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The earliest Jewish settlers arrived in Michigan during the mid-18th century. Primarily traders associated with the burgeoning fur industry, few of these entrepreneurs remained permanently. During the early 1840s, the five Weil brothers, farmers and tanners from Germany, became the first prominent Jewish settlers in Washtenaw County. By the end of that decade, a Jewish cemetery was established on what is now the site of the Horace Rackham Building on the University of Michigan campus. Though the Weil family eventually moved west, the cemetery remained as a marker for what was then a miniscule Jewish presence. In the early 20th century, Osias Zwerdling and the Lansky family arrived. In addition to reestablishing a Jewish presence in Ann Arbor, they helped form what became Beth Israel Congregation. Growth of the Ann Arbor Jewish community coincided with the evolution of the university, as well as the city. By the end of the 20th century, a vibrant community representing all facets of Judaism had been established.
About the Author
Richard Adler is a professor of microbiology at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Ruth Adler attends Kent State University, majoring in anthropology and geology. The Adlers are members of Beth Israel Congregation, where Ruth was a bat mitzvah in 1997.