The sense of community and energy was palpable as more than 270 community members of all ages gathered on Friday, September 9 (13 Elul 5782) at the Tucson J for a communal Shabbat dinner and celebration. Guests lit candles as they arrived, before joining Shabbat services led by Congregations Beit Simcha, Bet Shalom, Chaverim, M’kor Hayim, and Kol Ami in designated spots around the J.
Community members caught up with old friends, made new connections, and shared in the ancient and timely traditions that unite us, while enjoying dinner and dessert prepared by Asher Amar Catering in the ballroom. The room was abuzz with children playing. Students from Hillel gathered around for a spontaneous and lively Happy Birthday/Yom Huledet Sameach for a community member celebrating her 97th birthday, and then, from their corner of the room led the after-meal grace/Birkat HaMazon with several community members, including some teens joining in song.
“The Tucson J seeks to offer both a physical space – and as a community connector – a launchpad to explore Jewish identity, culture, and spirituality through innovative programming and collaborations with partners who share in our mission to broaden communal harmony, right next door – and far beyond our campus at River and Dodge,” said Jennifer Selco, Director of Jewish Life and Learning at the Tucson J, adding that, “Lisa Schachter-Brooks of Congregation Bet Shalom, who was integral in the planning of this event, said, ‘Our community is stronger when we gather as one in celebration, prayer, and song,’ and it’s true. It’s about welcoming everyone, and coming together as a multitude of identities with a variety of backgrounds, voices, and experiences – and creating shared stories.”
“It is both an honor to have hosted, and to be part of such a vibrant Jewish community here in Southern Arizona. With a Rosh Hashanah on the horizon, the J is looking forward to sharing in many more opportunities to strengthen Jewish identity and celebrate Jewish Peoplehood together in the year to come,” said Todd Rockoff, President + CEO of the Tucson J.
Congregation Bet Shalom was awarded a grant from the Donald Baker Fund held at Jewish Philanthropies of Southern Arizona (JPSA) to assist in underwriting this event.