Our History: The Power of One

June 13, 2013 | Sharon Alterman

Several years ago, members of the Leonard N. Simons Jewish Community Archives committee arranged the papers of the Jewish Federation Apartments (now Jewish Senior Life). This was a very demanding and rewarding task as we uncovered a vast amount of history that had been filed away in a storage unit at Prentis. Among the correspondence in the collection is file simply titled “Lea Rubel’s Letters.” Lea was not known to many members of our community. However, the role she played in bringing the apartments to life was dramatic. Leonard Simons, chairman of the committee that studied the need for senior housing, credited Lea with bringing this issue to the forefront.

Lea contacted the Jewish News, Federation and local Jewish builders and developers with a passionate plea for help for seniors. She wrote:

Help the middle class Jew. Seniors do not need an old age home or welfare but still cannot afford the high rent of an apartment and still desire to live in dignity and self-respect. Can we hope that somebody in our community will help?

Lisa Cutler and I recently made a presentation to the residents of the Teitel Apartments. We spoke about campaign and shared the history of the founding of the “Federation Apartments.” And, of course, we told Lea’s story. You can find out more about the history of Jewish Senior Life in the Archives now housed at the Reuther Library on Wayne State’s campus.

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