Dramatizations add poignancy to JFCS Celebration of Caring

At Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern Arizona’s third annual Celebration of Caring fundraising event on March 7, there was more that was new than the meal time (lunch instead of breakfast) and the venue (the Doubletree Hotel).

After a brief welcome by President and CEO Shira Ledman, event co-chairs Edmund Marquez and Allison Wexler gave a quick PowerPoint presentation highlighting JFCS’ diverse programs and services.

Then, instead of speeches or a video to spotlight how JFCS has helped specific clients, five actors appeared on stages dispersed around the ballroom.

Using a script called “Tikvah (Hope)” written by Michael Fenlason, based on real case histories, the drama began with a single mother singing worriedly to her baby, followed by a Holocaust survivor from Ukraine who recounted how she broke her hip fighting off a mugger. An unemployed man told his wife via cell phone that they were probably going to lose their house, and, in quick bursts between innocuous comments about baseball, a little boy told a therapist about the accident that took his parents’ lives and injured his sister.

The feisty Holocaust survivor got some laughs telling the young mother that the mugger only tried to get her purse, but mostly the 300-plus guests listened in rapt silence as the characters spoke of the assistance they received from JFCS.

JFCS Board Chair Jill Rosenzweig, speaking after the play, said they should have provided boxes of tissues as centerpieces, while Marquez noted that there were “a lot of macho guys at my table crying.”

As the table captains passed around donation envelopes, virtually everyone got out their checkbooks and credit cards, and contributions are still coming in, says Ellen Hull, JFCS marketing coordinator.

The idea for the dramatic reenactment came from Atlanta’s Jewish Family & Career Services, where a similar performance last year was “the talk of the town,” says Carol Sack, JFCS vice president of resource development.

Here in Tucson, “We plan to provide another unique event experience for next year’s attendees,” says Sack.