A Thread in Detroit’s Jewish Fabric

It was always my hope to move to Detroit after graduate school. A frequent visitor from Ann Arbor, I have long been an advocate for strengthening the city’s already dynamic Jewish community.

A vibrant Judaism exists in Detroit. Though I cannot speak for an entire community, I would like to believe that most young Jews who live in the city have made a conscious decision to do so. This community wishes to impact the present. Many play an active role in their neighborhood and community, shaping a variety of institutions and networks. Through these venues, they are able to cultivate spiritual, cultural, educational and social opportunities for like-minded peers.

After I graduated from the Jewish Communal Leadership Program at the University of Michigan in May, I was looking to bridge my passion for a mindful Judaism with my thirst to live in tune with the rhythm that makes Detroit so unique. The Repair the World Moishe House in Woodbridge, aptly nicknamed the “Mitzvah House,” has allowed me to do just that. Here, I can engage with a form of Judaism that is energetic, introspective, and inviting of new experiences and ideas.

Co-founding a new Repair the World Moishe House dedicated to service enables my housemates and me to contribute to the depth of the Jewish community in Downtown Detroit and focus on direct service programming that helps address local needs.

Establishing our house’s communal identity has been an exciting challenge. We quickly learned that Detroit’s Jewish community is incredibly interconnected. Professional, personal and spiritual communities connect and grow through a myriad of Jewish and secular experiences.

In only a few short weeks, our house gained a reputation for its work engaging a diverse cross-section of young Detroiters. We now see many new faces at each of our events while also noticing the formation of a regular crowd. It is a strong start, and we are hoping to build on this momentum.

What comes next is difficult. It is our mandate to ensure that our programming adds value to both the Jewish and general Detroit communities. So we are working hard, meeting with members of these communities to discover what valuable roles we can play and what the Mitzvah House can bring to the table.

In October, we helped host a field day with a fifth-grade class of “change makers” from Plymouth Educational Center. We provided healthy food and facilitated an enjoyable afternoon for the kids and their families.

Engaging with Jewish culture, we hosted a shakshuka-making workshop at our house run by the Israeli nonprofit, Puzzle Israel. This led to a riveting conversation about innovative Israel travel programming. Through this and other similar programming, we have actualized our home as a hub not only for service, but also as a welcoming environment for Jewish experiences and dialogue to take place.

It is clear that there is a niche for us here in Detroit, yet we understand the importance of building strong collaborative relationships with existing programs. We must work together to generate creative outlets that provide opportunities for our peers to express and enact their desire to do social good.

Repair the World Moishe House must make a real difference by providing meaningful Jewish experiences around service, education and social justice for young adults in Metro Detroit. And it will.

Josh Kanter lives in the Repair the World Moishe House in the Woodbridge neighborhood of Detroit. He works in the NEXTGen Department at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.