Nora Barron

Interviewed by Michael Berke

October 8, 2015

Max M. Fisher Building, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Nora Barron
Video 01:16:30


In this oral history interview, Nora Barron talks about her grandparents and parents. She briefly speaks about her maternal grandparents’ immigration to Canada and then to the United States. She mentions her childhood growing up in the Rainer Apartments, very close to her grandparents. Barron says that her involvement with philanthropy and the Jewish community has always been a part of her life. Her first memories are of her mother and aunt working on programming for Shaarey Zedek and United Hebrew Schools, soliciting door-to-door with her mother for Allied Jewish Campaign, and attending meetings. She mentions that her father was a land developer and found land that eventually become Camp Tamarack.

From here, Barron talks about her college years. She went to Cornell University and majored in psychology, minored in fine art. While there, she was a member of the Jewish sorority, AEP, and also collected for Federation. When she came back to Detroit, she attended Wayne State School of Social Work and got a master’s degree in psychiatric social work. She talks about the jobs she has held over the years in her career and talks about how the field has changed.

When asked about how her work with the Jewish community has impacted her life, she discusses the paths that lead her to becoming yet first woman president of Jewish Vocational Services. She speaks about how the agency works. Barron speaks at length about her husband, Guy. She talks about how they met their first date, and their mutual interests. This leads in discussing her involvement in Partnership 2000 and she explains the program.

Barron talks a little about her non-Jewish interests, such as the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and art collecting. She then speaks about her involvement with the Joint Distribution Committee and how that came to be.

Barron mentions her brother, Irv Smokler, as well as her children and grandchildren. She mentions some things that she believes are current challenges to the Jewish community, and givers her opinion on how the next generation will do things. She mentions a program she is extremely proud of called Witness Theater where Holocaust survivors were teamed up with teenagers who were around the same age at the survivors during the Holocaust. They wrote a play together and the young people played the survivors.

History of Narrator

Nora Barron was born February 19, 1938. She has BA from Cornell University in psychology and a master’s degree from the Wayne State School of Social Work. She was the first woman president of Jewish Vocational Services, and has served on numerous boards, including the Joint Distribution Committee, Partnership 2000, Fresh Air Society and JARC. She and her husband, Guy, created the Nora Lee and Guy Barron Millennium Fund.


Important Subjects

  • Allied Jewish Campaign
  • Camp Tamarack
  • Congregation Shaarey Zedek
  • Israel
  • Jewish Education
  • Joint Distribution Committee
  • JVS
  • Partnership 2000
  • United Hebrew Schools

Important Names

  • Al Ascher
  • Anna Esther Berman
  • Bill Berman
  • Bob Aronson
  • Burt Smokler
  • Elizabeth Smokler
  • Guy Barron
  • Irv Smokler
  • Julius Berman
  • Norman Smokler

Credit as: Leonard N. Simons Jewish Community Archives. Nora Barron Oral History Interview, October 8, 2015.