The Jewish community contribution in Detroit

The Jewish community contribution in Detroit

We know that the American Midwest is currently one of the most important areas for doing business in the United States, especially for Jews. One of the essential reasons for this is the great Jewish community established in the different Midwestern cities like Chicago, Kansas, Ohio, Detroit, among other places. Through history, these Jewish groups, have been growing, giving to these cities not only economic benefits but also significant cultural, commercial and political profits.

In previous articles, we have talked about imperative figures in some Midwest cities, like Sam Zell, the founder of the Equity Group Investments, or Jay Pritzker the co-founder of the Hyatt Corporation, in Chicago. Moreover, we have Les Wexner in Ohio, who is the creator of L Brands, which holds companies like Victoria’s Secret, Pink, Bath & Body Works, Henri Bendel and La Senza.

Another important city that we must consider in the Midwestern region is Detroit. This central town has been for years a key place for multiple businesses and trades, not only for Jews but also for other people around the United States and the world. Before we talk about some crucial businessmen from Detroit, it is important to talk about the Jewish roots in there.

Jewish in Detroit

The history of the Jews in Detroit starts in 1762 with Chapman Abraham, who traded furs from Canada in that city. Almost 20 years later, was established the first Jewish neighborhood, formed by German and Central Europe Jews, that started with little businesses and working in some factories. Years later, these communities growth, creating an important society with political and social participation in the city. For 2016, almost 120.000 Jews lived in the metropolitan area of Detroit.

Besides the businesses established by the Jewish people in Detroit, they founded temples, schools, and other institutions. Some of these places are The Jean and Samuel Frankel Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit, the Hillel Day or the Tushiyah United Hebrew School.

Notable Detroit Jews

As we mentioned, there have been very important Jewish figures in the Midwest area, and Detroit has contributed with this in an excellent way. Next, we will see some important businessmen from this city that have worked for the economic and social growing there.

Steve Ballmer

Born in 1956 in Detroit, Steve is considered one of the richest person in the world. For 14 years, he was the Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft, being one the most successful CEO in this company’s history. He is currently the owner of Los Angeles Clippers, one of the most important teams in the NBA. His net worth is almost $30 billion dollars.

In 1977, Ballmer graduated from applied mathematics and economics at the Harvard University, being one of the most brilliant students for that time. In 1980, he started to work in Microsoft, being the 30th employee hired by Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder and having a small participation owning the company. During 20 years, Ballmer worked in different areas of this organization, like operations, sales, operating systems development, and support, among others, which gave to him an excellent vision of the technology industry.

In 2000, due to his great knowledge and leading skills, Ballmer was named CEO. During his period as the Microsoft head, this company had amazing profits, passing the annual revenue from $25 billion dollars to $70 billion, and increasing its net incomes in more than 215% per year. In 2014, Ballmer announced his retirement from Microsoft and bought the NBA team Los Angeles Clippers.

In addition, Ballmer is well known for his philanthropic activities. In 2014, he donated more than$50 million dollars to the University of Oregon and presently, he serves to the Jewish National Fund, donating more than $1 million dollars to it.

Image courtesy of Richard-G at

Dan Gilbert

Born in Detroit, in 1962, he is considered one of the richest man in the United States. Currently, he is the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, one of the greatest teams in the NBA, and the Cleveland Monsters from the National Hockey League. Gilbert also founded Rock Ventures, a real estate investment organization, and Quicken Loans Inc., which is the second largest overall retail lender in the United States. Additionally, Dan owns Quicken Loans Arena and JACK Entertainment.

Currently, Dan’s companies employees more than 14.000 workers, mostly in Detroit, having billionaire incomes, especially for their real estate investments. In addition, Gilbert has purchased some of the most important buildings in downtown Detroit, like the historic Madison Theatre Building, the Chase Tower, the Book Tower, among other structures.

Besides his businesses, Dan is an active philanthropist. In 2012, he joined The Giving Pledge, a social initiative to donate the half of his wealth to philanthropy. Moreover, Dan has founded two Neurofibromatosis research clinics, one in Washington D.C. and other in Tel Aviv, Israel. He also has made important donations to the Children’s Tumor Foundation.

Related: From the Jewish Mideast to the American Midwest by Yosef Meystel

* Featured Image courtesy of Kamil Dziedzina at