Seattle transplants bring lifetime of teaching, lay leadership to Tucson

Pinchas (Paul) and Rita Zohav
Pinchas (Paul) and Rita Zohav

Deciding to leave their home in Seattle, Pinchas (Paul) and Rita Zohav narrowed their search to Albuquerque or Tucson. “Without a doubt,” Rita says, “it was the Jewish community in Tucson which made our decision so easy.”

After 10 years in Seattle, the couple agreed it was “too grey, too rainy and too expensive.” Pinchas’ adult children, Shai and Laila, suggested looking in the Southwest. Impressed by the Jewish community websites, the couple visited for one weekend, spent a few days “Zillow-ing around” and bought a townhome in Tucson’s Northwest.

“The community here has been so friendly, open and welcoming,” Rita exclaims. Pinchas agrees, “I feel like we’ve made more friends in three months in Tucson than we did in 10 years in the Northwest!”

The Zohavs bring a lifetime of Jewish leadership to Tucson. Both are native New Yorkers with master’s degrees in education. Pinchas has served in the Israeli Army, and both he and Rita have lived on Israeli kibbutzim. Both previously married and divorced, Pinchas and Rita married and moved to Seattle after a 10-year friendship. Pinchas jokes that her talent for cooking brisket the way he likes best “really sealed the deal!”

Pinchas is a trained domestic violence counselor and recently published a book, “Creating an Extraordinary Relationship: The Art of Relationship Literacy.” He has also developed other books and a card game to help members of the baby boomer generation “process, preserve and celebrate their lives.” He plays guitar in folk bands in his spare time. Pinchas is a trained Jewish chaplain and hopes to put his skills to use at local hospitals and other organizations.

Rita recently retired as a Judaics teacher from the Seattle Jewish Day School. She plans to continue teaching at Tucson Hebrew Academy as a regular substitute. Since Rita also chants Torah and tutors Hebrew, she plans to continue both in Tucson. As a graduate of the senior educators program of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, she draws on a lifetime of Judaic educational training. Already, she teaches trope, or Torah chanting, at Congregation Bet Shalom on Thursday afternoons. At Congregation Anshei Israel, she teaches Hebrew on Tuesday afternoons, plus a seventh and eighth grade Judaics class.

The couple, who moved here three months ago with their schnauzer-shih tzu mix, Schnitzel, are members of Congregation Bet Shalom and plan to increase their involvement as they’re needed. They share a love of community and Judaism as well as folk music, hiking, reading and walking.

“We have redesigned our lives from the ground up,” says Pinchas, “and although we had the ability to leap somewhere, Tucson made it easy. We love that we can be really involved, and there’s so much here to do and see.”

“Anyone who mentioned Tucson to us during our search for a new home just raved about the Jewish community here,” says Rita, “and we love it so far. It feels very ‘heimish’ (homey).”

Sarah Chen is a freelance writer and blogger who lives with her husband and two children in Tucson.