National Day of Racial Healing

On Tuesday, January 22nd, the Detroit Center for Civil Discourse partnered with Detroit Public Schools, the Detroit Public Schools Foundation, Hillel Day School and Farber Hebrew Day School to organize a National Day of Racial Healing. Around 500 7th and 8th graders hailing from a diverse range of schools and communities (black, Muslim, Latino, Jewish, and white, and many other ethnic backgrounds) in the Detroit Metro area came together for an inspiring program at Cass Technical High School. The schools participating included Paul Robeson Malcolm X, Davison, Academy of the Americas, Franklin, Hillel Day School, and the Farber Hebrew Day School. They were divided into smaller groups such that every school was represented in each group.
The students were treated to a powerful performance by five high school members of the Mosaic Youth Theater of Detroit, a performance arts group for children and teens in Detroit. Their play, “Socialization Stew,” tackled the subject of prejudice and stereotypes towards other communities. After the play, the cast members took questions from the students on their experiences of preparing for and performing the play.
Soon afterwards, the students broke for lunches meeting their respective dietary needs like Halal and Kosher. Over lunch, each group was led by a volunteer facilitator who guided the students in getting to know each other and discussing the play.
At the end, the students wrote their own ideas for hashtags describing the event, among which were #don’tassumewhatyoudonotknow and #unite. All of the students found the program #inspiring.
We’d like to thank Jenny Lewis of Detroit Public Schools and Dr. Jeffery Robinson of Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy for helping to organize this unifying program, as well as well as the 22 volunteers who served as facilitators. We’d also like to thank the Detroit Public Schools Foundation for funding, and the Kellogg’s Foundation for donating the snacks. Last but not least, we’d like to thank Cass Tech for opening their doors, and the schools participating.
In the words of our founder and director, Rabbi Asher Lopatin, we are “so excited to part of a growing effort to unite the Metro Detroit area with the City of Detroit–in all of its diversity.”
Below are some more pictures from this beautiful event:


Dear friends and supporters,

This morning the Detroit Center for Civil Discourse hit a milestone: our first working meeting in our new offices, located on the third floor of the Faculty Building of Wayne State University.  We are so grateful to the President and Provost of the Univeristy for their help in securing our space which will be the hub for the Wayne State Civil Discourse Fellowship on campus starting September 2019.  Pictured below is the Center’s team along with the panelists for our February 4 panel at the University:
Making Sense of Yemen: Past, Present and Future
Ariana Mentzel (pictured below) has recently come on board the Center’s staff in a part time position of Assistant Director, and Saeed Khan continues as Associate Director, and co-director of the Wayne State University Civil Discourse Fellowship. Additionally, pictured below are panelists Emad Shamakh, a Wayne State senior who is also Vice President of the Yemen American Leadership Association, and Professor Howard Lupovitch, Director of the Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies.  The JCRC-AJC of Detroit is co-sponsoring the panel and is generously sponsoring the reception after the panel.  We are also reaching out to Jewish and Muslim organizations, on campus and in the community, to get their support.   We are also thrilled that the Hon. Mokhtar Algaadani, Consul General of the Republic of Yemen, will be giving words of welcome at this panel.  Yemen, where 22 million people are at risk of starvation, has the potential to unite Muslims and Jews, and many others, in a critical cause for our world. The panel will take place at 4:00 PM on February 4th, in the Wayne State University Student Center, Hilberry Rooms B and C.  Please spread the word.
The February panel will also launch our recruitment effort to start the first cohort of the Wayne State Civil Discourse Fellowship, which will consist of 10-16 students, split evenly between Muslim and Jewish students.  The Center now has a Facebook page and an active website, thanks to the efforts of Rabbi David Polsky who is volunteering his time and expertise.
Another exciting program which the Center for Civil Discourse is co-sponsoring and is hard at work on is the National Day of Racial Healing, January 22, when we will bring 125 Jewish students from Hillel Day School and Farber Hebrew Day School to meet over 300 students from three Detroit Public Schools.  I have been to Hillel Day School to meet with the 8th grade, and next week I am meeting with the 7th grade to prepare the students for their morning at Cass Tech High School. Ariana Metzner, our Assistant Director, will be facilitating along with Rabbi Polsky and others at this program on the 22nd.  We hope that if this program is a success, it can be the beginning of active relationships between the students of the Detroit area Jewish day schools and the Detroit public schools. The Center for Civil Discourse is committed to helping develop these relationships in any way we can.
In two weeks I will be meeting with the 8th grade geometry class of the Hillel Day School, which has volunteered to design the Center’s logo. They have spent months on the project, and I can’t wait to see the exciting results.
Finally, on the financial development front: I will be having meetings with two foundations over the next two weeks to continue conversations regarding their support for the Center.  We have a ways to go, but I am thrilled that the Center will soon have some real accomplishments to showcase to foundations and individuals, demonstrating the potential for Civil Discourse in Detroit and beyond.  I am also excited that several other centers and institutions have mentioned us explicitly in their own asks for financial support; we look forward to meaningful partnerships in the near future. Meanwhile, the law firm of Miller Canfield has been hired to apply for our 501C3 status and get it as soon as possible.
On behalf of the Detroit Center for Civil discourse, my deepest gratitude for your support, friendship, wisdom and enthusiasm.  The past few months have demonstrated to me that even though the Center is in the earliest stages of its existence, Detroit truly feels like the right place to begin Civil Discourse initiatives and partnerships.  You may have noticed that we are now calling ourselves simply the Detroit Center for Civil Discourse: we hope to be a national leader in Civil Discourse, but for now, our energy, vision and inspiration all come from Detroit.
Warmest wishes for good things ahead,
Rabbi Asher Lopatinunadjustednonraw_thumb_26e4