:00 pm.

The Bravery of Perseverance

If you sat down for a meeting with Susie Feldman today, you’d never know the hellish journey she’s traveled. The Jewish Federation’s Director of Philanthropy and Corporate Giving is a direct, confident, seasoned professional. She’s passionate and vocal about the importance of supporting the Jewish community, and she’s 100% committed to the work of the Jewish Federation and its partner agencies. And she speaks from experience.

As the guest on FedRadioDetroit’s February episode, Susie shares a story that’s not easy to hear and, unfortunately, one that other women in our community also could tell. For years, Susie was abused emotionally and physically by her ex-husband. She endured verbal assaults, horrific beatings and was controlled and manipulated to the point where she and her children were trapped. Until one evening when Susie made the choice to run.

With her three small children, her mother and just a few garbage bags full of clothes, Susie found herself in another state, safe — but in need. She recounts the agencies and organizations who helped them during that time, from the local synagogue and day school to Jewish Family Service and the JCC.  

When she returned to Detroit after almost a year in hiding, our community’s agencies were also at the ready, providing the support Susie and her kids needed to rebuild here at home.

In addition to her work in Federation’s Philanthropic Advancement department, Susie further supports the community by sharing her first-hand account of the impact that the Jewish community’s network of social service agencies has on so many.

“I do what I do because I know what our amazing community does, and I see what our Jewish Federation and its agencies do. We give people hope and dignity. We can lift them up from the depths of darkness and make them human and whole. I know this, because I lived this. It is my greatest honor and privilege to speak for those who don’t have a voice. This is the most rewarding feeling on earth.”

You can hear Susie’s story in its entirety in the latest episode of FedRadioDetroit here. FedRadioDetroit is Federation’s podcast series hosted by Sam Dubin and Beverly Liss and featuring big personalities from Jewish Detroit’s diverse cast of characters. Explore previous episodes and stay tuned for a new episode next month here.