Saturday Lunch Club celebrates 100 years of food, friendship and study

Lunch attendees: Sharon Alterman, Robbie Terman, Arlene Gould, Joyce Bloom, Edwina Davis, Laura Gottlieb, Carol Ojoski, Dorothy Collins, Jenny Weiner, Wendy Goldberg, Adrian Magidson, Leslie Magidson, Audrey Sobel and Amy Ergas. (Arnie Collins)

The centenary celebration on June 18 was very special as it was the first time the group had met in person since the coronavirus outbreak in 2020.

IIn 1922, the first insulin injection was given, the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated, the British Mandate of Palestine began – and the Saturday Lunch Club began.

Now celebrating its centenary, the club is perhaps the best kept secret in Detroit’s Jewish community, with barely a mention in jewish news Archives.

Most of the club’s 55 members, along with a few guests, gathered at the Village Club in Bloomfield Hills on June 18 for a celebratory lunch that also recognized 87-year-old Sally Schottenfels as the club’s longest-standing member.

Saturday Luncheon Club honored its tallest member, Sally Schuttenfels (seated), who joined in 1960. Around her are Sally Jo Levine, Joyce Bloom, Caroline Schreiber, Susan Eagle and Louis Frank.
Saturday Luncheon Club honored its tallest member, Sally Schuttenfels (seated), who joined in 1960. Around her are Sally Jo Levine, Joyce Bloom, Caroline Schreiber, Susan Eagle and Louis Frank. Show me Collins

The assets of the Saturday Luncheon Club, where members take turns presenting research papers at meetings, are lost. There are two versions of its beginnings.

One account is that Ruth Franklin Einstein, a Vassar graduate and daughter of Rabbi Leo Franklin of Temple Beth Elle and his wife Hattie, was looking for a way to use her college education in an age when decent young ladies were not working outside the home. Her parents suggested inviting some friends to form a club where they could meet monthly for lunch to build friendships and present papers on topics of interest to them.

The other version is that a similar group did exist, with older members. They invited Ruth to join because she was the daughter of the city’s most prominent rabbi, but they weren’t keen on bringing other young women into the group. So Ruth started her own group, with six of her friends. The old club disappeared as its members died.

Ruth’s Saturday Brunch Club members are Regen Freund Cohen, Caroline Epstein, Ray Finsterwald Steele, Mini Goldsmith Rand, Della Emerman Myers and Erin Rosenberg.

Although it has grown since then, the club’s structure has not changed much since its early days. Members meet in a restaurant or club eight times a year. The gathering on the third Saturday of June is a purely social meeting. On the third Saturdays of September, October, November, December, March, April and May, members take turns presenting research papers on the topics of their choice.

Former president Sharon Alterman of West Bloomfield said that new members should be invited to join, and that the regulations set the number of members at 55. That’s big enough that members don’t have to prepare a paper more than once every seven or eight years but small enough not to They have to wait 12 or 15 years for their turn, Alterman explained. The youngest member is 29 years old; The oldest is 97. Although there is nothing in the regulations regarding religion, all current members are Jewish.

Most of the new members are in their fifties, and join when their children leave the nest, and they have more time. Alterman said those over 80 are not required to submit papers — although many choose to do so.

The Leonard N. Simmons Jewish Community Archive in the Jewish Federation Building in Bloomfield Hills contains minutes from club meetings and papers dating back to 1943.

Reading some old newspapers can be intimidating, said Robbie Terman, the archive’s director. The oldest paper by Josephine Weiner was entitled “Disposal” and concerned the slaughter of Jews in Europe. The author said that perhaps a million Jews could have been killed in the war, when we now know how much the actual number was much higher. “The Argentine”, a 1945 paper by Ada Glazer, talks about how the Nazis might find sanctuary in Argentina, which turned out later.

The centenary celebration on June 18 was very special as it was the first time the group had met in person since the coronavirus outbreak in 2020.

Saturday Lunch Club Board of Directors: Carol Ogosky, Lynn Lieberman, Wendy Goldberg, Randy Levine (Chairman), Sue Kalesky, Kathy Kantor and Audrey Sobel.
Saturday Lunch Club Board of Directors: Carol Ogosky, Lynn Lieberman, Wendy Goldberg, Randy Levine (Chairman), Sue Kalesky, Kathy Kantor and Audrey Sobel. Show me Collins

Schoutenfels, 87, of Pleasant Ridge, didn’t know she’d be honored at the luncheon. A 57-year-old widow, she had a master’s degree in social work from Wayne State University and had worked for many years in Oakland Family Services. She was the founder of Orchard’s Children’s Services and a former chair of the local chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women.

Schottenfels joined the Saturday Luncheon Club in 1960. Her papers include “Great City Schools Improvement plan, “continuity”, “external Students” and “Transaction Analysis”.

Alterman, a member since 1990, chaired the committee planning the centenary, which included a musical program for Jewish composers with pianist Alvin Wattles and his trio. Alterman, of West Bloomfield, worked for many years as an archivist at the Jewish Federation and was able to find some old photos of club meetings, as well as some dresses from the 1920s, to decorate the room.

Sixty-five women attended, including some former members and relatives of the deceased members.

Current president Randy Levine of Bloomfield Township, who retired as Director of Agency Relations at the Jewish Federation, joined the club in 2000.

“What I love the most is getting to know the members. They are a totally diverse group of women, most of whom I had never known before.” The papers are so much fun. I like that there are no restrictions on the topic that is chosen. ”

Levine presented papers on Kalamazoo, her hometown, Orchards Children’s Services for its 50th anniversary, and Louisa May Alcott.

Nancy Bechic Bluth, former director of development for ADL Michigan, is the second generation of her family to join the club. “My mother was a forever member, and her first cousin was almost one of the original members,” she said. She presented papers on water management in Las Vegas and the Syrian/Israeli/US coalition providing assistance to Syrian war refugees.

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