Film festival finds favor, CAI laughs at Laffs, inclusiveness sustains Green Valley

Lights, popcorn, action…

Magnificent,” “incredibly moving,” “great film choices,” “We’ve been to many and this was the best.” These were among attendee comments at the 2018 Tucson International Jewish Film Festival. The festival, in its 27th year is one of the longest-running Jewish film festivals in the country, bringing over 3,100 attendees to four venues Jan. 11-21.

TIJFF director Shira Brandenburg and Monique Steinberg, a 22-year veteran committee member, appeared on KGUN’s Jan. 4 “The Morning Blend” to highlight the array of featured films.

Ashley, Noah, and Josh Hurand with Curious George at a PJ Library event held in conjunction with the TIJFF screening of “Monkey Business: The Adventures of Curious George’s Creators” on Jan. 14

To complement the final film, “Monsieur Mayonnaise,” on Jan. 21, Gwen Amar of L’chaim Kosher Catering prepared a French brunch of tuna Nicoise, blintz soufflé, croissants, baguettes, cheeses, and flavored mayonnaises.

Brandenburg summed up the past year: “As the new director, it is an honor to be part of such a supportive network at The J and in the community. The committee and I spent 11 months preparing, screening 70–80 films to choose approximately 20 of the best. We rely on sponsorships, grants, advertisers, donations, and ticket sales to keep the festival alive. Partnerships with local organizations are extremely valuable to the festival’s success. Strengthening relationships with our media sponsors was a priority this year, in addition to embarking on a new adventure with the Tucson Desert Song Festival. I am humbled by the amount of people involved in supporting this event. The audiences connected with the films and film presenters and gave terrific feedback. On to our weekly meetings for the start of TIJFF 2019!”

Comedy x 3

A trio of comedians highlighted Congregation Anshei Israel’s “funraiser” Sunday, Jan. 21, at Laffs Comedy Caffe. The laughs flowed along with drinks and a vegetarian menu, in a room full of congregants enjoying an entertaining night out.

Elliot Glicksman, Jill Kimmel, Tim Bateman, Ronit Stern, and Katie Stellitano at Anshei Israel’s Laffs comedy night on Jan. 21

The featured comics included Tucson attorney Elliot Glicksman, corporate comedian Tim Bateman of Phoenix, and Jimmy Kimmel’s sister, Jill Kimmel, also of the Phoenix area. Ronit Stern and Katie Stellitano, chairs of the synagogue’s Esther B. Feldman Preschool/Kindergarten parent action committee, co-chaired the event. Three lucky raffle winners walked away with prize packages themed “date night,” “arts and crafts,” and “food for the soul.”

Bagels and pluralism in Green Valley

Beth Shalom Temple Center has been a center for Jewish life serving the greater Green Valley area since its dedication in 1995. Before that, camaraderie began in the early ’80s as the Jewish Friendship Club. The synagogue, comprising approximately 140 older congregants, embraces all branches of Judaism, offering services, holiday observances, educational, social and cultural events. From a latke party to a Purim potluck, Sisterhood and Men’s Club to Yiddish Club and Torah study, there is something for everyone.

Michael Benisch, whose late father, Mac Benisch, served as president of Congregation Anshei Israel from 1963-69, grew up in Tucson. Michael attended Vail Junior High and Rincon High School, and received his business degree from the University of Arizona. He married Sara at Anshei Israel and both of his daughters, Rebecca and Deborah, are native Tucsonans. Michael and Sara moved to Texas in 1977 but retired to Green Valley in 2015. A board member-at-large who lives near the synagogue, he helps take care of the BSTC physical building.

Being so close to Tucson, members avail themselves of amenities here. For instance, they drive up I-10 to shop for their first Sunday of the month bagel breakfast, purchasing lox, whitefish, and herring in bulk. They seek out restaurant suppliers for creamer, cream cheese, and eggs, and hit Fourth Avenue for fruit and vegetables. Congregants also carpool to the Old Pueblo to visit the Jewish History Museum and Holocaust History Center and partake in other activities. Earlier this month, after the bagel breakfast, BSTC hosted Tucson artist Lynn Rae Lowe for a well-attended “Walk and Talk” exploration of her exhibit, “Ancient and Contemporary Symbolism of the Hebrew Alphabet,” on display in the synagogue’s art gallery through March 4.

Marcia Wiener, Lynn Rae Lowe, and Michael Benisch in the Beth Shalom Temple Center art gallery on Feb. 4

As Merle Sobol, president of the board, ends each of his messages in the BSTC “Green Valley Shofar” newsletter: “Let’s pray, play and take care of each other.”

Time to share

Keep me posted – 319-1112. L’shalom.