Exploring pioneer history, celebrating birthdays, observing Chanukah in style

Making history come alive

Barry Friedman leads Jewish pioneers cemetery tour.
Barry Friedman leads Jewish pioneers cemetery tour.

On the crisp morning of Sunday, Nov. 17, Barry Friedman led a Jewish pioneers tour of Tucson’s Evergreen Cemetery. Friedman, board president of the Jewish History Museum, began by making a disclaimer. He is not a historian, but rather a retired doctor who finds history fascinating; he hoped to educate and entertain us on this 90-minute tour. Barry presents a walking series of stories, lore and legends, most true but some possibly bubbe meises (old wives’ tales). Attendees included Kris Marino; Alberto Guadagnini; Shlomo and Yael Neuman; my husband, Fred, and me.

Our tour guide distributed a pamphlet, “Legends, Legacies & Headstones.” As the group walked between tombstones, he passed around several 8″ x 10″ black-and-white photos of the entombed individuals. As background information, in 1907, the Tucson Town Council ended burials within the then-city limits. Over the next 20 years, bodies in the City Cemetery (aka Court Street Cemetery) were exhumed and moved to Evergreen Cemetery. Barry noted that Evergreen is one of three consecrated Jewish cemeteries in Southern Arizona. The others are located in Douglas and Nogales.

Some of the Jewish pioneers’ gravesites we visited included:

• Businessman Jacob and Eva Mansfeld

• Businessman Leo Goldschmidt

• Merchant Albert and Bettina Steinfeld

• Merchant and “unofficial rabbi” Samuel and Jenny Drachman

• First Jewish mayor Charles Strauss

• Pharmacist Frederick Fleischman

• First University of Arizona president Selim Franklin

• Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Society president Therese Ferrin

• Temple Emanu-El Rabbi Hyman Iola

Friedman went into detail about these ancestors and other families’ lineages.

Whether you’re a history buff or just interested in reliving some of Tucson’s past, this Jewish History Museum-sponsored tour, offered periodically, is for you.

Special birthday dinner

Mutual birthday celebrants Kathy Unger and Irving Olson
Mutual birthday celebrants Kathy Unger and Irving Olson

On Sunday, Nov. 24, David Unger hosted a milestone birthday dinner for his wife, Kathy. In a full dining room at Bob’s Steak & Chop House, David feted “the little girl having a big birthday.” He introduced their daughter and son-in-law, Julie and Scott Zorn, plus other family members who traveled from afar. He also recognized dear family friend and newly minted centenarian, Irving Olson, who shares Kathy’s Nov. 26 date of birth, 30 years apart.

David spoke of their beautiful 48-year love story. He and Kathy met as students at Boston University and married in 1965. Fast forward to a visit to Canyon Ranch in 1989 when they fell in love with the Old Pueblo … and the rest is history. David joked that he now shares Kathy with Stuart Mellan, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, as Kathy is JFSA board president.

With a birthday near Thanksgiving, Kathy expressed thanks for so much in their collective lives. The proverbial icing on the cake was the announcement that a day earlier the pair had become grandparents for the fifth time — another grandson born to their son and daughter-in-law, Jeffrey and Leyna Unger of Los Angeles. A hearty mazel tov to all!

Festive Festival of Lights

Andra Karnofsky and Chuck Gannon with Andra’s Chanukah dessert creation.
Andra Karnofsky and Chuck Gannon with Andra’s Chanukah dessert creation.

Post-Thanksgivukkah, Chuck Gannon and his wife, Andra Karnofsky, held a house party on the fourth night of Chanukah. Tables were lined with dreidels and chocolate gelt. Attendees brought their own chanukiot and lit candles together, reciting the blessings and singing holiday songs. Guests were treated to a traditional delicious dinner buffet, including many kinds of latkes — potato and onion, spinach, carrot, sweet potato and gluten-free. The pièce de résistance was Andra’s dessert creation — a chocolate dacquoise menorah cake. And for the child in all of us, the hosts handed out flashing L.E.D. dreidel and menorah lapel pins — a high-tech touch to this centuries-old holiday.

Time to share

A happy, healthy secular New Year for all. Keep me posted at 319-1112. L’shalom.