When I arrived in Tucson three years ago, I found synagogues filled with learning, service and community. I found Jewish agencies and nonprofits devoted to turning Jewish values into Jewish action. I found a compelling Federation centered on tzedakah, righteous giving, and tikkun olam, repairing the world. And I found all of these organizations occasionally working together on certain initiatives and programs, but with the potential to do much more.
It is becoming increasingly important that the potential to do so be tapped. The Talmud states, “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh. All Israel is responsible for one another.” Such responsibility is true not just of individuals, but of organizations. Our synagogues and agencies complement one another well. For example, synagogues teach about the importance of caring for the most vulnerable in society. Yet synagogues alone are not well equipped to provide that care. Rather, we are most effective in making that ideal a reality when we support and work with agencies like Jewish Family & Children’s Services. The reverse is true as well. Jewish nonprofits benefit tremendously from synagogues, because synagogues do much to build Jewish identity and teach Jewish values, which translates into support for the nonprofits. In “Relational Judaism,” Ron Wolfson writes, “a newer crop of communal leaders … understand that synagogue affiliation is one of the top predictors of whether individuals will make a contribution to Federation.”
Some collaborative projects are already underway and more are being planned. For example, the synagogues, in collaboration with the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, are able to provide rides for the elderly to services and other programs. JFCS provides services at the Federation’s Northwest site, and will soon be doing so at Temple Emanu-El and Congregation Anshei Israel. Synagogues also collaborate with each other. For example, each year, Temple Emanu-El, Congregation Or Chadash and Congregation Chaverim join together and take their eighth graders to Los Angeles to learn about the wider Jewish community.
More can be done, however. In particular, I’d like to see an effective Young Adult Task Force, a collaboration among the Federation, the Tucson Jewish Community Center, Anshei Israel and Temple Emanu-El, each of which currently supports its own young adult group.
While there is work ahead of us, I am confident that we are on our way to a more interconnected community. May we go from strength to strength.
Rabbi Jason Holtz is the former associate rabbi of Temple Emanu-El and immediate past president of the Tucson Board of Rabbis. He is moving to London, England, where he will be the rabbi of the Bromley Reform Synagogue.