From Tucson to Israel, celebrating local people, places, travels and simchas

NFTY convention

(L-R) Max Palay (of Phoenix), Maya Levy, and Nathan Rix at the NFTY Veida 2018 convention

Maya Levy had a good excuse for skipping the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona Women’s Philanthropy Connections brunch on Feb. 18, where she was due to receive one of two Bryna Zehngut Mitzvah Awards (see “In Focus,” AJP, 3/9/18). She was attending the North American Federation of Temple Youth Veida (committee) 2018, a leadership conference, from Feb. 16 to 19 at the URJ Greene Family Camp in Bruceville, Texas. Maya, a University High School junior and Temple Emanu-El congregant, and Nathan Rix, a UHS senior and Congregation Chaverim member, represented our Tucson community. Maya serves as religious and cultural vice president of the NFTY Southwest Region; Nathan is president. This is the first time two Tucsonans have attained top positions on the regional board. NFTY’s Southwest region encompasses Arizona; New Mexico; Southern Nevada; El Paso, Texas; and Utah.

The first day of the conference focused on elections to the North American NFTY board, for which both Maya and Nathan ran unsuccessfully. Friday night and Saturday morning included teen-led services. A carnival took place on Saturday night and a talent show on Sunday. The Winter Olympics in South Korea were a viewing highlight during the weekend festivities. At breakout sessions, other regions shared program ideas from their kallot (conferences). For example, based on the $34 weekly allowance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program food stamp program, participants had to design a menu for the week. Another session highlighted the concept of bias. Everyone was blindfolded and given different topics to discuss, so that they couldn’t see or judge one another’s appearance but only their views and feelings.

On the NFTY website, the one word that Maya and Nathan use to describe their NFTY involvement is “passionate.” In her duties, Maya leads religious and cultural events, having written a creative Dr. Seuss Shabbat service for the Fall Kallah this October. “It’s hard to get teenagers to love Judaism so I try to make it fun and a high point of the weekend. In writing Jewish programming, I highlight a Jewish holiday, person, or Israel,” she says. Summing up her overall NFTY experience, she says, “I have the opportunity to make new friends from all 50 states and bond with leaders like me who love NFTY as much as I do.”

Connecting with Israeli family and friends

(L-R) Ellis and Irene Friedman and Carol and Dan Karsch at lunch at Café Café in Rosh Haayin, Israel

From Feb. 18 to March 1, Irene and Ellis Friedman traveled to Israel for their annual visit with their daughter Abigail (Abbi); her husband, Guy Perets; and their children, Lior Zoe (now serving in the Israel Defense Forces), Shir, Adi, Yoni, and Amit. The Perets family lives in Etz Efrayim in the Shomron (northern part of the West Bank). Abbi made aliyah in 1994, midway through college at Brandeis University, having been to Israel many times with her parents and on a three-week Volunteers For Israel trip. She joined the IDF where she met her sabra husband, then an Israeli Air Force lieutenant, later a captain. Their first home was in Modi’in, not far from where Carol and Dan Karsch, former Tucsonans, live. The family moved to the U.S. in 2000 and returned to Israel in 2011. Vocationally, Abbi has a freelance writing business; Guy travels worldwide as a banking solution architect for SAP, a global technology company.

The Friedmans will return to Israel in December for Yoni’s bar mitzvah. An early mazel tov to all.

Traversing Southern Arizona

Tour guide Barry Friedman (in tan cap) speaks to the bus group at the Bisbee-Douglas Jewish Cemetery

On Tuesday, March 13, the JFSA Northwest Division and Hadassah Southern Arizona teamed up again to travel on another historical excursion. This time, their destination was the Bisbee-Douglas Jewish Cemetery. Participants who avail themselves of these bus trips get a bird’s eye view chronicling Jewish life in Southern Arizona.

Barry Friedman, past president of the Jewish History Museum, spoke about the Jews of the Southwest and led the tour of the cemetery, highlighting restoration efforts. Rabbi Benzion Shemtov of Chabad of Cochise County, based in Sierra Vista, met the group and helped read Hebrew inscriptions on the tombstones, including that of a 1-year-old boy buried in the early 1900s. Founded in 1904, this site, with 19 Jewish graves and 13 tombstones near the U.S.-Mexico border, was the first exclusively Jewish cemetery in Arizona. The land is now owned by the museum, donated by the former owners from 2005-2014, Richard Rosen and Jorge Ilitzky. (See “Local Jewish cemetery, once derelict, gains national attention,” (AJP, 7/8/16)

Following the tour, bus trippers enjoyed lunch at Café Roka with the Jewish residents of Bisbee and spent the afternoon shopping. Some of the travelers included Elke Armoni, Erica and Art Friedman, Sally Kreida, Honey and Murray Manson, Jane Myerson, and Eileen Neiman.

Time to share

You know the drill. Keep me posted ­— 319-1112. L’shalom.