P.S.: Jazz in Tucson, a Phoenix exhibit on the pope, helping kids at Homer Davis

And all that jazz

Local jazz musicians Jeff Lewis (left) and Stu Mellan at the Nov. 19 concert

Jeff Lewis, past president of the Tucson Jazz Society, was responsible for bringing world-renowned Israeli jazz pianist Tamir Hendelman to Tucson on Nov. 19. The previous month, Jeff was watching a PBS airing of Barbra Streisand’s “One Night Only at the Village Vanguard” and knew he wanted Tamir, Streisand’s incredible accompanist, to perform here. This was Tamir’s first visit to the Old Pueblo. He led a master class earlier in the day for high school and university music students and other young musicians before his performance at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort that evening.

Hendelman and his trio teamed with vocalist and songwriter Kathy Kosins. The Heartbeat of Israel, a program of the Weintraub Israel Center, cosponsored the concert.

Among those seated cabaret-style in the Marriott ballroom were Jeff’s wife Linda, Sharon and Morris Barkan, Mike Jacobson, Carol and Dan Karsch, Nancy, Stu and Eric Mellan, Rhea and Arnie Merin, and Diane, Ron and Arlene Weintraub.

Jazz is not Jeff’s day job but it is his passion. He’s a saxophonist, and his quartet is a regular fixture at downtown clubs on Saturday nights. Also of note, Stu Mellan, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, will be honored and star in an “All That Jazz” evening on March 31 at the Tucson Jewish Community Center.

The Blessing Project

Joan Elder in front of one of the Blessing Project exhibits

On Nov. 29, the Jewish Federation’s Northwest Division sponsored a bus trip to Phoenix for the exhibit, “A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People.” The exhibition drew its name from the papal appeal on the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: “As Christians and Jews, following the example of the faith of Abraham, we are called to be a blessing to the world. … It is therefore necessary for us … to first be a blessing to one another.”

The 43 attendees were enlightened and moved by the interactive exhibit. The displays were divided into four sections. The first followed the early life of Karol Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland, and his childhood friendship with Jerzy Kluger. The second covered the Holocaust and WWII, as Karol trained in a clandestine seminary and Jerzy and his family were sent to concentration camps. The third followed the future pope’s rise through the ranks of the church and his reunion with Jerzy after the war. The final section celebrated the papacy of John Paul II. Jerzy became the pope’s personal emissary to the State of Israel, paving the way for the recognition of Israel by the Vatican and the pope’s official visit to the Holy Land in 2000. He was the first pope to visit, pray, and insert a written prayer between the bricks at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. A replica of the Wall was erected so that exhibit-goers could write prayers that were later collected and sent to Jerusalem to be put in the Wall.

Ann and Mal Eisenberg co-chaired the Phoenix trip and Holocaust survivor Klara Swimmer was among the bus riders on this worthwhile excursion. Eliot Barron, who was there with his wife, Vida, commented: “What a wonderful event. Imagine: The venue for this exhibit, the George Washington Carver Museum, the former Phoenix Unified Colored High School, is a reminder of Arizona’s segregated past and disrespect of Black people. This contrasted with this moving display of the love and mutual respect between the late pope and his lifelong childhood friend and his family — a model for esteem and not mere tolerance of differing belief systems.”

Making a difference every day

Homer Davis Elementary School Principal Chad Miller, center, with volunteers Carol and Howard Ball, at the school

The principal at Homer Davis Elementary School has changed but the school’s needs haven’t. Chad Miller has replaced Brett Bonner in the leadership position and is grateful for the continued support of the Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council in making a difference in the lives of his students. For the third straight year, Tucson’s Jewish community has adopted this award-winning, Title I school that serves mostly low-income at-risk youth.

Carol and Howard Ball, winter residents from Vermont, volunteer weekly as math and reading tutors. Carol is a former math teacher and Howard is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Vermont. Howard recently spoke at a Hadassah of Southern Arizona meeting on “Saving the Sarajevo Haggadah throughout History” and at a Northwest Men’s Group event on “How Bulgaria Saved Jews during WWII.”

Besides tutoring, volunteers provide daily kindergarten snacks and assemble Friday Food Packs for students to take home on the weekends. Two years ago, the JCRC provided 20 packs. Today they provide 56, given to the neediest students. Also, in cooperation with Community Gardens of Tucson, the JCRC helps involve families in growing their own food on the school grounds.

Brenda Landau, JCRC director, stresses the sustainability factor — hoping to get the local community to continue these programs and to help achieve a solution for hunger in the Homer Davis neighborhood.

Time to share

A happy, healthy secular New Year to all. Keep me posted in 2012 — 319-1112. L’shalom.