Music Man: Detroit Jewish News Profile

Thank you Detroit Jewish News for the fantastic profile in this past week’s edition. Thank you to the article’s author Robin Schwartz, and Rabbi Jason Miller who suggested the idea.

Below is reprinted from

Music Man

Jewlicious Festival Founder’s Detroit Roots

Rabbi Yonah Bookstein recalls picking up a guitar for the first time at age 10, in the late 1970s, as a Hillel Day School student growing up in Detroit’s Palmer Woods neighborhood.

His late father, Marvin Bookstein — a bluegrass musician who played six different instruments — taught young Yonah the fundamentals, opening his eyes and ears to the beauty and power of music. He spent his early years attending concerts, going to Detroit’s Orchestra Hall, and attending chamber music festivals; so it’s fitting that Bookstein, now 42, of Los Angeles is the force behind Jewlicious. The nonprofit organization hosts hip seasonal music festivals in California that attract hundreds of young Jews from across the country.

“Music unifies and inspires people,” Bookstein says. “One of the reasons I got so into creating musical events is that music was an integral part of my life as a child.”

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Chevy Volt Test Drive – Was never ever supposed to be this funny

What happens when Vanity Fair’s Stick Shift Columnist Brett Berk takes a cross country trip in a new Chevy Volt:

Check out the video directly.

Young Detroit in Hollywood

Detroit's Jewish News features cover-story on young Jews lost to LA.

Along with most of my Jewish friends from Detroit that I grew up with, only a few returned to live in Detroit. The mass exodus of young Jews from Detroit was noted in the 2005 population survey of the Jewish community that pegged the number of Jews between the ages of 24-34 in Detroit as 2.1% of the total Jewish population. This Jewish Detroit Diaspora has settled all over – but a huge number of them are here in the LA area.

A recent event for Young Detroiters gave me a good opportunity to blog about my Shtetle: Young Detroit in Hollywood. It was featured as the cover story in the Jewish News in Detroit.

Organizers included Max Aronson, son of Bob Aronson, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

Max, 23, formerly of Franklin, moved to L.A. to pursue his passion for writing and currently works as an assistant to two Sony Television executives. He helped organize the July 31 bash billed as “Young Detroit in Hollywood” with two friends, Eli Sussman, 23, originally from Huntington Woods, and Aaron Kaczander, 24, who grew up in West Bloomfield.

Detroiters in huge numbers turned out for this inaugural event —featuring ex-Detroiter screen-writer/actor/director/producer Michael Binder— more than 250 according to organizers. Future events are planned, most likely with another Detroiter who has made it in the biz.

“Essentially, we started a massive snowball effect,” Kaczander said. “It culminated with us looking out at a sea of young Detroit Jews who were so eager to catch up. I think the most overheard phrase of the night was, ‘I didn’t know you lived here!’”

The first-of-its kind Federation sponsored event, funded by private contributors, was part of an aggressive new outreach campaign aimed at capturing the attention of young Detroit Jews, even thousands of miles away. The elder Aronson and several Federation staff members flew to L.A. to deliver the message personally.

Yes. The Federation and private funders put up the money for the party, because the Detroiters are still tied to Detroit. It’s kind of a 21st century landsmanschaft, Jewish benevolent society. The Detroit Jewish Fed is also doing Detroiter events in Chicago and New York.

Jewish Ex-Detroiters like myself have a religious attachement to our hometown. We have a tight-knit Jewish community, allegiance to local sports teams, and favorite bakeries, cafes, or delis. (Notice the absence of any allegiance to a synagogue or temple). When we leave Detroit, we leave close family back home – grandparents, aunts and uncles, parents, siblings and cousins. We get back for family events when we can. We try to keep up with the Tigers or Pistons. We root for U of M at the Rose Bowl. We often are connected to other Detroiters who made the move out here before us.

Will ex-Detroiters return to Detroit? Will they help to prop-up Jewish institutions they left behind? If the lesson learned from the exodus from the old country can be used as a model – the chances are that a small number will return, but that the majority will support the community from afar. The Jews who left Warsaw, Lodz, and Lvov never planned on returning, but sought greener pastures, economically and socially, in the Golden Land.

The Jews who left West Bloomfield, Birmingham, Southfield, or Bloomfield Hills, left for the greener pastures of Hollywoodland. Most are going to stay and put down roots.

My Detroiter street cred: Zeemans, Hillel Day School, Cranbrook, grandma at The Heritage, Tigers, Camp Tavor – I won’t mention the Synagogue.

Domestic Insecurity: Detroit is Ground Zero in this recession

I’m blogging from Detroit, where you can feel the ressesion as you drive down the street. Passing row after row of shopping centers with partial occupancy, homes in forclosure, abandonded projects, roads in neglect, population depletion – and that is in the suburbs.

Downtown is a horrific mess of hulking abandoned buildings, empty lots where homes and businesses once stood, and thousands of down and out people on the streets. Its like a movie about the Great Depression. Detroit is Ground Zero in the economic downturn, representing everything that has gone terribly wrong.

Thomas Friedman in the NY Times makes the argument that our own domestic insecurity is much more damaging than any perceived or real external enemy:

My fellow Americans: We are a country in debt and in decline — not terminal, not irreversible, but in decline. Our political system seems incapable of producing long-range answers to big problems or big opportunities. We are the ones who need a better-functioning democracy — more than the Iraqis and Afghans. We are the ones in need of nation-building. It is our political system that is not working.

I continue to be appalled at the gap between what is clearly going to be the next great global industry — renewable energy and clean power — and the inability of Congress and the administration to put in place the bold policies we need to ensure that America leads that industry….

We’re at a 34-year low. And digging out of this hole is what the next election has to be about and is going to be about — even if it is interrupted by a terrorist attack or an outbreak of war or peace in Iraq. We need nation-building at home, and we cannot wait another year to get started. Vote for the candidate who you think will do that best. Nothing else matters.

Some of the “bold policies” we need are enforcing laws to prevent corporate greed from running this country, mitigating the materialism that has decayed the American dream, and fixing an education system that cannot teach the majority of Americans the basics they need.

America – Detroit is the canary in the coal mine and we are in deep trouble.

Check out more pictures on Forgotten Detroit.