Date of Birth: August 24, 1892
Date of Death: May 1, 1985
Place of Birth: Detroit, Michigan
Placing Golda Malka Ginsburg Mayer Krolik (1892-1984) into a particular area of achievement is impossible. She was a champion of human rights, a journalist, an editor, a social worker, an activist, an organizer, and the 1977 winner of Jewish Detroit’s most prestigious award, the Fred M. Butzel Memorial Award for Distinguished Community Service.
Krolik was the daughter of Ida and Bernard Ginsburg. Bernard Ginsburg was born in Columbus, Indiana, to Polish-immigrant parents. After moving from Indiana to Detroit, Bernard Ginsburg and his father opened a scrap metal business that ultimately was very successful.
Ida (Goldman) Ginsburg was one of the early activists for women’s suffrage and labor rights. Although Golda Ginsburg Krolik was only nine years old when her mother died, she would have known that her mother had helped establish, and was the first president of, the Jewish Women's Club of Temple Beth El. Ida Ginsburg founded the club in 1891 at a time when a “woman’s place was in the home.” Yet this social club was established to “elevate mental, moral and social status, and to foster cultivating influences.” The club’s membership spent time debating important issues of the day. The Women’s Club became the Detroit section of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), today known as NCJW Michigan, a statewide organization.
Golda Ginsburg Krolik, born in Detroit, lived with her family at 236 Adelaide Street, in one of the early homes built by famed Jewish architect Albert Kahn. A distinguishing feature of the house was the use of caryatides (nude female figures) to support the roof over the front door. These Greek-style statues, carved of oak, were embarrassing to the teenaged Krolik. The Tudor-style house still stands today and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Most of Krolik’s neighbors on Adelaide Street were affluent as well as diverse.
Krolik attributed this diversity in ethnicity, religious practice, and race as contributing factors to her future tolerance and acceptance of all people: “I took it for granted,” she explained, that people of different races and religions were her friends and schoolmates.
Krolik’s older brother, Avery Jacob Ginsburg, was born nearly blind, requiring special forms of education. He eventually became totally independent. Having a sibling with a disability also expanded Krolik’s understanding of the needs of diverse populations.
After Ida Ginsburg died, her young sisters came to live with the Ginsburg family on Adelaide Street. Krolik enjoyed having these young female teachers in her home, as they amplified her studies. Bernard Ginsburg believed in public education, and Krolik “adored every single minute of being in school”—except her German class.
Even at a young age, Krolik showed signs of being a trailblazer. In the early years of the automobile, Krolik’s father bought a car, giving up his horse and buggy. But it was Krolik, at ages fourteen and fifteen, who drove the auto—no license or regulation required.
Krolik attended the University of Michigan, recalling that there were eight Jewish female students on campus during her time there. Students did not have major areas of study in those years, instead taking classes that interested them. Krolik was the first woman to work on the staff of the school’s newspaper, the Michigan Daily, where she became editor.
Following her graduation in 1917, Krolik began working as a society editor at the Detroit Jewish Chronicle (later the Detroit Jewish News). Afterward, she worked as publicity director for the Detroit Community Fund, and she was employed by the United Jewish Charities. Krolik also had a lifelong interest in health care. She volunteered at two of Detroit’s free medical clinics, the Hannah Schloss Clinic and the North End Clinic. Later she served as president of the Shapero School of Nursing at Sinai Hospital (now DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital).
Krolik’s volunteering began very early in life. When she was nine or ten years old, she and her sisters volunteered to “play with the babies” at the day nursery at the Hannah Schloss Memorial Building. (The forerunner of today’s Jewish Community Center, it housed a number of activities, including a day nursery and the medical clinic noted above.) The nursery was furnished, supplied, and named in memory of Krolik’s mother.
Krolik also was an early human rights champion. When she was in her forties, as the Nazis threatened Europe, Krolik helped 21 relatives flee Germany and settle in the United States. Appropriately, she later became president of the Resettlement Service.
In 1943, following a terrible and infamous race riot in Detroit, she was the first woman appointed to the Inter-Racial Committee (later the Detroit Commission on Community Relations). She served on it for 24 years, responding to protests of discrimination in the field of nursing and raising funds to assist African American students. She received the Freedom Medal from the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, as it was known at the time).
In an oral interview, Krolik recalled a 1946 meeting held in her home on Chicago Boulevard in Detroit where she lived for many years as an adult. The event was expected to draw around 40 people to discuss women having their own “division” of the Jewish Welfare Federation of Detroit (now the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit). This separate division would allow a woman to give a gift in her own name—a revolutionary idea at the time. Moments before the gathering, Krolik realized that there were many dozens of women arriving—substantially more than expected. Every possible chair in the house was utilized: women sat on the radiators. Krolik recalled that this was one of the first meetings of Federation’s Women's Division (now Women’s Philanthropy). The speaker was Marguerite Kozenn, future wife of renowned composer and classical pianist Julius Chajes. Kozenn told the story of having to leave Europe with Julius Chajes, who was brought to Detroit to be the musical director of the Jewish Community Center in 1940. The meeting, held just after World War II ended, was emotional and inspirational.
Detroit was one of the first cities to establish a separate Women’s Division of Federation. The Women’s Division reflected the need for equality. Women had been in charge of their lives and families during the war when their husbands were away fighting. The creation of a separate division also was a reaction to the loss of so many Jews in the Holocaust. There was a sense that each Jew needed to be counted.
Krolik’s first marriage was to Leopold David Mayer (1885-1932). They had three children: David, John, and Judy. After Mayer died, she married Julian Krolik (1886-1956). She lived to the age of 92, dying in 1984.
Golda Krolik’s extensive years of service as a professional and volunteer, beginning in the early 1900s and continuing for decades, were remarkable. Krolik was a notable Detroit woman who made an enormous difference in the welfare of her community and in the community at large. Understanding the democratic need for equality and justice, she served as a humanitarian, organizer, writer, and leader.
Written by Jeannie Weiner
photo of 236 Adelaide Street, Detroit