This post originally appeared on Model D Media on October 21, 2014
By David Sands
Not long ago, speaking about a resurgent Jewish community in Detroit would have had folks thinking you were a few candles short of a full menorah. Since the late 2000s, though, there’s been a major revival of Jewish life in the city, spurred on by an enthusiastic influx of young Jews under the age of 40.
Volunteering represents another avenue for Detroit Jews to connect with each other and the broader community. Repair the World is a Jewish service organization whose name is a translation of the Hebrew term “tikkun olam.” In three years, the organization’s Detroit branch has brought hundreds of Jews and non-Jews together to support local youth programs, food pantries, and urban agriculture projects.
Carly Sugar, 25, recently finished a fellowship with Repair the World volunteering at Project Healthy Community Garden and continues to be involved.
Raised as a Reform Jew, she attended Temple Israel’s Hebrew School in West Bloomfield and was bat mitzvahed. She still goes to temple on High Holy Days, but religious practice hasn’t been a central focus for her. Her time at Repair encouraged her to reflect on her Jewish identity.
“We seek to address issues that are present in the suburbs, where the students live, and in Detroit as well. This act of teaching, learning, discussing, and contemplating how we connect with others and with the Earth — to me, that is a Jewish act.”
Sugar has lived in Detroit for about a year and now. While she occasionally attends events at the Downtown Synagogue, she’s just as apt to run into fellow Jews at gatherings around the city. She speaks of the city’s new Jewish population as part of the larger fabric of a city that for her is a place of great challenges, troubling inequality, and also exciting change.
“Taking part in this work in Detroit has brought me a sense of community unlike any I have experienced before,” she says.