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  1. #1

    Default New Life for the old Downtown Synagogue

    UPDATE: Jan. 22, 2015: Downtown Synagogue Renovation gets a $350,000 boost from the William Davison Foundation.

    Additionally for every two dollars pledged Davison will kick in two more dollars up to $100,000 as reported by modelD. I also believe they had a previous successful crowd-funding drive that my have another $100K.

    It will be great to see this historic synagogue, the only City of Detroit Synagogue to endure, and be a part of the Capitol Park area renaissance.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Changing times and population movement left the Isaac Agree Memorial Society aka the Downtown Synagogue as the last remaining active synagogue inside the City of Detroit, its numbers diminishing and future uncertain. More at the Lost Synagogues of Detroit website.



    Located in an interesting pie-shaped former department store on Griswold at Clifford, the Downtown Synagogue has been experiencing a revitalization driven by energetic young members committed to the preserving the site, reviving its neighborhood and city.



    Approached from the south, one passes by the exotically-interesting next-door Cafe D'Mongo's whose presence fits nicely with the youthful membership and its activities.



    By vigorously recruiting new like-minded members, a younger contingent assumed positions on the synagogue's board and moved the congregation in a new direction by recruiting involved youth and vigorously organizing events to highlight its presence. They also re-positioned the formerly Conservative shul to an open stance, welcoming all from Reform to Orthodox and opening its doors of worship to everyone, regardless of faith.

    "We're a younger, more secular generation," [Leor] Barak says, "We saw this as an opportunity to revitalize Detroit and reconnect with Judaism." [From MetroTimes article by SallyAnn Price]



    Located just off the Capitol Park, site of the first Capitol of Michigan and formerly a posh shopping district, the neighborhood has passed through decades of decay and abandonment. The future is now brightening as the park, which had been used as primarily a bus exchange point, is being renovated. Bus traffic is now diverted to new Rosa Park transit center and the recent restoration of the adjacent Book Cadillac Hotel has added impetus to the area’s renewal. Surrounded by magnificent architecture exemplified here by the Farwell Building [center] its opportunities for full revival are encouraging.



    Looking south from the synagogue, the new loft spaces at Clark Lofts [nine story white building to left], the high-rising orange brick David Stott tower and the Chamber Commerce Building in front of it underline the elegance of this downtown district.



    After sundown last Saturday, the synagogue participated in a block party event with Café D’Mongo and LOVELAND Micro-Real Estate dubbed “The Big Inch Party”. Details here.



    With doors opened wide I took the opportunity to explore this intriguing place. To the left as you enter is a social space where visitors lounged and an artist labored on a large scale art work.



    To the right Detroit-made beverages were offered - MotorCity Brewing beer and Valentine Vodka Bloody Mary’s.



    The stairs to the second floor opened to a foyer space where the building’s distinct colored windows bathe it in colored light.



    Opposite is the sanctuary which was found to be in excellent condition. Power lines strewn on the floor lead to projectors manned by Dan Land and Gabe Hall who were casting light show projections on the colored windows.





    Detail of the bimah.



    The upper two floors are vacant and in disrepair, yet are fascinating and very attractive for their large windows and angles. Restoration of the entire building, which could run north of a half million, foresees conversion of those floors into income-generating spaces.



    The block party roared on into the warm summer night and overflowed into Café D’Mongo's and onto the street.



    Let’s hope and pray for the continued success of the Downtown Synagogue, Capitol Park and our beloved Detroit! Tikkun Olam, Hebrew phrase that means "repairing the world", fits perfectly here.


  2. #2

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    When I had my place downtown, I had customers from the synagogue. I went in a few times. It still had quite a few members (congregants?) though I'm sure that's all relative. I met some of them while lunching next door at what is now D'Mongo's. It had been an old Sero's Coney and though it was operated by Connie and Dale as a small lunch counter, it still had the Sero's name on it.They served very good, fresh, food but were unable to keep it open after about 1984-85. The strip club across the street had been the Mayfield Chop House. Krazy Craig bought it and attempted to keep operating it as a restaurant. After finally giving up, he changed the name to 'Krazy Craig's' (aptly titled) and operated, along with the Famous Door, just up the street, as a daytime neighborhood bar, nightime gay bar. Along with Shopper's Lounge and the Boston Bar, they comprised a big gay bar scene downtown. It was pretty lively along Griswold but destined to fade with the closings of the aforementioned places as well as Sunnie's. The synagogue would sometimes be open for services while the street scene along Griswold was rocking. It made for an interesting mix of people. Oh, the famous clothing store was also still there. Help me with the name. Was it Kouzen's? And the Wendy's? Taco Bell? At the N.E. corner of Griswold and Grand River. Across from Josh Greenwood's little coffee house in the parking structure.

