Local | P.S.

Youth group conventions and a home turf visit for a Stanford b-ball player

Breanna Yalen (left) and Maya Levy at NFTY convention (Courtesy Maya Levy)

Way to go, Maya!

Maya Levy was elected 2019-20 North American Federation of Temple Youth president at the NFTY convention, held Feb. 15-18 in Dallas. She was NFTY Southwest regional president before attaining this role as head of the North American board.

Maya, a University High School senior, was joined by fellow Tucson Hebrew Academy graduate and Temple Emanu-El member Breanna Yalen, a University High School sophomore. Breanna is currently serving as the social action vice president of JCTEY (Jew Crew Temple Emanu-El Youth), the local NFTY youth group in Tucson. Nearly 1,000 Jewish teens gathered in Dallas to focus on how to build community and enact change. The keynote speaker was David Hogg, teen activist and March for Our Lives co-founder, who advocates against gun violence after surviving the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. Friday night and Saturday morning services were teen-led with Saturday creative worship options such as paint and pray, yoga, and meditation. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, gave the Shabbat D’var Torah. The teen-created program included sessions on songwriting, storytelling (which Maya led), climate change, immigration, sexual and gun violence prevention, and post-high school Israel travel opportunities, among others. Off-site visits to Dallas museums and other places of interest also were available.

In addressing her fellow NFTYites as a candidate for president, Maya stressed generational leadership, honoring past pioneers and looking to recognize potential future leaders. She looks forward to an “empowered, transparent, and vibrant movement,” working with the adult Reform movement leaders on transitions and changes in Mitzvah Corps, Kurz leadership camps, and other URJ youth programs. She hopes to establish “office hours” (using a Zoom link) for NFTY feedback and send out a monthly update.

Maya, mazel tov and may you go from strength to strength in this exciting year ahead.

“Our Turn”

Over the same President’s Day weekend, nine BBYO’ers traveled to Denver for International Convention, one of the largest Jewish communal events of the year. The Tucson delegates included Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA) Abba Godol chapter members Malachi Fisher, Richard Fisher, Gabe Friedman, Sam Goldfinger, and Aaron Green, and B’nai B’rith Girls (BBG) Kadimah chapter members Amari Lampert, Aliyah Markowitz, Sarah Randall, and Rachel Rudner.

Over 3,000 Jewish teens from 40 countries connected with their peers. The convention theme, “Our Turn,” addressed the opportunity for these young people, this post b’nai mitzvah audience, to be forces of change as leaders in their communities and society. Programming included over 50 service projects and leadership labs at sites throughout the Denver area. BBYO IC 2019 kicked off BBG’s 75th anniversary year, with sessions on topics such as women’s empowerment, leadership training, gender equality, and women’s rights. Attendees also were encouraged to bring an extra pair of socks to donate to those in need through the nonprofit organization, “Knock Knock Give a Sock.”

According to Sam Goldfinger, a Tucson Hebrew Acadamy graduate, and Catalina Foothills High School sophomore, “Many inspirational speakers had positive messages for us about empowerment and being proud of our Judaism. Charlie Jabaley told of how he went from being a 300-pound music producer diagnosed with a brain tumor to a Nike athlete. Both Chelsea Handler, comedian, actress and activist, and Yes Theory, an adventuring team of YouTubers who face their fears in pursuit of happiness, spoke about using our voices for good. For me, the most inspirational talk was by Cameron Kasky, the 18-year old teen advocate and co-founder of March for Our Lives. He impressed upon us that even though we are young, we can do so much to help the world and spark change.”

(L-R): Vicki, Sam, Julie, Hannah, and Dan Beskind at the University of Arizona McKale Memorial Center Courtesy Beskind Family)

Hometown visit by basketball walk-on

On Sunday, Feb. 24, Sam Beskind, a 2018 Catalina Foothills High School graduate and former member of their varsity basketball team, traveled to Tucson with his Stanford University basketball team as a preferred walk-on against the University of Arizona.

Some background: Sam won a gold medal with Team USA at the Maccabiah Games in Israel in 2017. He was a finalist for the Arizona Boys Basketball Player of the Year as a high school senior. At 6’4” and 193 pounds, Sam found the perfect fit academically and athletically at Stanford as a freshman walk-on, #24, in the guard position. According to the Stanford Athletics “Cardinal Capsule” series, which highlighted Sam before the regular-season opener, our athlete comes from a sports family — his mom, Vicki, was an Olympic high jumper, and his dad, Dan, played collegiate tennis.

Growing up, Sam was a huge UA fan. His room was decked out in Wildcat memorabilia before his mom re-did it with Stanford posters and pennants. About a decade ago, his dad built him an outdoor basketball court, painted red and blue with a big ‘A’ logo in the middle.

Stanford’s sojourn to Tucson was a quick trip, as the coaches try to have athletes miss as little school as possible. The team arrived Saturday afternoon and returned to Palo Alto right after the Sunday night game at McKale Center. Although the Cardinal lost to the Wildcats, 70-54, Sam enjoyed greeting his family and friends on his home turf.

Time to share

Spring into spring by keeping me posted of your activities before this column’s summer hiatus — 319-1112. L’shalom.