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Sarah Singer: Giving back by helping build base of young Jewish families

Sarah Singer
Sarah Singer

For Sarah Heisler Singer, volunteering in the Tucson Jewish community is all about giving back to those who have come before her, and paying that kindness forward for future generations.

The mother of two (Celia, 3, and Levi, 8 months) is an attorney at Gadarian and Cacy, PLLC. She serves as chair of the Young Wom­en’s Cabinet at the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, sits on the board of the Tucson Jewish Community Center, is chairing the upcoming health and wellness expo at the JCC and also finds time to volunteer at her daughter’s preschool at Congregation Anshei Israel.

Passionate about instilling Jewish values in the lives of her children, Sarah credits her parents, Michael and Barbara Heisler of Tucson, with giving her a strong foundation of community and philanthropy. “I owe a lot to my parents,” says Singer. “They are phenomenal role models. They have always been involved in our synagogues and schools, and they’ve shown us that even when you don’t have money, there are other ways to be involved and give back.”

The Heislers moved from Santa Fe, N.M. to Tucson when Sarah was in third grade because they wanted to raise their children in a larger Jewish community. “When we lived in Sante Fe, I came home from school one day and told my parents that they needed to move the television because that’s where the Christmas tree was going to go. That’s when they realized they wanted to move, and since they had both gone to the University of Arizona, they had a little bit of a foundation and some friends in Tucson.”

After graduating from high school, Sarah attended Tulane University in New Orleans, then moved to New York City where she worked for several years before attending the Cardozo School of Law. She had no intention of returning to Tucson. “I thought that there was no way I would ever move back here. Living in New York was awesome, and even New Orleans was a little more cosmopolitan than Tucson,” explains Singer. However, after her mother convinced Sarah to go out on a date with Keith Singer, her plans changed. “We refer to our relationship as an ‘arranged marriage’ because our parents set us up while shopping at Bed Bath & Beyond. They pretty much pressured us to go on a date, and here we are two kids later.”

Concerned that there weren’t many young Jewish people in Tucson, Sarah decided to start volunteering in the Jewish community to meet people. “I knew my parent’s friends, but, kind of selfishly, I joined Young Women’s Cabinet three years ago because I wanted to have my own network. In that regard, it has been awesome,” says Singer. “Watching the women in my peer group that I have had the opportunity to become friends with is phenomenal. Going back to my concern of Tucson not having any young Jews here, I’ve realized that is really not the case. It is amazing to see what my friends do and what their backgrounds are and what they are doing to help build the community for the future.”

Singer has a strong desire to better the Jewish community, and she recognizes that the road has been paved by leaders that have come before her. “Since I have been on the JCC board of directors, I’ve had the chance to work with people who have been in positions of leadership for so long. They are amazing role models. Seeing how they are able to contribute and build the community is really inspirational.” Looking ahead, says Singer, “we need to continue to build the young Jewish family base. We need to give young adults a reason to stay in Tucson, or give those who have left a reason to come back. Having a strong, young, Jewish community could even be a reason for people without connections to move here.”

As the mother of two young children, the future of the Jewish community is a central theme in the Singer home, which keeps her motivated to give her time and resources. “There are two large things that I hope Celia and Levi take away from seeing me volunteer. One is just the value of being Jewish,” says Singer. The grandchild of Holocaust survivors, Sarah grew up hearing about the family that was lost, and what the survivors endured to maintain their Judaism. “I hope my children can understand that and truly appreciate what it means. The second thing I want them to understand is the value of philanthropy and giving back to your community. The world is larger than just you, and it’s important to think globally.”

Laura Wilson Etter is a freelance journalist, grant writer and artist in Tucson.