Local people, places, travels and simchas

New JCC artwork

(L-R) Ryan, Gabriel and Aaron Green with their grandmother Fay Green, underwriter of a new mural at the JCC

Local artist Julie Szerina Stein created the beautiful new mosaic-and-painted mural in the Tucson Jewish Community Center preschool area. Jonathan and Rachel Green conceived of the idea, and Jonathan’s mother, Fay Green, of Texas, underwrote the project in honor of her grandsons — Ryan, 13; Aaron, 10; and Gabriel, 6.

Jonathan and Rachel are active members of the “J.” All three boys attended the early childhood education program. During their preschool years, the Green family frequented the pool on Sundays and met many of their close friends there. Ryan, Aaron, and Gabriel participate in the basketball program (Dad too), youth tennis, and summer camp.

The mural was completed in time for Ryan’s Nov. 20 Bar Mitzvah, and guests had the opportunity to view it during the reception. The abstract piece, a six-month project, contains two trees bearing eight pomegranates. Within each of the fruits are symbols denoting eight Jewish holidays — Shabbat, Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Chanukah, Tu B’Shevat, Purim and Passover. This artwork adds to the beautification of the building and serves as an informative teaching tool as well.

A touching love story

Lynn and Kurt Strauss during ring “ceremony” in Jerusalem

When Lynn Strauss fell in early August, crushing the bones in her wrist and requiring surgery, it was necessary for the surgical staff to cut off her wedding ring — a ring that had been on her hand for nearly 48 years.

Since she and her husband, Kurt, were planning a trip to Israel between November and December, they decided to purchase a new ring there, with an informal ceremony for placing it on her finger. They contacted their friend, Rabbi Tzvi Graetz, former rabbi of Congregation Anshei Israel’s sister congregation, Kehilat Shevet Achim in Gilo, and currently executive director of Masorti Olami and MERCAZ Olami. He agreed to perform the honors. Graetz and the couple’s tour guide arranged for them to meet on the morning of Nov. 23 on the Tayelet (Haas Promenade), a vantage point overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City, for this meaningful experience.

Afterward, the Strausses and their guide drove to Haifa to visit one of their granddaughters, who is spending her junior year at Haifa University. This occurred just days before the beautiful forests they drove through on Mt. Carmel were totally destroyed. Their guide, a sabra, spoke of previous fires that had wiped out all of the trees. Lynn told the AJP, “There is some comfort in knowing that the trees, with all of our help, will return.”

Synagogue to the south

Beth Shalom Temple Center’s Tobey Gitelle with the stained glass window she designed (Photo: Gary Friedman)

Marilyn Forstot, newsletter editor for Beth Shalom Temple Center in Green Valley, submitted the following synagogue happenings:

Last summer, a beautiful stained-glass window was installed in the sanctuary. Two stained-glass panels were also placed beside a door and a Star of David was hung above the front entry. The window was designed by BSTC member Tobey Gitelle. The design combines biblical and ritual references. A serpent and apple symbolize the Garden of Eden; a dove is remininiscent of Noah’s Ark. Ritual aspects are represented by a flowing tallis, Kiddish cup and chai. Gitelle calls the installation a collaborative effort of the BSTC aesthetics committee and the artist who fabricated the windows, Fred Wray.

In November, BSTC held its first community-wide rummage sale chaired by Gail Norton, who was assisted by many volunteers. In December, 100 guests sang, danced, played the dreidel game and devoured 400 fried latkes at the annual Chanukah party headed by Merle Sobol. Music was provided by the in-house klezmer band, made up of Mike Finkelstein on cornet, Sig Friedman on accordion, Lanny Klein on guitar, Steve Maron on violin, and Sam Miller on clarinet.

On Jan. 23, BSTC will present “Art in the Temple,” a celebration of the Judaica housed in their building. Grateful for the many donors of precious art pieces, members will learn firsthand about these treasures, including stained glass, needlepoint, lithographs, mosaics and a bronze statue.

Party on

(L-R): Nina Isaac, Randi Levin, Cheryl Wortzel, Shaun Kozolchyk and David Plotkin at JFSA’s Hava Tequila Young Leadership Bash

Between November and December each year, federation young leadership groups in various cities plan similar gatherings for young Jewish singles and couples. Young Jewish Phoenix hosts Mazalpalooza; Detroit’s Young Leadership calls their event Latke and Vodka; Minneapolis Young Leadership holds the Jewlicious Bat Mitzvah Party. On Dec. 18, Tucson’s Young Leadership kicked off its inaugural Hava Tequila bash.

Eighty-four attendees danced the night away from 8 p.m. until 1 a.m. at the JCC. The evening, which included a bar, nachos and dips, and a DJ, ended with a lively hora.

Staffed by Rebecca Goodman, Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona leadership development and public relations director, and Julie Gal-Or, JCC development associate, the event was co-chaired by Dani and Phil Bregman and Nina and Andrew Isaac. Proceeds benefit the Federation Campaign’s Local Emergency Assistance Fund (LEAF). According to Nina, “During the past year, young leadership committees have planned community service, outreach and philanthropic events, culminating with this bash, a great social event connected to a great cause.” The co-chairs are already planning to make next year’s party bigger and better, building on this first-time success.

Time to share

Keep me posted on your activities — 319-1112. L’shalom.