Recently, students from Hillel of Metro Detroit gathered at the site of Hechtman II, the Jewish apartment building destroyed by fire in April, to uplift the spirits of residents still living nearby. Since April, neighbors have been left with a depressing view of the burned out building that affected the nearly 100 elderly residents living there.
Firefighters rescue elderly residents from Jewish apartment building on April 9 Photo by EPA/Jeff Kowalsky.
Hechtman II, on the Eugene and Marcia Applebaum Jewish Community Campus in West Bloomfield, Michigan, was the site of a raging fire on April 9. As news reporters and television cameras looked on, firefighters heroically carried eight residents, averaging 89 years old, to safety by ladder. The Jewish seniors had been living independently at the complex, which is run by Jewish Apartments and Services, an agency of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.
So far, the Hechtman Fire Relief Fund has raised more than $150,000 including $50,000 from the Federation. Hillel of Metro Detroit, another agency of the Federation, was eager to participate in a community project to beautify the landscape left behind. On June 29, a group of students donated a Sunday afternoon to paint the fence that now surrounds Hechtman II. A white canvas was draped over the barrier to facilitate the students' designs.
Hillel students Sarah Cahn and Eleanor Kotov pose next to hand-painted hamsa design.
Mitchell Wagner, program director at Hillel of Metro Detroit, said that students "walked away knowing that when people look out their window, they’ll see more than the destruction now. They’ll see the remnants of a community that pulls together in times of strife. They’ll see what the Jewish community is all about; togetherness, beauty, and support."
Almost all of the 98 residents of Hechtman II have found new housing, elsewhere on the campus or at nearby facilities. Six residents moved out of state after the fire. In May, several residents rescued from the three-story building attended a ceremony to honor those local firefighters, staff and family members who led them to safety.