One of the Western states of the United States of America. There are no records of the settlement of Jews in Michigan prior to the year 1848, when about a dozen families of Bavarian Jews settled in Detroit. Within a decade a few of the original settlers had traveled to the so-called "copper country" in the upper peninsula of Michigan, where not a few laid the foundation of a comfortable fortune by peddling in the mining districts. The first Jewish organization in the state was the Beth El Society, out of which grew Congregation Beth El of Detroit. This was founded Sept. 22, 1850, by ten adult males, exactly the number required to form a minyan. The last of these charter members, Solomon Bendit, died at St. Clair, Mich., in the fall of 1902.
From 1850 until the first great influx of Russian Jews into America (1882) the Jewish population of Michigan grew gradually, being especially augmented by the relatives of the early settlers. Up to this time the Jews of Michigan were predominantly of German extraction, but the immigration of 1883 not only more than doubled the number of Jews resident in the state, but gave to the Russian and Polish Jews a large numerical majority. To-day, of the total number of the Jews of the state at least 65 per cent are of Russian or Polish nativity or extraction. In 1883 the Hebrew Relief Society of Detroit, assisted by the Baron de Hirsch Committee, settled a colony of Russian Jews near Bad Axe, Mich. About half of the original settlers are still there, having become successful and prosperous farmers.
There are no exact statistics of the Jews resident in Michigan, but data carefully compiled render it possible to estimate the number at 16,000 (out of a total population of 2,450,000), of which 12,000 must be credited to Detroit.
There are regularly organized congregations at Detroit (9), Grand Rapids (2), Kalamazoo (2), Bay City (2), Alpena, Port Huron, Saginaw, Jackson, Battle Creek, Lansing, and Hancock; and a number of cities support religious schools and cemeteries. The total value of real estate held by congregations in the state is about $300,000. Reform congregations at Detroit, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and Bay City support regularly ordained rabbis, while some of the smaller cities have the ministrations of these same rabbis through a well-organized system of circuit preaching; others engage rabbis or rabbinical students for the high holy days.
All the large cities of the state have the usual benevolent societies, but, excepting in Detroit, there are none that have occasion to do any considerable work. At Detroit, however, the United Jewish Charities (organized Nov., 1899) carries on practically every phase of philanthropic work. It dedicated in Sept., 1903, a new and thoroughly equipped building of its own. About $18,000 is annually expended by the Jews of Michigan in organized philanthropy. See Detroit.
All the principal lodges are represented in the cities of Michigan, notably the B'nai B'rith, Kesher shel Barzel, Brith Abraham, and Free Sons of Israel.There are social clubs in Detroit, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and Bay City, and educational organizations exist in the larger cities. Of these the most noteworthy are the Talmud Thora Association of Detroit, which owns a modern and splendidly equipped school-building; the Jewish Woman's Club of Detroit; and the Temple Literary Society of Kalama-zoo. One Jewish newspaper, the "Jewish American," of Detroit, is published in Michigan. It is edited by Rabbi Leo M. Franklin.
Quite a number of Jews in Michigan have held public offices of importance. Among those at present (1903) in office are Charles C. Simons, state senator, Bernard Ginsburg, vice-president of the Municipal Lighting Commission of Detroit; Albert Kahn, art commissioner of Detroit; Samuel Folz, mayor of Kalamazoo; and M. Bloomrosen, mayor of Manistique.