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Leadership, community volunteerism set teen apart as choice for mitzvot award

Erika Spivack (Courtesy Erika Spivack)

Erika Spivack, a University High School senior, will receive the 12th annual Bryna Zehngut Mitzvot Award at the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona Women’s Philanthropy Connections brunch on Sunday, March 10. The Women’s Philanthropy advisory council, which includes past Women’s Philanthropy chairs and campaign chairs, created the award in partnership with friends of Zehngut, who died in 2005, to honor her example as a community leader.

The award recognizes a Jewish teenage girl who has shown outstanding leadership through community volunteering and has exemplified Jewish values.

Spivack has served as a madricha (teacher’s aide) at Congregation Anshei Israel since 2015 and is a Tucson Hebrew High student. She has volunteered at Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging, where she was part of the Tracing Roots project, and at Integrative Touch for Kids, where she is a member of the junior board. She also volunteers with Reading Buddies, mentoring a second grade student, and with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, working on fundraising events since 2012. She is a member of United Synagogue Youth, where she served as communications vice president in 2016. She has worked as a math tutor, certified child care provider, and caterer with L’Chaim Catering, using the money she earns to travel abroad for immersive learning experiences, particularly in Spain.

Rabbi Ruven Barkan, religious school director at Anshei Israel, described Spivack’s work this year as a madricha: “As a senior, she has stepped up into the demanding role of shadowing a child with special needs. With her professional and caring touch, his behavior has modulated, and he is fully participating in the activities of the classroom.”

Nanci Levy, community outreach coordinator at Handmaker, says Spivack, who participated in the original Tracing Roots and Building Trees intergenerational program, was the first to sign up when Tracing Roots 2.0 was announced this year, and stood out as one of the most responsible and responsive teen participants. “She makes the seniors that she interacts with have hope for our future generations,” Levy says.

Spivack will receive a gift of $613, relating to the Jewish tradition of 613 mitzvot, which she plans to put toward a trip to Israel. She will also receive a personalized print created by local artist Julie Stein.

For more information on the Connections brunch,  click here. To register, visit www.jfsa.org/connections-2019.