If home is where the heart is, then Amy Beyer’s heart beats to the rhythm of Jewish life in Tucson. “The Tucson Jewish community is home for me. It really feels like my extended family,” says Beyer, 36, who began her volunteering “career” at Young Jewish Tucson in 2002. She has devoted much of her time to the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, volunteering in groups that promote and enhance cultural, educational and social opportunities for Jewish adults ages 22 to 45. She’s been a leader in the Young Women’s Cabinet, Young Leadership Cabinet and at YJT where she served for two years as chair.
Since 2013, Beyer has been a member of the Jewish Community Relations Council. She has volunteered for the Federation Campaign, the Compelling Needs Grants committee, the Connections committee and has participated in the Saul Tobin Leadership Institute. And these commitments represent just a portion of Beyer’s Jewish organizational resumé.
It was inevitable that I become involved in the Tucson Jewish community,” says Beyer. “When I was growing up, both my parents (Bruce and Donna Beyer) were very active in the Jewish community at Federation and at Temple Emanu-El. In fact, both of my parents have served terms as president of Temple.” [Bruce Beyer currently serves as board chair of the Arizona Jewish Post.] “Though I was born in Cleveland, my family moved to Tucson when I was quite young,” says Beyer. “I attended schools in the Catalina Foothills School District and I became a Bat Mitzvah and was confirmed at Temple Emanu-El.”
Beyer went away to school at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and after earning her bachelor’s degree, she returned to Tucson where she worked at the Jewish Community Center in early childhood education. To advance her teaching skills, she earned a Master’s in Education from the University of Phoenix in 2003. She subsequently spent six years teaching at local Tucson schools. When she realized that she hadn’t quite found her niche, Beyer moved away again, settling in the Washington, D.C., area. She admits that she was disappointed in the exclusivity she encountered at Jewish organizations around the Beltway. She claims that it took moving away to appreciate the welcoming nature of the Jewish community of Tucson.
Beyer returned to Tucson, resuming her engagement in the Jewish community and finding her niche professionally. She now works as a regulatory analyst at Sunquest Information Systems, a company that makes laboratory software. She’s happy to be back in Tucson and has noticed positive changes like the revitalization of the downtown area, as well as significant growth on both the southeast and northwest sides of town. The changes in the Jewish community have pleased her as well. “I like how things have evolved in the Jewish community in Tucson over the last 10 years,” says Beyer.
“YJT is more organized than it was,” says Beyer. “When I was first involved, the principal organization for young Jewish adults was called GAP, for Graduate Students and Professionals, I believe, and it was geared more toward younger participants. But now the reach has broadened, particularly because young leadership organizers have moved the age bracket up to include people in their 40s. Over the past 10 to 15 years I’ve seen what I think are very positive changes. Young leadership organizations in Tucson are now using ideas from other cities and we are committed to adopting national young leadership standards.
“One of the best advancements in the Jewish community has been the establishment of the Young Men’s Cabinet that started up in about 2005,” says Beyer. She explains that while the Young Women’s Cabinet has been around for a long time, albeit in different iterations, male involvement was lacking. “It’s been a wonderful development for young men to have the means to dive right in to Jewish community life, as well.”
Beyer has volunteered for most of the past 13 years with Federation’s annual campaign, the fundraising drive that brings in the majority of money that supports Jewish causes and programs both locally and abroad. She is currently a co-chair of the Women’s Philanthropy Social Action Committee where she helps plan community-wide events, says Beyer, such as a heart health event with a panel of speakers that was held in May. “We also held a training event to teach people chest compression only CPR,” she says.
Beyer acknowledges that she’s begun to pull back from some of her leadership roles and has been dedicating more of her volunteer time to her synagogue. “Ever since I came back from college in the early 2000s I’ve been singing in the High Holiday choir at Temple Emanu-El. In the last few years I’ve become more involved at Temple; I’ve been co-chair of the Young Adults Group and have served on the board since 2012. I am currently serving on the executive board as secretary.”
When asked what motivates her to devote so much of her time and energy to the Tucson Jewish community, Beyer returns to the idea of following her parents’ footsteps. “Not necessarily with the exact things they’ve done, but [with] the general idea of being involved and giving back to the Jewish Community. I also care deeply about the mission of the Jewish Federation, which is motivation in itself. I [volunteer] because I care about what we do and I’ve gained as much or more than I’ve given.”
Renee Claire is a freelance writer in Tucson.