  3. #3

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    Fun party last night! The bands were great and everyone had a wonderful time.

    I am a congregant there, so it was a little weird to see kegs in the Rabbi's office. Maybe Jjaba put them there.

  4. #4

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    The view from those top floors must be great. That picture Lowell made shows!

  5. #5

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    Changing times and population movement left the Isaac Agree Memorial Society aka the Downtown Synagogue as the last remaining Jewish place of worship in the City of Detroit
    There's a vibrant Jewish Congregation located in Lafayette Park.

    In 2000 the Reconstructionist Synoguge of Detroit was established at 1300 East Lafayette which is located in what had been the heart of Detroit's Jewish community in the early 1900's. Its guiding principles include a commitment to maintaining a Jewish presence in Detroit. "Part of RCD's mission is to restore objects connected with Detroit's Jewish heritage, and to make the past come alive through educational programs." (MI Jewish History, vol. 48, Fall 2000)

  6. #6

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    Thanks Neilr. I have amended the text to read "last remaining active synagogue". I had heard about the 1300 Lafayette congregation. I should have written that correctly. One can worship anywhere.

  7. #7
    DetroitDad Guest

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    So those upper two floors are totally vacant?

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Neilr View Post
    There's a vibrant Jewish Congregation located in Lafayette Park.

    In 2000 the Reconstructionist Synoguge of Detroit was established at 1300 East Lafayette which is located in what had been the heart of Detroit's Jewish community in the early 1900's. Its guiding principles include a commitment to maintaining a Jewish presence in Detroit. "Part of RCD's mission is to restore objects connected with Detroit's Jewish heritage, and to make the past come alive through educational programs." (MI Jewish History, vol. 48, Fall 2000)
    I've never heard of that 1300 Lafayette congreation. Do they have a minyan in an apartment there- or in a store front?

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1KielsonDrive View Post
    When I had my place downtown, I had customers from the synagogue. I went in a few times. It still had quite a few members (congregants?) though I'm sure that's all relative. I met some of them while lunching next door at what is now D'Mongo's. It had been an old Sero's Coney and though it was operated by Connie and Dale as a small lunch counter, it still had the Sero's name on it.They served very good, fresh, food but were unable to keep it open after about 1984-85. The strip club across the street had been the Mayfield Chop House. Krazy Craig bought it and attempted to keep operating it as a restaurant. After finally giving up, he changed the name to 'Krazy Craig's' (aptly titled) and operated, along with the Famous Door, just up the street, as a daytime neighborhood bar, nightime gay bar. Along with Shopper's Lounge and the Boston Bar, they comprised a big gay bar scene downtown. It was pretty lively along Griswold but destined to fade with the closings of the aforementioned places as well as Sunnie's. The synagogue would sometimes be open for services while the street scene along Griswold was rocking. It made for an interesting mix of people. Oh, the famous clothing store was also still there. Help me with the name. Was it Kouzen's? And the Wendy's? Taco Bell? At the N.E. corner of Griswold and Grand River. Across from Josh Greenwood's little coffee house in the parking structure.
    Clothing store was called Kosins. It was owned by two brothers, Harry and Benny Kosins. They sold mens furnishings. They were open in the city of Southfield on Southfield Road for years.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by softailrider View Post
    Clothing store was called Kosins. It was owned by two brothers, Harry and Benny Kosins. They sold mens furnishings. They were open in the city of Southfield on Southfield Road for years.
    Yeah, that's it. Thanks softailrider. I bought clothing from Kosins Griswold store before they closed. And I remember seeing their store on Southfield Road.

  11. #11

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    If Comerica Park had not been built, I would not have known of this place.I am not Jewish or do I live Downtown. Best of Luck to those in the congregation.
    As for the Kosins connection, All I can say is Kosins with a K , Chuck Daly was their pitchman I belive.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by softailrider View Post
    I've never heard of that 1300 Lafayette congreation. Do they have a minyan in an apartment there- or in a store front?
    The Reconstructionist Congregation is located on the mezzanine level of 1300 East Lafayette.

