Local people, places, travels and simchas

Live long and prosper

Centenarian Janet Schlesinger
Centenarian Janet Schlesinger
Wendy Fishkind with her mother, 100-year-old Yeta Weston
Wendy Fishkind with her mother, 100-year-old Yeta Weston

On May 6, the 29th Salute to Centenarians was held at Tucson Medical Center’s Marshall Conference Center. This annual event, sponsored by the Pima Council on Aging and TMC, takes place during Older Americans Month and celebrates those people aged 99 and older who represent Pima County’s living links to history.

Speaking of history, these elders were born during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency and earlier. One hundred years ago, in 1916, the Chicago Cubs played their first game at what is modern-day Wrigley Field. The first Jewish Supreme Court justice, Louis Brandeis, was appointed by Wilson. Activist Emma Goldman was arrested for lecturing on birth control. Coca-Cola brought the current Coke formula to the market. Some famous Jews born in 1916 included film actor/producer Kirk Douglas, violinist/conductor Yehudi Menuhin and actress/singer/TV personality Dinah Shore.

Maya Luria, TMC’s director of senior services and a member of the centenarian committee, served as mistress of ceremonies for the program. She helped read the biographies of the celebrants as their photos were projected on a screen. This year’s theme was “Blaze a Trail” and the theme question, “What is your philosophy for preserving your health?”

Centenarian Janet Schlesinger, a Brooklyn native who has two daughters, eight grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild, was a Girl Scout leader and active in PTA, her synagogue’s religious school, Hadassah and other groups. She worked in the accounting division for the City of Tucson. After retirement, Janet became active in various organizations and enjoys playing Scrabble. Her theme answer: “Be optimistic; the sun will come out tomorrow!”

Yeta Weston attended last year’s celebration at age 99 and returned this year as an official centenarian. Last year, we wrote about Yeta’s life, from her beginnings in Brooklyn to her retirement in Tucson. (See AJP, 5/15/15). Her theme answer: “Positive thinking, family that provides courage and confidence, and keeping busy physically and mentally.”

CHAI Circle celebration

Top row, from left: Evie Varady, Soozie Hazan and Rabbi Helen Cohn; bottom row: Alice Steinfeld and Helene Rothstein
Top row, from left: Evie Varady, Soozie Hazan and Rabbi Helen Cohn; bottom row: Alice Steinfeld and Helene Rothstein

On the evening of May 14 on the Rose and Maurice Silverman Jewish History Museum Campus, CHAI Circle celebrated its Bat Mitzvah year. This Jewish women’s cancer support group is a program of Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern Arizona.

In her welcoming remarks, Evie Varady, a founding and advisory board member, likened the courage and vision of the women of the Ladies Hebrew Benevolent Society, who organized the effort to build Arizona’s first synagogue in 1910 (now the site of the museum), to the pioneering spirit of Bryna Zehngut, of blessed memory, who spearheaded the establishment of CHAI Circle in 2002. Soozie Hazan, also a founding and advisory board member, recalled Bryna’s words: “No one should have to go through cancer alone.”

During the festivities, the group enjoyed a happy hour in the courtyard, a delicious Mediterranean dinner on the garden patio, and a Havdalah ceremony led by Rabbi Helen Cohn. Alice Steinfeld and Helene Rothstein, therapists and the group’s volunteer facilitators, added levity when they donned feather boas and spoke of the members’ style and good humor. They presented each Bat Mitzvah celebrant with a glittery star to mark the occasion. The evening concluded with dancing and music provided by CHAI’s own DJ Soozie Hazan.

Some others in the crowd of 40 at this beautiful commemoration included Judy Esbit, Hedy Feuer, Sandra Lachter, Carol Margolis, Holly Sack, Janet Silverman, and JFCS staff liaison Andrea Siemens.

Honoring family philanthropy

Standing, from left: Rabbi Thomas Louchheim; sons, Daniel, Jacob, and Benjamin; wife, Marcia; and daughter, Katie. Seated: The rabbi’s parents, Sandy and Marlene Louchheim.
Standing, from left: Rabbi Thomas Louchheim; sons, Daniel, Jacob, and Benjamin; wife, Marcia; and daughter, Katie. Seated: The rabbi’s parents, Sandy and Marlene Louchheim.

On May 17, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion held its third annual benefit gala on its Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles. This fundraiser supports the students — future rabbis, cantors, Jewish educators, scholars and nonprofit professionals — at HUC-JIR. The event recognized the Louchheim family and celebrated “L’dor Vador” (from generation to generation) with four generations of the Louchheim family in attendance: honorees Marlene and Sandy Louchheim of L.A., their four children (including Tucson’s Rabbi Thomas Louchheim), 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

The elder Louchheims have been committed to HUC-JIR for four generations. In 1972, Sandy’s father, William, founded the Jerome H. Louchheim School of Judaic Studies at HUC-JIR in L.A. as a memorial to his father, a founder of CBS (the Columbia Broadcasting System). The school provides undergraduate Judaic Studies courses to University of Southern California students — all taught by HUC-JIC faculty. The family continues to support Jewish education through scholarships and other means. Rabbi Thomas Louchheim of Tucson’s Congregation Or Chadash was ordained by HUC-JIR 29 years ago and awarded a Doctor of Divinity four years ago, commemorating his 25 years in the rabbinate. His wife, Marcia Louchheim, is a graduate of HUC-JIR’s Rhea Hirsch School of Education and was the founding educator for Or Chadash.

The gala was a true family reunion with 27 family members in attendance. Among the evening’s highlights, three family members spoke — Marlene as a past member of the board of overseers, Rabbi Louchheim as a graduate, and Marlene and Sandy’s grandson Matthew Louchheim as current member of the board of overseers. “So many generations have supported the seminary and our family hopes to inspire other families to support the Reform Movement in this way,” said Rabbi Louchheim. The family was presented with a beautifully handcrafted yad (Torah scroll pointer). Present at the gala were Tom and Marcia’s dear Tucson friends, David and Faye Wolsky, who flew in for the festivities.

Time to share

It’s time for summer hiatus. Keep me posted of your Israel summer travel, which I’ll cover in the Sept. 23 (Rosh Hashanah) issue of the AJP. Stay cool and l’shalom.