The Detroit News reports that downtown Detroit's last functioning synagogue is under threat....
Saving Detroit's Last Synagogue December 18, 2008)
Louis Aguilar / The Detroit News
The Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue is the last of its kind -- the sole building in Detroit still functioning as a Jewish place of worship.
Unless something changes fast, the downtown synagogue may become history. A group of young would-be rescuers find themselves at odds with some of the synagogue's old guard.
Since Rabbi Noah Gamze died in 2003, the synagogue has been void of a spiritual leader. The four-story building on Griswold and Clifford streets barely clings to life; the top two floors are vacant and the roof leaks.At the Saturday morning Shabbat -- the only regular weekly service -- the handful of members who attend often need to recruit the African-American owner of the nightclub next door to reach minyan -- the minimum of 10 males older than age 13 needed for a Jewish public worship.
The synagogue may have recruited the right gentile: Larry Mongo, owner of Café D'Mongo's Speakeasy. Since opening a little over a year ago, Mongo's club and restaurant have become a haven for Detroit's café society -- the creative and professional class returning to the city's core. Some are twentysomething Jews including D'Mongo's bartender and Wayne State University student Courtney Smith. She and seven others -- calling themselves the Detroit Action Synagogue Committee -- want to save the downtown synagogue. Among them are a nonprofit lawyer, a pharmaceutical salesperson and an academic. They want a chance to turn the synagogue into a major piece of downtown's revitalization, tapping into the arts and cultural scene.
"We don't want to just save the building. We want it to be a hub for the people returning to the city and the energy that represents," Smith said.