Israel travels, fantasy camp, Sukkah squads and sisterhood inspire Tucsonans

A special Israel visitor

Artist Yaacov Agam, left, with Ruthie Levin, Shelby Silverman, Lisa Silverman and Yaeli Levin at the Yaacov Agam Museum of Art

From Aug. 9-Sept. 3, Linda and Shelby Silverman traveled to Europe and Israel. They saved the best for last, spending two weeks with their four Israeli grandchildren and their parents. Three generations of the Silverman-Levin family enjoyed a delightful surprise when they visited Rishon LeZion, home of the Yaacov Agam Museum of Art. After touring this beautiful museum, which opened last November, there was the artist himself! While Agam lives in Paris, he often visits Rishon LeZion, his birthplace 90 years ago. He spent 10 minutes with them, conversing and taking photos. When Shelby told Agam that his home is Arizona, the artist responded that he had been to the state to visit his friend, Frank Lloyd Wright.

Among European highlights, the Silvermans visited Prague and Budapest, where they toured important Jewish sites. Especially interesting to the couple was the mechitza in Prague’s Old New Synagogue built in the 1300s. This wall separating men and women is 3 feet thick. After a quick visit to Innsbruck, they traveled to the beautiful Dolomite Mountains in Sud Tirol, Northern Italy. The two took long walks through apple orchards and near castles, so high up that at times they were above the clouds.

Adult basketball camp

(L-R) Mike Feder, Eric Rudner, Jordan Emerson, and Neil Katz (referee coordinator) at the Lute Olson Fantasy Basketball Camp

The second annual Lute Olson Fantasy Basketball Camp took place Sept. 6-9 at the Sporting Chance Center. Camp organizers Mike Feder and Steve Rivera orchestrated the weekend of fun and friendship. Participants were able to get up close and personal with former University of Arizona Wildcat Coach Lute Olson and many of his former players, who served as camp instructors.

Eric Rudner and Jordan Emerson availed themselves of this sports opportunity.

Eric’s impressions: “This basketball camp, which I’ve attended both years, was a great experience. I grew up being a Wildcat fan, attending Lute Olson’s basketball camp as a child and now as an adult. Playing basketball regularly, I find this to be a great opportunity to play with friends and meet new players that end up becoming new friends. As a 1998 UA graduate, I was in school when the UA won the NCAA national championship in 1997. It’s exciting to see some of the players from that team come to the camp to coach. I am still a die-hard Arizona basketball fan, have season tickets, and try to get to every game.”

Jordan’s feedback: “The fantasy camp was a blast. Growing up, my family has had the same four seats at McKale Center for over 35 years. My uncle Roger Sedlmayr was the public address announcer at McKale for 18 years. He was best known for the ‘Steeeeve Kerrrr!’ call beginning in 1985. I attended the Final Four in Charlotte in 1994 when the UA lost to Arkansas. So my basketball roots run deep. It was fun to interact with the players and partake in friendly competition, between warm-up drills, 3-on-3 skill sets, and a round-robin tournament. It was wonderful to see the brotherhood between the former players, their bond centering on the game and the city of Tucson.

“At the opening Thursday night dinner, these players spoke of their favorite memories and directed remarks affectionately to Lute of his importance in their lives. I highly recommend this experience and hope to repeat it next year.”

Sukkah building

(L-R) Saul Ostroff, Merrell Warshaw, Sid Temlock, Rita Zohav and Pinchas Zohav in the Zohavs’ newly constructed sukkah

“You will dwell in booths for seven days…” Leviticus 23:42.

Sukkot commemorates the 40 years during which the Israelites wandered in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt and marks the end of harvest in Israel. This joyous holiday focuses on G-d’s shelter and protection.

On Sunday, Sept. 23, Congregation Bet Shalom’s Mensch Club met, schmoozed, and proceeded to build the synagogue’s sukkah. Upon completion, they formed small “Sukkah Squads” to help fellow congregants construct their own temporary dwellings. Arnie Merin led this team effort. Whether using a pre-fab sukkah kit or their own materials, the workers followed the rules for erecting these three-sided huts. Congregants were thrilled to be able to celebrate this festival at home, praying, eating meals, and inviting guests to partake in this mitzvah.

Volunteer builders accompanying Merin included Bet Shalom’s Rabbi Avi Alpert, Ben Arditi, Richard Brodesky, Rosa Cohen, Aaron Farber, Art Friedman, Jacques Gerstenfeld, Andy Kunsberg, Myles LeVine, Mark Levine, Daniel Naiman, Saul Ostroff, Morrie Shoob, Robert St. John, Sid Temlock, and Merrell Warshaw. The grateful recipients were Avi and Kamala Alpert, Howard and Trudy Schwartz, Pinchas and Rita Zohav, and Gila Silverman.

“Sisters Helping Sisters”

This saying is part of the Sister Jose Women’s Center logo. Two sisters, Judy Fireman and Janet Fireman, heeded the call for volunteers at this center serving homeless women. Sister Jose was the focus of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s 70th anniversary mitzvah project.

Some background: Upon retiring, Judy, a book editor from Manhattan, and Janet, a museum curator in Los Angeles, moved to the Bay Area in 2007 before settling in Tucson in October 2015. They relocated to be close to their cousins Deborah Oseran, Richard Oseran, and Barbara Brodie, their spouses, and extended families. A few months later, they heard Mayor Jonathan Rothschild speak of the Federation’s commitment to becoming involved with Sister Jose. The Fireman sisters donated clothing and household goods and began cooking while the facility was still housed in its tiny former bungalow. At the dedication of the Federation’s cultivated garden area at the new building, Jean Fedigan, the center’s executive director, asked Judy to speak as a valued volunteer.

On their twice-a-week Tuesday/Thursday shifts at the new center on Park Avenue South, the two siblings have run the clothing shop, worked in the laundry, manned the front desk, and covered other assignments. Now they are cooks for 40 people. The center uses food donations but Judy and Janet also shop and plan ahead. They have raised the variety, ingredients, and presentation of the food they prepare and serve. The two provide a healthy, tasty Mediterranean-style diet, with more vegetables and fruits and less carbohydrates and fat. A typical dinner might include Provençal beef ragu on top of polenta, roasted squash (grown in the garden by the women themselves), spinach salad with avocado dijon dressing, and cupcakes. The pair also furnish sack lunches and wash dishes during their 2-7 p.m. shift.

Both sisters derive joy and satisfaction from doing this tikkun olam (repair of the world). Judy and Janet are appreciated for their dedication and have bonded with the other regular volunteers. They stress that the shelter could use more volunteers. The two will be in attendance tomorrow night at the center’s seventh annual fundraiser dinner at St. Francis de Sales Parish Gym.

Time to share

Until next month, keep me posted at the Post — 319-1112. L’shalom.