Peer-to-Peer Hub Aims to ‘Connect Jewish Tucson’

(l/r) Amy Glass, JPSA VP of Strategy & Community Impact, and Jacob Meyer, former JPSA Community Impact Manager at the “Great Cookbook Swap” held April 7, 2024.

Jews in Southern Arizona have a new way to connect, explore, and engage with others in the local Jewish community: Connect Jewish Tucson.

The recently launched Connect Jewish Tucson website,, lets individuals create and promote events, find events they want to attend, and even invite people to go with them to an event.

As a peer-to-peer hub, CJT is different from but complementary to the Community Calendar, where organizations, synagogues, and Jewish agencies post events.

The Jewish Engagement Workgroup of the Jewish Community Ecosystem, made up of volunteers and professionals, proposed CJT to help counter social isolation and loneliness, which are widespread problems in the United States that pose “a serious threat to our mental and physical health,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC notes that social isolation is associated with health risks even if people don’t feel lonely.

Modeled on One Table, a national nonprofit that helps people find, share, and enjoy Shabbat dinners, the new CJT platform also comes in response to a 2020 community survey commissioned by Jewish Philanthropies of Southern Arizona (JPSA) that revealed a need for myriad approaches to Jewish spiritual, religious, and cultural life.

Members of JPSA’s Young Jews Old Pueblo advisory committee provided input for the site’s design, which is a customized or “white label” version of One Table’s software.

Posted events or “experiences,” as they are called on CJT, are open to Jewish-identifying individuals and families, those “with a Jewish affinity,” and community allies.

The experiences must have a Jewish element, but that can be as simple as Jews getting together around a common experience such as a hike or a game night, says Amy Glass, Vice President of Strategy and Community Impact at JPSA.

“We very much wanted this to be built by the community, for the community, in a way that would actually be something that they could use,” says Jacob Meyer, a former JPSA community impact manager and active volunteer.

People looking for experiences to join can search CJT’s four main categories, Community, Adults, Families, and Young Adults, or search by type of experience, with a dozen options including Culinary, Social, Jewish Learning, and Shabbat, Festivals, & Holidays.

As of March 25, there were 22 past and eight upcoming experiences offered by 24 unique hosts, with 166 reservations for 105 unique guests. Past experiences have included everything from young adult happy hours to an LGBTQIA+ healing event with rock painting.

Meyer adds that the platform “shifts engagement away from this kind of top-down traditional model to something that really puts that peer-to-peer engagement first.”

Young adults were invited to beta-test CJT and quickly provided “proof of concept,” says Glass.

“We’re in the process of launching the other demographic buckets and expect as the word gets out more experiences will be available,” she adds.

Besides being at ease with new technology, she says, young adults already had several organic groups creating events.

Eric Natter, a member of the Young Jews Old Pueblo advisory committee, is fully plugged into the local Jewish scene. He is a member of the University of Arizona Hillel board of directors, a co-leader of JPSA’s Young Men’s Group, and a former host with Tucson’s Moishe House Without Walls, which is part of an international effort to empower young Jewish adults to create programs for their community.

Before CJT was created, Natter says, to find events with his peers he had to check “a bunch of WhatsApp and Facebook groups” and email chains.

Natter has hosted two experiences through CJT, a New Year’s Eve party and a pickling class. Creating experiences on the platform is straightforward, he says.

For the pickling experience, which required jars, vegetables, and spices, he also took advantage of CJT’s microgrant program, which reimburses hosts up to $100.

The grants can help “incentivize people not only to create gatherings but to create them through the Connect Jewish Tucson platform,” Meyer says.

Natter is considering hosting a second pickling class. He also thinks the platform would be a great way to organize volunteer events, such as a Habitat for Humanity build.

He has attended CJT experiences other people have hosted, including a potluck Shabbat and several happy hours, and plans to participate in a matzo pizza-making party on April 28.

In contrast to Natter, who’s lived in Tucson for almost 18 years, Alyssa Katz, the matzo pizza experience host, moved here in April 2023.

Katz, who is also part of the Young Jews Old Pueblo advisory group, hosted three previous CJT experiences: a kugel bake-off around the High Holidays, a Hanukkah party with 30 guests, and a recent Shabbat dinner for 10.

Along with creating personalized events, people can use CJT to invite friends — or potential friends — to accompany them to large community events, such as the Israel Festival.

Participants look through kosher cookbooks during the “Great Cookbook Swap” held April 7, 2024, at Jewish Philanthropies of Southern Arizona. The event was created and promoted via Connect Jewish Tucson, a new community website.

“What we’ve learned from the work we’ve done around relationships and engagement is that people often want someone to go with them, that they are more hesitant to go by themselves,” Glass says.

All experiences on CJT must be open to the Jewish community, but they can be set as public, best for large events, or “public – host approval,” which is recommended if a host is opening their home to new people. JPSA can help hosts screen potential guests; the host’s address is not disclosed until they confirm an RSVP.

CJT’s potential is huge, Meyer says. As a lifelong member of Tucson’s Jewish community, he was surprised and delighted that some people who engaged with the site were new to him.

“It’s an exciting time for lay people who are excited about building community,” he says. With this new platform, “you can create the community that you want to see.”