Tucson Hebrew Academy will honor one of its founders, Bertie Levkowitz, at its 2019 Tikkun Olam Celebration next month.
Daniel Asia, president of THA’s board of trustees, remembers meeting her back in 1988.
“When we first got to Tucson I met Bertie and her then-husband, Jack, and I went to their house. The two of them were simply so excited and so impassioned about things having to do with THA. I remember that vividly, thinking, ‘Wow, look at all that energy that’s directed toward THA,’ and it hasn’t stopped for the 31 years that we’ve been here. Even with Jack’s demise, Berti’s kept it right up and is an integral part of what we do at THA,” says Asia.
The celebration will be held Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. at the Tucson Jewish Community Center.
It all started with a call from the bimah by Rabbi Arthur Oleisky of Congregation Anshei Israel, who said during his 1971 Yom Kippur sermon that Tucson needed a Jewish day school, Levkowitz recalls. Oleisky asked anyone interested to come forward, “and lo and behold, Dave Leonard came forward,” she says, explaining that Leonard was hardly a regular synagogue attendee at the time. “His wife, Judy, had gone to Yiddishe Folkschule in Canada, and he thought that was such a warm, wonderful upbringing, that he was in favor of it for his kids.”
With the Levkowitzes, the Leonards, and Arthur and Betejoy Oleisky leading the charge, many others soon joined the campaign to get a day school started, says Levkowitz, who remembers “endless meetings,” research calls around the country, and coffee evenings with parents of prospective students before the school opened in 1973.
At first, a rabbi from Phoenix who was advising the group pushed to have THA affiliated with the Orthodox movement, she recalls. But with Oleisky, a Conservative rabbi, involved, and a diverse community, “we couldn’t really do that. So we became a community school with the idea that we would try to serve all parents who wanted their children to have a Jewish education” that was more intensive than an afterschool program, “paired of course with a superb secular education or nobody was going to give us their kids.”
The keynote speaker at the dinner will be Howard Levkowitz, Bertie and Jack’s son. He was the first student to go from first through eighth grades at THA, Levkowitz notes; their daughter, Helene, was in second grade when the school opened.
Levkowitz, who had stepped off the THA board of trustees while Jack was a member, rejoined after he died in 1999. Two years ago, she was board president, and now she is a life trustee.
After 46 years, THA has teachers who are graduates of the school, and “our kids are all over in all kinds of leadership positions. Not everybody, but by and large, there’s a greater tendency for these kids to remain [Jewishly] identified and become active in their own communities, wherever they are,” she says. “We do see it as the future, of really educating and raising tomorrow’s leaders, in all aspects, not just Jewishly.”
The Tikkun Olam Celebration will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $150 per person and $250 per couple. Sponsorships are available. To register, visit www.thaaz.org or contact Sha’ron Wolfin Eden at 529-3888 or [email protected].