Over the past few months, many Tucsonans traveled from the climes of Southern Arizona to similar ones in Israel. Here is a sampling of their varied sojourns:
From April 13 to May 13, Iris Sapovits, co-president of Hadassah Southern Arizona, and Annie Stein, Hadassah’s Israel, Zionist and International Affairs chair, traveled together to our homeland. This monthlong trip had three purposes: to donate dolls, volunteer with the Israel Defense Forces and tour the country.
First, the pair carried handmade dolls for children, mostly hematology/oncology patients, at Hadassah University Hospital-Ein Kerem. The 12-inch cotton dolls are dressed in simple hospital gowns that have either Jewish symbols or other patterns on them, depending on whether or not the recipient is Jewish. The child can embellish the figure as he/she sees fit — with hair or no hair, an IV, etc. The local Hadassah chapter has also donated these dolls to Tucson’s Diamond Children’s Hospital and will add Tucson Medical Center’s pediatric unit next year. Local member Marcia Weiner first made the dolls for her granddaughter’s Bat Mitzvah project.
Second, Iris and Annie participated in the “Volunteers for Israel” program through Sar-El, a nonprofit organization that gives Diaspora Jews an opportunity to participate in directly helping Israel. For two weeks, they were stationed at an IDF reservist base in the Negev, just seven kilometers from Gaza. They stressed that they always felt safe during their stay. The pair bonded with their group of fellow Americans and Canadians; a large group of Norwegians, Hungarians, and Italians rounded out the international set of base volunteers. Responsibilities included painting buildings, organizing uniforms and rain gear, drying dishes and doing quality control for supplies. Evening programs included speakers on various subjects, from the medical corps to sniper training.
Third, since both women had visited Israel multiple times, their touring highlights this time around included a boat ride on the Kinneret, rafting the Jordan, and shopping at the chocolate factory at Kibbutz Deganya Bet and the Naot shoe factory outlet at Kibbutz Naot Mordecai.
Finally, a week before heading home, Iris made an unscheduled trip to Hadassah University Hospital-Mt. Scopus. While at Ein Gedi, on the way to Masada, she tripped and fell. Off-duty soldiers helped stop her leg from bleeding and Annie drove her to the emergency room to have her wound sutured.
Aside from the mishap, Annie summed up their shared experience as “a wonderful trip, meeting wonderful people and doing some good for the country we love.”
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When Tucson Hebrew Academy sent its graduating class to Israel at the end of May, eighth grader Eshed Ozeri was excited not only about traveling with her classmates, but also reuniting with her sister Shoham. Eshed’s older sister surprised her by meeting the THA group on their arrival at Ben Gurion Airport. The Ozeri girls (and their brother, Geva) were born in Israel and moved to Tucson in 2002. Shoham returned to Israel a year ago with the Garin Tzabar program, which provides support for young immigrants who choose to serve in the IDF. Shoham now lives on Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak with 31 other “lone soldiers” (those without immediate family in Israel). On July 19, she graduated from IDF training with her father, Tidi (a former sergeant major in IDF intelligence), Eshed (who stayed on after the THA trip) and Israeli relatives present. Prior to the ceremony, they accompanied her on the last kilometer of a 32-kilometer trek in full gear, from Sderot to her training base near Ashkelon. Shoham is now a corporal in the search and rescue unit, which is on call 24/7 to respond to disasters and terrorist attacks in Israel and abroad. She will serve for the next two and a half years.
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Bryce Medgal and Efrat Shahar traveled to Israel for a month on Young Judaea’s Amirim project. This program targets young Jewish professionals who wish to return to Israel to experience Israeli life while giving back to the community through meaningful volunteer options.
Megdal, a 2012 University of Arizona graduate with a B.A. in Judaic studies and studio art, spent the past year working at Temple Emanu-El and volunteering at the Weintraub Israel Center. In January 2012, before graduation, she participated in the Jewish National Fund’s Alternative Winter Break trip to Israel. Shahar, a 2012 UA graduate with a B.A. in elementary education, is currently a second-grade teacher at Sunrise Drive Elementary School in the Catalina Foothills School District. She is Israeli-born, has extended family in Israel, and participated in USY’s Nativ College Leadership Program there during the 2008-09 school year.
Following an interview process, Bryce was placed at a summer camp and Efrat at a retirement home in Bat Yam. Speaking only Hebrew, Bryce played games, did art, went on field trips and bonded with the 9-year-olds in her charge. Efrat served meals, packaged food, assisted in daily activities with the seniors and also developed close relationships with the staff and members at the center.
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Over their summer vacation, three high school students took advantage of $500 merit scholarships from the Beth Weintraub Schoenfeld Memorial Israel Experience Program provided by the Coalition for Jewish Education of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona. Adina Karp used the stipend to travel on United Synagogue Youth’s Poland/Israel Pilgrimage. Sarah Cassius, also recipient of JFSA’s Rabbi Arthur R. Oleisky Teen Recognition Award of a $500 subsidy toward Israel travel, joined fellow Ramaniks on the Ramah Israel Seminar. Sami Weisband, a Camp Daisy and Harry Stein camper, journeyed on the Prescott camp’s four-week BIG TRIP Israel.
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Since Taglit-Birthright Israel’s inception in 1999, its alumni now exceed 340,000, the number of young adults given the gift of experiencing their homeland with their peers.
Besides the June birthright trip for young professionals/graduate students/upperclassmen sponsored by JFSA (“JFSA Birthrighters connect to Israel, each other,” AJP 7/12/13), other Tucsonans rode on Birthright buses this summer. From May 19 to 30, Rabbi Michael Deutsch of Jewish Arizonans on Campus at the UA accompanied students from Arizona on a Birthright trip. Their contingent filled half the bus of 40 travelers, including three participants who hail from Tucson: Matt Groysman (UA), Caitlyn Miller (NAU), and Taylor Seery (UA). Some local participants joining other birthright groups on this bi-annual program included Josh Landau, Alex Silverman, Sara Weinstein, and Sonya Wool.
Closer to home
Twenty-five UA alumnae from Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority gathered for a reunion brunch at Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant in Scottsdale on June 30. This group of sorority sisters pledged the UA’s Alpha Lambda chapter between 1973 and 1979. Six women drove from Tucson for the festivities — Lynn Evenchik, Peggy Langert, Tracy Levy, Annette Miklofsky, Eileen Schwartz, and Sara Seery. They shared memories, sang songs and enjoyed comraderie, reconnecting after more than 30 years.
Time to share
It’s nice to be back in print after the summer hiatus. Remember: My news is your news. I’ll keep my ear to the ground while you keep me posted on the latest goings-on around town — 319-1112. L’shalom.