Betsy Heuer! If you’ve had anything to do with Federation’s women’s programs over the last 45 years, you know Betsy. Betsy, forever young, bubbly, blonde (and very Jewish). Who else but Betsy can start a meaningful conversation with a total stranger in a parking lot? Who else but Betsy can walk into almost any coffee shop in Israel’s Jezreel Valley and likely find three people she knows? A lively and colorful storyteller (and a compassionate listener), Betsy loves a microphone on a tour bus, a spot on the stage of community theater, a place at the table where she can speak her mind (and doesn’t have to cook). Despite her claim to be a “canasta-playing, weekly salon hair blow-out, hovering stereotypical Jewish mother,” Betsy is anything but typical in her lifetime service to the Jewish community through her many leadership roles with Federation. This is her story. Prepare to smile.
For Jared Rothberger, owner and CEO of Jan-Pro Detroit, a leading commercial cleaning franchise in the country, it has been a year like no other. “It’s been crazy for everybody,” he said, “The pandemic kicked everyone in the teeth, and many are still hurting. With a third of our customers closing their doors, last April was the scariest month I have ever seen in business. But then we started getting calls to clean urgent care and surgery centers, doctors’ offices, food processing facilities. And suddenly we bounced back with our hospital-grade disinfecting services.”
An essential workforce, Jan-Pro Detroit is alive and well today, a vibrant company now serving 175 franchisees, representing more than 600 jobs for metro Detroiters. Additionally, Jared and his wife, Lisa - who partners with him as Jan-Pro HR Director - have expanded their business to Jan-Supply, a wholesale pipeline to cleaning and sanitizing products in high demand. Some may call it luck and “good timing” in the worst of times. But if you ask Jared and Lisa, their success is all about good, hard work. Here’s their story.
Who finds a dream job in the middle of a pandemic? Ask Dr. Darin S. Katz how he’s doing now - mid-way through his first year as Head of School at Hillel – and he answers, “As long as everyone at Hillel is doing well, I’m doing well.” Actually, Darin is managing the challenges of Covid exceptionally well, even while living separately from his family. For the time being, plans for moving to Detroit have been delayed - with his wife, Dr. Marsha Pincus Katz, their son, Jonah (a high school senior) and parents still in the Philadelphia area and older son, Eli, who recently completed graduate school in Baltimore. “Moving? A mere detail to be worked out come spring,” Darin reassures. “We’re all healthy and connected to one another every single day. That’s the important thing. And professionally? I have never been happier. Honestly, I feel like I’ve died and gone to Jewish Day School heaven – the luckiest Head of School of Jewish day schools in the country! And I’m here to tell everyone all the reasons why.”
If there is one lesson to be learned in a world pandemic, it’s how connected we are and how vulnerable we are without the strength of our families, the reach of our networks and the support of community. In our public spaces - and even in our own homes – Covid has put to the test nearly every decision: how we gather in safety, how we meet and work productively, how we care for those we love, how we celebrate together, how we return to the activities that nourish and sustain body and mind, how we redefine what it means to build community.
“We’re at a pivotal moment,” says Brian D. Siegel, CEO of the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit. “The JCC had set a path to fundamentally change the nature of its business model and COVID-19 has served to accelerate that paradigm shift. We have been following the clear steps of a strategic plan that our Board adopted four years ago and I can say with pride that we’re finally in a place where we’re excited to tell our story.”
It’s 3 a.m. in the morning and Michelle Berman is still at her desk wrapping up another “long, hard week’s work” in the classroom created in the basement of her Orchard Lake home. An elementary school teacher in the community of essential workers we count on for the safety, wellbeing and education of our children, Michelle works with a team of five third-grade teachers at Lakers Online, the fully remote school of the West Bloomfield School District that opened in September as a full curriculum option. The school now serves more than 1,400 K-12 students across Oakland County. With 25 years of experience teaching K-3 in West Bloomfield, Michelle is well prepared to handle most curves thrown at her. But this? Who’d imagine this school year? Ever the optimist, drawing from a remarkable reserve of energy, experience and strength, Michelle remains philosophical, “COVID has tested us at every step of our journey and it can feel overwhelming day to day, but you have to think of this period of time as one of extraordinary change in our lives - an opportunity to learn and grow together - all for the better.”
Born in Jerusalem, son of former Israeli emissaries who served in the U.S; raised in the Israeli Youth Movement; nine years a pilot and flight instructor in the Israeli Air Force; eight years a high school teacher and mentor for youth-at-risk in Tel Aviv; an educator with a Master’s of Philosophy; what better creds for Jewish Detroit’s new Shaliach, our emissary from Israel, Yiftah Leket?
Imagine the courage, the spirit and the optimism it takes to mask-up and fly in the face of a world pandemic to carry out his mission to Israel and our Jewish community. With steadfast confidence in his bold move to Detroit - having just arrived in September with his wife, Paz, and their daughter, Ella - Yiftah offers his first take on the challenges and opportunities ahead.