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Community volunteers recognized for outstanding work

This is part two of a series on the Jewish agency volunteers who received 2019 Special Recognition Awards at the Jewish Community Awards celebration held May 9 at the Tucson Jewish Community Center. The evening also included the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s annual meeting.

Ellen Saltonstall, Jewish History Museum/Holocaust History Center

Ellen Saltonstall

A middle school, elementary and special education teacher for 42 years in rural Vermont, Ellen Saltonstall pioneered Holocaust studies in her school district. When she and her husband, Stephen, relocated to Tucson, she headed to the Jewish History Museum to volunteer as a docent. “I really think it is an important part of the community,” she says.

Still focusing on students, Saltonstall works with classrooms to pre-teach vocabulary and help plan curriculum before a visit to the museum and follows up with the class after a visit. “I taught the Holocaust for so many years,” she says, her box is still full of tools.

Her docent role also helps her learn more about local history. “It has broadened my understanding of the Southwest and my perspective of history. It also has connected me more to my own Jewish identity,” says Saltonstall. “That’s my temple …. that’s where I go.”

Saltonstall also was recognized by the museum this year as the Ray Davies Educator of the Year, notes Hedy Feuer, board president of the museum board. Saltonstall is active in Brandeis National Committee Tucson Chapter and with Stephen, participates in the Jaguar Club of Southern Arizona and supports the Arizona Theatre Company.

Mary Cochran Wolk, Tucson Jewish Community Center

Mary Cochran Wolk

Mary Cochran Wolk finds work as a pediatrician “far more rewarding than any other work I can imagine doing.” Yet she juggles work at the Mesquite Pediatrics clinic she founded in 2005 and her love of the outdoors with a deep commitment to community activism. If she and husband Robert are not out hiking, kayaking or swimming, you may find them volunteering at the Festival of Books, Be Safe Saturday, or El Tour de Tucson.

“We live in the community, and if everyone gives a little bit to the community, the entire city will be a better place,” she says. “The more everybody steps out of their box and does something for someone else, the more you’re going to learn and probably the more fun you’re going to have.”

“No one better honors and lives the values and mission of the J,” said Isaac Rothschild, the J’s board chair, in presenting the award. Cochran Wolk is extremely active in health programs, Rothschild noted. “She has endless energy focused on the big issues — literacy, health, and those that are most in need, such as refugees. All of the J’s programs became richer through her guidance. And she is the best mentor for those of us lucky enough to serve on the board.”

She is the immediate past chair of the J’s board of directors and chaired the J and JFSA’s Weintraub Israel  Center second multi-faith mission to Israel in 2018. She has served on the boards of Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona, the Sickle Cell Foundation of Arizona, Tucson Medical Center, TMC Pediatric Hospice,  and Tu Nidito, among others.

Dana Narter, University of Arizona Hillel Foundation

Dana Narter

Dana Narter, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the psychology department at the University of Arizona College of Science. “Despite her workload at the university, she always has managed to find the energy to devote time to UA Hillel Foundation as a volunteer,” said Thomas Sayler-Brown, board chair. Narter joined the UA Hillel board in 2014, serving on the board development and strategic planning committees. “It has truly been a privilege to have had Dana’s support, counsel, and friendship before and during my tenure as board chair,” said Sayler-Brown. Narter chaired or co-chaired the foundation’s fundraiser for the past three years, “driving the biggest event we hold annually, helping to fundraise for all of Hillel’s programs,” said Michelle Blumenberg, Hillel’s executive director. 

Narter’s activity within Tucson’s Jewish community also has included serving on JFSA’s board and Congregation Or Chadash’s accreditation committee.