Hebrew High sends off 40th class, welcomes new students

Members of Tucson Hebrew High’s 40th graduating class: front row, from left, Nathan Rix, Emily Jones, Julia Braun, Michael Artzi, Emily Youngerman, Hannah Weisman, Sarah Artzi (teacher); back row, Yonatan Weiner, Benjamin Manninen, Andrew Gross, Rafe Centuori

“I just need to know, just what makes you glow.”

—Jacob Spike Kraus, What Makes You Glow

Tucson High School for Jewish Studies (Hebrew High) graduated 10 students at its 40th commencement in May. The seniors planned their own Glow-themed celebration, facilitated by Hebrew High Co-chair Sarah Artzi.

“Throughout the ceremony each graduate shined — or glowed — in his or her own way, ultimately demonstrating how the students supported one another to be themselves,” says Rabbi Ruven Barkan, Hebrew High director.

Brit (relationships) remains at the program’s core, says Barkan.

“Ultimately, it is the relationships forged between the leaders and Jewish institutions, on behalf of and in partnership with our youth, that make Hebrew High exceptional,” says Barkan. In his graduation address, he told students “… creating an environment that fosters the sacred, in and through relationships, is the legacy of Hebrew High that you are carrying forward.”

Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona President and CEO Stuart Mellan noted at the ceremony how communal strength translates into a defined Jewish identity for each graduate. They also connect with others, bond with friends and teachers, and discover who they are, Artzi adds.

Graduates shared personal reflections about how Hebrew High encouraged them to question Judaism. Michael Artzi shared the difficulty he had in processing intense experiences while participating in the March of the Living, witnessing at Auschwitz and celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut in Israel. Hannah Weisman, also a March participant, spoke of the need to stand up for others.

Hebrew High, which is still accepting registrations for 2018-19, offers tracks in Hebrew language for credit, along with a variety of Judaic studies classes, including ”Debate Like Jews,” “Krav Maga and Personal Empowerment,” and “The Israel Conflict: The Good, the Bad and the To Be Determined.”

“Hebrew for credit is accepted at most Tucson area high schools for one high school language credit per year completed,” says Barkan. The program offers four Hebrew language levels, conducted by degreed faculty. Local rabbis and community professionals lead the Judaic studies program, in collaboration with Tucson synagogues. The new school year, which began Tuesday, offers classes weekly, 5 to 9 p.m. (dinner available) at Congregation Anshei Israel, 5550 E. Fifth St.

Collaborative community partners include JFSA; Congregations Anshei Israel, Bet Shalom, Chaverim, Or Chadash, and M’kor Hayim; Temple Emanu-El; Tucson Hebrew Academy; the Tucson Jewish Community Center; and the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation.

For more information and to register, visit