Levin floor statement honoring Congregation Shaarey Zedek

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mr. President, on Oct. 27, many of my fellow Michiganians gathered to recognize an event of enormous historical and cultural significance to our state: the 150th anniversary of Congregation Shaarey Zedek in the City of Southfield, just outside my hometown of Detroit.

For a century and a half, from its humble beginnings in Detroit to its emergence as one of the most important and influential institutions in the American Jewish community, Shaarey Zedek has played a vital role, not just for Michigan Jews, but for the community at large. Even more important than its high profile events with high-level speakers and guests is Shaarey Zedek’s 150 years of day-in, day-out service to faith, community and humanity.

Shaarey Zedek has played a vital role in Jewish cultural and political life. It is no coincidence that, as the threat of Nazi Germany rose, Shaarey Zedek hosted one of the most important meetings of American Jews in the May of 1938, warning Americans about Hitler’s threat to European Jews and to international security and strongly advocating for Jewish emigration to Palestine to escape Hitler’s clutches. And in later years, Shaarey Zedek was one of America’s leading voices in support of oppressed Jews in the Soviet Union.

It was Shaarey Zedek where Detroit Tigers slugger Hank Greenberg attended services on Yom Kippur of 1934, in the midst of the American League pennant race, receiving a standing ovation from the congregation, serving as a powerful symbol of Jewish identity, and, as he later put it in his autobiography, pleasing his relieved parents.

Like any religious institution, Shaarey Zedek has first and foremost been a touchstone of faith. Congregation Shaarey Zedek is one of America’s most respected synagogues.

Of particular importance to me is the congregation’s longstanding dedication to tolerance, not just in matters of faith, but in all matters of conscience. At times of strife and conflict in Michigan and the nation, and in the face of discrimination or oppression, Shaarey Zedek has consistently served as a voice of reason, peace, understanding and equality.

So this anniversary is important to the Jewish community, and the larger community. But it also means a lot to me personally. Congregation Shaarey Zedek is where my brother and I were bar mitzvahed. It is the spiritual home of many who are dear to me, and to the community of which I am a proud member. I know my colleagues will want to join me in congratulating all those who have made Congretation Shaarey Zedek such an important institution for 150 years, and who will carry that tradition forward in the decades to come.