Date of Birth: 1928
Date of Death: July 26, 2022
Author, educator dedicated to promoting Michigan’s Jewish heritage
The daughter of a professor/inventor and the granddaughter of one of Detroit’s most famous Rabbis, Judith Levin Cantor’s roots go deep into old Jewish Detroit. But she is a great lover of the whole Jewish community, notes friend Gerald Cook, “telling Jewish groups that all of us, whether we arrived yesterday or today, are important parts of Detroit’s Jewish history.”
Passionate about history, Judy’s work as a writer, historian, curator, and archivist has been a major contribution to the Jewish community, the greater Detroit community, and the state of Michigan. She is a respected author of numerous articles for Michigan Jewish History, the journal of the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan, and served as its editor from 1990 to 1998. During that same time (1994-1996), she also served as JHSM’s president, working on the original committee that developed award-winning youth bus tours of historic Jewish Detroit. The efforts of that committee and its tour docents, of which Judy was one, earned JHSM a State History Award for Educational Programs from the Historical Society of Michigan.
She spearheaded efforts to bring the Haven to Home: Jewish Life in America exhibit to the Detroit Historical Museum in celebration of JHSM’s 50th anniversary in 2009, and co-curated the portion of the exhibit dedicated to the history of the Jewish people in Michigan. She also curated Becoming American Women in Michigan: The Jewish Immigrant Experience shown at the Detroit Historical Museum (1996-1997) and at the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame in Lansing in 1998.
As an author, Judith has written several seminal pieces, including the award-winning Jews in Michigan: Discovering the Peoples of Michigan (2001); “Letter from the Jewish Community,” included in the Detroit 300 Tricentennial Time Capsule (2001); and the “Michigan Jewry” entry in the Encyclopedia Judaica (2009).
Judy has served on the boards of JHSM, Preservation Wayne, the Historical Society of Michigan, and the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame.
In 2010, she was honored with the Eight Over Eighty – Tikkun Olam Award by the Jewish Senior Life of Metro Detroit. In his nomination letter for that award, Rabbi Joseph H. Krakoff of Congregation Shaarey Zedek noted Judy’s active role in the congregation for more than 50 years. “Judy’s commitment to our community is without measure,” he wrote. “(She) is always eager to volunteer her time and … can always be counted on no matter the project.”
Judith Levin Cantor was honored with the “First Lady of Michigan” award by the State of Michigan in 1987, and received the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan’s Leonard N. Simons History Award in 1998. She was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 2013.