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A story of Jewish Detroit

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A Prayer for the Departed by Bill Broder, The Ainslie Street Project, ISBN 978-1-461-13893-8 ©2011, $12.95, p. 230

By Fred Reiss, Ed.D.

Fred Reiss, Ed.D

WINCHESTER, California — The narrator of the TV show Naked City, a detective series about the 65th police precinct in New York City, which aired from 1958-63, ended each show with “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.” Bill Broder, actor, director, playwright, and author of A Prayer for the Departed, offers us vignettes of his Detroit Jewish family, emigrants from Russia, from the last third of the nineteenth century through the 1980s.
From 1880s to the First World War, two million eastern European Jews immigrated to America, where they met the two hundred thousand or so German Jews who preceded them by several decades. By virtue of their perceived higher culture and acclimation to American life, German Jewry looked down on the new arrivals, known as Ostjuden, which Broder recounts through the relationships between his family and the well-established (read German) parts of Detroit Jewry.

A Prayer for the Departed
is Broder’s autobiographical account of his emotional journey from childhood, and the scars left from the early death of his father, through the death of his overbearing mother, some thirty years later. Along the way, we learn about his greater dysfunctional family, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins, which the reader might perceive as Broder’s catharsis.

 
Emotionally charged with the vicissitudes of life and interesting insights into a bygone era of Detroit Jewry, A Prayer for the Departed, in the vein of the hit play, “My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish and I’m in Therapy!” provides an enjoyable read. By 1920, there were almost 35,000 Jewish stories in the motor city. This has been one of them.
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Dr. Fred Reiss is a retired public and Hebrew school teacher and administrator. He is the author of The Standard Guide to the Jewish and Civil Calendars; Ancient Secrets of Creation: Sepher Yetzira, the Book that Started Kabbalah, Revealed; and Reclaiming the Messiah. The author can be reached at [email protected]

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