Detroit Historical Museum sheds light on the life of Rabbi Leo Franklin

Boom Town: Detroit in the 1920s (Gary North)

“Rabbi Franklin was included in the section on ‘social activism’ because of his interaction with the community at large, advocating for assimilation and non-discrimination,” said Joel Stone, curator of the exposure.

The late Rabbi Leo Franklin, 11th spiritual leader of Beth El Temple, is one of 20 people highlighted in an exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum.

Information and artefacts of the life of the rabbi are part of the display Boom Town: Detroit in the 1920s, which focuses on the community luminaries of the decade.

“Rabbi Franklin was included in the section on ‘social activism’ because of his interaction with the community at large, advocating for assimilation and non-discrimination,” said Joel Stone, curator of the exposure.

Other segments of the exhibition designate notables in the fields of “Technology / Engineering”, “Business”, “Arts and culture” and “Entertainment”.

“These are Detroit stories told through individuals whose lives flesh out larger thematic concepts,” Stone said. “They represent a large sample of the population living in a period that saw both great wealth and great poverty. “

Three mannequins wear different costumes that Franklin wore as he interacted with different ethnic groups: a business suit, tails, and an outfit with military-style piping on the sleeves, all donated to the museum by the rabbi.

Rabbi Franklin's costume
Rabbi Franklin’s costume Gary North

“The exhibit highlights that Rabbi Franklin was a member of the first board of directors of the Anti-Defamation League,” Stone said. “Other artifacts from the museum archives include a pair of glasses, an art deco desk lamp and a guest lapel ID badge from the opening of the Edison Institute.” [now known as The Henry Ford]. “

A small replica of the Model T sedan complements a panel explaining the Rabbi’s relationship with Henry Ford. After Ford began publishing anti-Semitic pamphlets titled “The International Jew,” Rabbi Franklin tried to convince him to stop; when this did not happen, the rabbi relinquished ownership of his model T.

Two other members of the Jewish community are also referenced but not in so much detail.

Louis Surowitz, in the “Business” section, was a teenager in the 1920s working with his father selling vegetables in a horse-drawn cart. Members of the Surowitz family then established the Surwin clothing stores in Northland and Eastland.

Jean Goldkettte, jazz musician and conductor, introduced dance music to crowds and radio listeners. He opened the Graystone Ballroom on Woodward.

Details:
Boom Town: Detroit in the 1920s is open until spring 2023. Hours of operation are 10 am to 5 pm Thursday to Saturday and 1 pm to 5 pm Sunday). Viewing of the exhibition is included in general admission ($ 6 to $ 10). (313) 833-1805. Detroithistorical.org.


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