Largest city in the state of Michigan. No authentic records of the settlement of Jews in the vicinity of Detroit, or in the state of Michigan, are found earlier than the middle of the nineteenth century. Even then the settlers were few in number and to a great extent interrelated. Most of them were of Bavarian stock. Among the earliest are found the names of Silberman, Hirsch, Cohen, Schloss, Bendit, Sloman, Heineman, and Kanter.
The first organization of Jews in Detroit was effected during the summer of 1850, when the Beth El Society, from which a few years later sprang Congregation Beth El, was established. Like all congregations of that period this one was Orthodox in its ritual, but it was not long before the Reform spirit began to create divisions in the community. In 1861 a large number of the members withdrew because of the introduction of an organ and a mixed choir into the synagogue, and formed the Sha'are Zedek congregation, which is to-day the leading organization of the Orthodox Jews of the city. The pulpit of congregation Beth El has been occupied by a number of well-known rabbis, including Liebman Adler, Isidore Kalisch, Kaufmann Kohler, Henry Zirndorf, and Louis Grossman. This congregation brought Kohler and Zirndorf to America. The present (1902) rabbi is Leo M. Franklin.
In a total population of 300,000 there are about 12,000 Jews, of whom 60 per cent are (1902) of Russian and Polish origin. Besides Temple Beth El, which is now the home of a Reform congregation, there are in the city the congregations Sha'are Zedek, Beth Jacob, Beth David, and Benai Israel, all of which worship in their own synagogues and according to the Orthodox ritual. A number of ḥebrahs assemble only on the holidays. Each congregation has its own cemetery. The Orthodox Jews maintain a Talmud Torah, and have recently dedicated a modern and commodious school building for that purpose.
Until the fall of 1899 there were not less than nine Jewish charitable institutions in Detroit, but at that time all except one were federated under the title "Union of Jewish Charities." This organization, with headquarters in its own building, carries on practically every branch of educational, philanthropic, and relief work. Most of the Jewish secret orders have lodges in Detroit, and there are three Jewish social clubs, the Phœnix, the Fellowship, and the Standard. The Jewish Woman's Club, with a membership of 250, does excellent educational work. The city supports a Jewish weekly, "The Jewish American," which is the organ of Temple Beth El and other congregations.