Tucson’s Jewish Culture Shuk, a night of classes and discussions led by local rabbis and Jewish educators, is something Debbie Gubernick looks forward to every year.
Gubernick, founder of Agents of STEAM, a local organization that helps facilitate events and literacy in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, has attended the shuk at least four times. The opportunity to learn new theories and apply them to everyday life keeps her coming back, she says.
“I love exploring new ideas,” says Gubernick. “And I take some of the lessons I’ve learned, and then use them.” This year, Gubernick signed up for a discussion led by Rabbi Ruven Barkan of Congregation Anshei Israel, “What Is at the Center of the Torah?” and an art class taught by Anne Lowe, art instructor at Congregation Bet Shalom, “Iris Folding Jewish Paper Art.”
The creative class is designed for everyone between the ages of 8 and 108, Lowe says, chuckling as she adds a blessing for those who fall into the latter part of that bracket.
Gubernick says the craft class, which was offered for the first time this year, was fun and relaxing, and she enjoyed learning about the history of the chamsa, a Middle Eastern good luck symbol, while she labored away at her colorful artifact.
These classes explore the breadth and richness of Judaism, says Gubernick, and people of all denominations can benefit from the event. “And I think if they attended something like this they would be amazed.”
The shuk, presented by the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona Coalition for Jewish Education and the Synagogue-Federation Dialogue, was held Nov. 20 at Tucson Hebrew Academy. More than 150 people attended this year.
The presenters tackled subjects ranging from “The Power & Danger of Chutzpah,” which Rabbi Yehuda Ceitlin of Chabad Tucson explored, to an in-depth discussion about Elie Wiesel, led by Rabbi Stephanie Aaron of Congregation Chaverim.
Judy Reisman, a community volunteer, and her partner split their year between Tucson and Minnesota. Attending the Jewish Culture Shuk is a way for the couple to connect with the local community.
“I think because we’ve gotten so involved in our Minneapolis synagogue, that makes it really important to be involved in Jewish life here as well,” says Reisman.
Reisman enjoyed Lowe’s paper art class and she also attended a talk by Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon of Temple Emanu-El, “The Death of Death? Eternal Life in Jewish Tradition,” which focused on living a spiritual path, questioning the idea of reincarnation and continuing to “look beyond the curtain.”
More important, Reisman says she was delighted to see familiar faces from her local synagogue, Congregation M’kor Hayim.
Robert Chason, a local advertising salesman, specifically chose two classes he didn’t know much about, including Cohon’s discussion and “Homosexuality In the Bible and Jewish Law vs. The Supreme Court: Where Do We Go from Here?” led by Rabbi Thomas Louchheim of Congregation Or Chadash.
Chason says he can easily see this event lasting an entire day and is excited to return next year.
“I think the whole experience was great, well organized and I really appreciate everyone putting their time and effort into it,” Chason says. “And the diversity of classes allows someone to really choose what they want to learn, and perhaps open up a doorway into greater exploration.”