Simon Rosenblatt is emphatic as he speaks about volunteering with the Tucson Jewish community: “Make no mistake, Jewish Tucson is our family.”
Rosenblatt spreads his energy and time across a trifecta of local and national Jewish efforts: Temple Emanu-El, the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Union for Reform Judaism.
First, Temple Emanu-El. For Rosenblatt, staying involved in synagogue life was second nature. As a founding member and lay leader of Temple Kol Hamidbar in Sierra Vista — close to Fort Huachuca, where he spent three decades as an Army reservist and civilian engineer — he uniquely understands the logistics and demands of keeping the sanctuary full and functional.
“There are so many people who do so much at Temple Emanu-El,” Rosenblatt shares, “that I feel extremely honored for being recognized for the volunteering I’ve done.” After many years on the board, he now serves as an ex-officio member. In addition, he’s always a presence at the synagogue, answering phones, escorting guests and generally helping out.
“I attend every Friday Shabbat service,” he explains, “every Shabbat morning service, every holiday, every simchah. The only reason I would ever miss is if I were physically unable to get there.”
His extensive synagogue experience lent itself easily to his involvement in the JCRC. As the social action arm of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, the group addresses a number of critical social issues: civil rights, homelessness, hunger, poverty and border issues. Rosenblatt serves as the liaison from the JCRC to the Federation’s Lesbian, Gay, Transgender and Bisexual Jewish Inclusion Project and is part of the group’s steering committee.
Rosenblatt is particularly proud of Tucson for having a formal LGBT organization, one of only a few Federation-funded LGBT groups in the country. “This group does so much, from film festival showings to pride events. I think it is really, really important.”
Not content to only remain on the local scene, Rosenblatt also serves on the URJ board of trustees. His longtime relationship with the URJ began in Sierra Vista when he helped found Temple Kol Hamidbar in 1993. Before long he began attending the North American Biennnial Convention and was invited to join the regional board. He is now serving for the second time on the national board of trustees. There are donation and travel requirements to maintain board membership. Of these, Rosenblatt says, “I have the luxury to be able to do it. It keeps me out of trouble, and busy!
“In a way, it is easy for me to do and feel Jewish,” he says. “Like everywhere, you have to build it for yourself. Now that I’m retired it is such a huge part of my life.”
After more than 30 years in Fort Huachuca, Rosenblatt relocated to Tucson after retirement to marry Louise Greenfield, librarian emerita for the University of Arizona, whom he met at a Jewish singles event a decade prior.
“I am so proud of our Jewish community. There are so many things the entire community can be proud of, some things you can’t find everywhere. I think it’s great.”
Sarah Chen is a freelance writer and blogger who lives with her husband and two children in Tucson.