The Downtown Synagogue Capital Campaign

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March 30, 2013 by Benji

DETROIT (March 29, 2013) —The last free-standing Jewish religious institution in the city of Detroit has launched a $120,000 capital campaign to help its 80-year-old building accommodate its growing needs.


The Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue (IADS) has launched a $60,000 online campaign to match $60,000 raised offline from private donors to make necessary improvements to its historic building, which include the addition of more toilets on the ground floor (currently there is only one for the entire congregation) and a new fire escape.


Founded in the 1920s, the synagogue grew—and declined–with Detroit and was nearly given up for dead when one day in 2007, a handful of young Jewish professionals living in downtown Detroit took interest in the building, only to find out that the Board was making plans to sell the building.


“We realized we couldn’t let that happen,” said attorney Leor Barak, now the synagogue’s president. So they did what young people do in a crisis: they organized. Barak and his cohorts joined the synagogue to effect change from the inside. And they did.


With a lot of hard work, today the synagogue claims some 280 members, whereas “less than five years ago it was a blessing if we could make a minyan (a quorum of 10) on a Friday night,” Barak said. “Now our challenge is keeping up with the capacity.”


Besides being the only free-standing Jewish house of worship in Detroit, IADS is unique among Jewish congregations in numerous other ways: it claims the largest number of African-American Jews in Michigan, 60 percent of its board of directors is under 40, and it envisions itself as an inclusive center for community – Jewish and non-Jewish – in Downtown Detroit.


“The Downtown Synagogue’s story is Detroit’s story,” Kohn said.


The funds sought in the capital campaign will provide a fire escape to meet safety codes, a functional kitchen (the synagogue provides locally-sourced dinner for the community after Friday night services); a handicap-accessible rest room, a bike rack to accommodate more guests, and a mural for the building’s graffiti-ridden back wall.


To learn more about the MAKE IT HISTORY campaign and view a short video about the synagogue, click on


For information about the Downtown Synagogue, go to or see their Facebook page at



About Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue (IADS)

Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue’s mission is to serve as a beacon for the Jewish community of Metropolitan Detroit by maintaining a traditional, egalitarian synagogue in Detroit; by acting as a conduit for Jewish activity in the city; by offering a wide range of programming that will support the revitalization of the city and by ensuring accessibility to all.


IADS grew from the Isaac Agree Memorial Society.  An intergenerational organization, IADS is the last Conservative synagogue in Detroit.  With over 200 paid members IADS serves approximately 1,700 people annually. To make a contribution or for more information about the synagogue, including volunteer opportunities visit IADS or Facebook.

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