The Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona will hold a drive-in event, “Celebrating Our Past — Creating Our Future,” on Tuesday, Nov. 17 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. to celebrate community, launch the 2021 annual campaign, and honor recently retired president and CEO Stuart Mellan and his wife, Nancy.
“Twenty-five years ago, Stuart was the perfect addition to our Jewish community. His sage-like leadership contributed so much and allowed our community to develop the great connectivity and cohesiveness we radiate today,” says Evenchik-Brav, who will emcee the event. “Combined with the support and love from Nancy, he just shined. I am honored to have them as my friends,” she adds.
Paul Baker, a longtime friend of Stu’s and JFSA supporter, adds, “I don’t know if the community can do enough to say thanks to Stu for his vision and the ability to bring consensus. Building a Jewish community is difficult and he’s made it look easy.”
In a year indelibly marked by pandemic, the Federation’s ambitious Nov. 17 soiree is an opportunity for the community to come together in security and comfort. Thoughtful COVID-19 precautions will be implemented to ensure the safety of all guests.
“I am so excited to have the opportunity to honor Stu and Nancy for their 25 years of leadership in our community with an in-person celebration despite the pandemic. We all need more heartwarming shared experiences these days and so I can’t wait to bring the entire community together (from the safety of their own cars) to mark the momentous occasion of Stu’s retirement,” says Graham Hoffman, president and CEO of the Federation and the Jewish Community Foundation.
The Nov. 17 event is free and open to all, but for security purposes, reservations are required by Nov. 16 at noon. In addition to other measures, social distancing will be observed — attendees will participate from within their own vehicles in staggered parking spaces, and masks will be required if venturing out.
“When we approached Stu about our desire to celebrate him and Nancy in person, he was not only willing but actually encouraged us to combine the event with a meaningful opportunity to advance JFSA’s mission. Stu and Nancy agreed that the launch of our 2021 annual campaign would be a very fitting tribute,” Hoffman says.
Launching the 2021 campaign
Karen Katz and Bruce Ash have stepped up to co-chair the 2021 campaign, which funds social service and educational programs in Southern Arizona, Israel and around the world. Local agencies that receive allocations from the campaign include Jewish Family & Children’s Services, the Jewish History Museum/Holocaust History Center, the Tucson Jewish Community Center, Tucson Hebrew Academy, and University of Arizona Hillel Foundation. The campaign also provides support to local synagogues.
“We have to be creative and innovative in connecting our community members safely during these times and along with our small but very able core staff, many energetic volunteers assist in this work every single day,” says Katz, who looks forward to a safe and meaningful event on Nov. 17.
“With Stu’s guidance, we have grown from strength to strength, and our new combined Foundation and Federation CEO, Graham Hoffman, is very capably and professionally leading us forward,” Katz says.
Campaign co-chair Brush Ash is bullish for the Federation’s philanthropic future, calling the approximately $3.8 million raised in 2020 an incredible achievement, “particularly because of the virus and how it impacted events and our personal meetings with folks. We think that we’re going to look at a much bigger year in 2021 because the needs are so significant within the community, as well as nationally and overseas.
“We have a generous community,” Ash says. “There’s always needs, but when we have the sort of emergency that we’ve had this past seven or eight months, you see the true quality of the folks who make up the Jewish community.”
Federation staff and volunteers are looking forward to their work implementing community-wide initiatives to support, sustain, and enhance Jewish life, drawing on data collected in the community visioning and planning process. With excitement and input from thousands of community members at their backs, the team comes into the Nov. 17 event eager to launch the campaign and begin building upon existing strengths in our community.
“Celebrating Our Past – Creating Our Future” will be a chance to find connection through togetherness, honor a quarter century of Nancy and Stu’s dedication, and kick off a new year of the Federation annual campaign. Preparations are well underway for Federation’s biggest event of the year.