Arts and Culture

Collaboration is a must to keep Tucson Jewish institutions strong for the future

Visualize a typical action-packed day in the life of a hypothetical Jewish family in Tucson: drop off the toddlers at the synagogue pre-school, stop in at the Israel Center to see the latest on the upcoming festival, catch the performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Jewish day school, pick up the packing list for the college-student Israel trip, check on the folks at the Jewish assisted living center, confirm sufficient Passover products have been provided to those in need, squeeze in the fascinating lecture on the Middle East before the parent meeting at Hebrew High and check the Arizona Jewish Post and the Jewish Federation of Southern website to see what’s up for tomorrow for our incredible Jewish community. Whew—another great day for Jewish Tucson!

Now imagine some date in the future: driving past a closed Jewish facility, shuttered due to too many other facilities providing the same services. Existing synagogues, schools, and facilities strained due to underfunding. Searching for congenial living arrangements for aging parents. Wondering whether the Jewish needy will be able to celebrate the holidays. Scanning the internet to find fact-filled information about the Middle East, all while feeling alone and disconnected. Bleak? Yes. But that is the path we find ourselves on. Why?

We will always achieve more and do better when we do it together. Does anything better reflect ideal Jewish values than the kibbutz? A team approach to life, committed to Jewish values. At the heart and soul of the kibbutz is community betterment, where people contribute their skills, effort, and resources for the advancement of themselves as individuals and for the community. The kibbutz shares values with the concept of the sharing economy.

In an age where AirBnB allows you to share extra room in your home or where you can easily rent out your unused car, the Tucson Jewish community should consider where we can share existing buildings or services and utilize them better to preserve capital for helping people in need.

As our community strives to meet and to anticipate the needs of the young, the unattached, our families, seniors, those with special needs, and the unaffiliated, both our communal services and our institutions expand and proliferate. While our desire to meet the “wish list” of services and opportunities for Jewish engagement is boundless, our resources are not unlimited. Unless we find new ways of meeting our communal needs and wants, our local institutions simply may collapse under their own weight.

How then can we, as a community, identify administrative, programming and physical plant synergies that can be achieved among our Jewish and broader community institutions?

First we must recognize that while there may be as many ways to be Jewish or to connect to the Jewish community as there are those wishing to do so, our common goal is the preservation of Jewish values and Jewish communal life, and meeting the needs of the most vulnerable. With this commonality of purpose, we can set aside our attachment to carrying out our observances and programming in the same way as we have in the past. Instead, we can look at new models of delivering the services and programming that make our Jewish community vibrant and caring.

Can our existing facilities become multi-purpose sites to maximize their utility and allow for cost sharing? Can a multi-purpose room do extra duty by serving as a sanctuary? Can classrooms and teachers be shared among our institutions or can synagogues and temples share the same facilities with one another or with a day school? Can educational programs offered by more than one synagogue or temple be combined? Can temples and synagogues jointly hire a CFO? Can administrative services and technology be shared between or among agencies and/or synagogues and temples to save costs?

We have an incredible Jewish community and much for which to be both proud and grateful. We believe that when each of us agrees to look at our community as a whole, recognizing the unique and invaluable contributions made by each of our agencies, temples and synagogues, we will be able to set aside our personal loyalties to a specific delivery system in order to ensure that all of our ever-changing needs and opportunities can be met. Through our Community Roundtable, and the efforts of the Federation and the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona, our Jewish agencies, temples and synagogues have developed a dialogue and a mechanism to prioritize programming and to avoid duplication of programming and efforts. Our gifted and hard-working Jewish community professionals, clergy, and educators should have all the resources we can muster to make that vibrant, action-packed day a reality.

Please join us in empowering our representatives serving on boards and committees in the Jewish community to implement cost-saving and cost-sharing measures that ensure the vibrancy of the future of our institutions. Together, we will achieve more and do better.

Gary Kippur moved to Tucson 32 years ago with his wife, Tandy. Together they started Tucson Iron & Metal and raised two daughters. He is a past president of Hillel and a past Jewish Federation of Arizona campaign chair. 

Barry Baker is a native Tucsonan and father of two daughters.  He is principal of Endurance Private Real Estate. He attended the University of Texas Graduate School Of Business.