For the Margalit family, the Tucson Jewish Community Center was the setting for a true camp love story: a Tucson camp counselor meets and falls for a visiting Israeli.
Rachel Fox and Omri Margalit met at the JCC’s summer camp as teenagers serving as counselors. Rachel, a University of Arizona student in her third year as a counselor, fell in love with Omri, a handsome, patriotic Israeli visiting Tucson as a summer shaliach, or emissary. Omri, just as smitten, spent the entire summer working as a counselor and dating Rachel before returning to Israel. The two dated long distance the following year and, when Omri returned the following summer, he proposed to an overjoyed Rachel. They were married in 2010 and returned to Israel, where Omri attended the University of Tel Aviv and Rachel taught at a preschool. Rachel returned to Tucson in 2014 after the birth of their son, Nathaniel, and Omri will join them soon after his upcoming graduation.
Rachel plans to send Nathaniel to the JCC as soon as he’s old enough to attend preschool. “I loved the J, and I loved working with kids,” Rachel says. “We want a good Jewish upbringing for Nathaniel. I attended the JCC preschool and kindergarten and have wonderful memories.”
She remembers her camp days very fondly and she was happy to serve as a counselor also. “I remember my favorite thing was each year looking forward to building new relationships with the [camp] kids. It was there that I realized I had a real passion about working with kids.”
Rachel was raised in a Reform Jewish family and became a bat mitzvah at Congregation Ner Tamid with the late Rabbi Joseph Weizenbaum. After living in Israel for four years, she now considers herself Conservative. “My husband, Omri, would probably be considered modern Orthodox, but in Israel he’s just considered ‘observant,’” she points out.
She credits Scott Zorn, the JCC’s director of children, youth and family engagement, with bringing the couple together. “It was unusual for a shaliach to return after a summer,” she says. “We married right after camp concluded in 2010 and we were pretty young. Meeting someone so passionate about his country and defending it was an experience I’d never had in Tucson.”
Sarah Chen is a freelance writer living in northwest Tucson with her husband, son and daughter.