  13. #13

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    DetroitDad,

    1st Floor- Social Hall & Office
    2nd Floor- Sanctuary
    3rd & 4th Floors- Now empty, formerly more offices & study rooms
    Basement- Scary with a kitchen

  14. #14
    LodgeDodger Guest

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1KielsonDrive View Post
    Yeah, that's it. Thanks softailrider. I bought clothing from Kosins Griswold store before they closed. And I remember seeing their store on Southfield Road.
    Betterhalf worked for Kosins years ago.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1KielsonDrive View Post
    When I had my place downtown, I had customers from the synagogue. I went in a few times. It still had quite a few members (congregants?) though I'm sure that's all relative. I met some of them while lunching next door at what is now D'Mongo's. It had been an old Sero's Coney and though it was operated by Connie and Dale as a small lunch counter, it still had the Sero's name on it.They served very good, fresh, food but were unable to keep it open after about 1984-85. The strip club across the street had been the Mayfield Chop House. Krazy Craig bought it and attempted to keep operating it as a restaurant. After finally giving up, he changed the name to 'Krazy Craig's' (aptly titled) and operated, along with the Famous Door, just up the street, as a daytime neighborhood bar, nightime gay bar. Along with Shopper's Lounge and the Boston Bar, they comprised a big gay bar scene downtown. It was pretty lively along Griswold but destined to fade with the closings of the aforementioned places as well as Sunnie's. The synagogue would sometimes be open for services while the street scene along Griswold was rocking. It made for an interesting mix of people. Oh, the famous clothing store was also still there. Help me with the name. Was it Kouzen's? And the Wendy's? Taco Bell? At the N.E. corner of Griswold and Grand River. Across from Josh Greenwood's little coffee house in the parking structure.
    Interesting history. Hopefully the strip can become vibrant again. I stopped in the synagogue a while back for some functiona and was made to feel welcom, was offered food and drink and given a tour.I was also handed some literature that detailed the history of the Synagogue.

  16. #16

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    I'm glad the Downtown Synagogue still makes its spot in Downtown Detroit. Unlike other Jewish Detroit neighborhood synagogues pack up their congregations and their Torahs and left for Oakland County Cities.

    There still a few Jewish folks left in Detroit, they are not long gone, yet.

  17. #17

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    congrats Rel, I know you have worked hard to bring the synagogue back to life. From the pix it looks like you're succeeding.

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1KielsonDrive View Post
    When I had my place downtown, I had customers from the synagogue. I went in a few times. It still had quite a few members (congregants?) though I'm sure that's all relative. I met some of them while lunching next door at what is now D'Mongo's. It had been an old Sero's Coney and though it was operated by Connie and Dale as a small lunch counter, it still had the Sero's name on it.They served very good, fresh, food but were unable to keep it open after about 1984-85. The strip club across the street had been the Mayfield Chop House. Krazy Craig bought it and attempted to keep operating it as a restaurant. After finally giving up, he changed the name to 'Krazy Craig's' (aptly titled) and operated, along with the Famous Door, just up the street, as a daytime neighborhood bar, nightime gay bar. Along with Shopper's Lounge and the Boston Bar, they comprised a big gay bar scene downtown. It was pretty lively along Griswold but destined to fade with the closings of the aforementioned places as well as Sunnie's. The synagogue would sometimes be open for services while the street scene along Griswold was rocking. It made for an interesting mix of people. Oh, the famous clothing store was also still there. Help me with the name. Was it Kouzen's? And the Wendy's? Taco Bell? At the N.E. corner of Griswold and Grand River. Across from Josh Greenwood's little coffee house in the parking structure.
    What kind of business did you own?

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Neilr View Post
    The Reconstructionist Congregation is located on the mezzanine level of 1300 East Lafayette.
    This is the first I've heard about it. Do they have Friday night or Saturday morning services?

  20. #20

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    Its quite an interesting and striking building. I would love to see it restored.

  21. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by softailrider View Post
    This is the first I've heard about it. Do they have Friday night or Saturday morning services?
    I don't know. I'm not a member of the Reconstructionist Congregation.

  22. #22
    Blarf Guest

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    Can Is still party there even though I'm not Jewish?

  23. #23

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    Is Reconstructionist the same branch of Judaism that Rabbi Wine from Birmingham sort of established?

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
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    2,260

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blarf View Post
    Can Is still party there even though I'm not Jewish?
    Sounds like it, if they let Terry in. (I don't think Lowell is Jewish either.)

    Cool door handles.

  25. #25

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    It's a beautiful building, best of wishes for their success reviving it for the future.

    How many of those pie-shaped buildings are left downtown? There is the synogogue, the coney islands on Lafayette, that way cool old building in Cadillac Square. Any others?

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