First Person

‘Greetings’ and mazel tov — why a nice Jewish boy enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1969

Bob Kovitz during his U.S. Army basic training at Fort Ord in Monterey, California, in 1969. Courtesy Bob Kovitz

Fifty years ago, I reported to the U.S. Army induction center in Los Angeles. My father, who was a World War II veteran, later described the experience of driving me to the center as the worst day of his life. Why was a Jewish graduate student from the University… Read more »

In 1944, she performed an opera at a concentration camp. 70 years later, I got to meet her.

Annie Cohen, right, met Holocaust survivor Ela Weissberger when the teen appeared in a New Orleans production of "Brundibar" in 2016. The children's opera by Jewish Czech composer Hans Krása was performed by the children of the Theresienstadt concentration camp, including Weissberger. (Courtesy of Cohen)

NEW ORLEANS (JTA) — Ela Weissberger, though tiny and elderly when I met her, was the strongest woman I have ever known. Her energy was indefatigable, her personality vibrant and sunny, her wit sharp and charming. Her magical rapport with children was undeniable. Ela was a Holocaust survivor, sent… Read more »

Fifth annual Ride for the Living affirms Jewish vitality today — in Poland

Tucsonans Boaz Cohon (front left) and Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon at the Ride for the Living in Krakow, Poland, June 29 (Rabbi Samuel Cohon)

This summer my son Boaz and I traveled to Poland for the great pleasure and privilege of participating in the Ride for the Living, a 55-mile bicycle ride from Auschwitz-Birkenau to the Jewish Community Center of Krakow, Poland, from the scene of the greatest destruction of our people to… Read more »

From darkness to light: Berlin-Budapest trip reveals a new Jewish generation

(L-R) Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona Board Chair Shelly Silverman, JFSA 2019 Campaign Chair Melissa Goldfinger, JFSA Senior Vice President Fran Katz, and JFSA Women’s Philanthropy Campaign Chair Leslie Glaze visit the Berlin Wall, July 15. (Melissa Goldfinger)

Each year, the Jewish Federations of North America invites professionals and lay leaders to participate in a mission that highlights the unique challenges, programs and impact of federations’ overseas funding. In mid-July, Melissa Goldfinger, Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona 2019 Campaign chair; Leslie Glaze, JFSA Women’s Philanthropy Campaign chair;… Read more »

Volunteering on IDF base, Tucsonan fulfills lifelong dream of living like a sabra

Tucsonan Charlotte Low with "the Boss" who oversaw her volunteer job on an Israel Defense Forces base.

This is not your worried bubbe’s idea of a tourist tour of the Holy Land. For that you get one picture on a camel (careful!) and stay in four-star hotels. If you crave an insider’s view, being a Volunteer For Israel is adventurous and transformational. Serious fun. My own… Read more »

Memories of childhood Passovers inspire classes at Tucson J

Jennifer Selco

On the day of the first seder, the smell of onions from my childhood home was noticeable from halfway down the block. Inside, you could hear the songs of Cindy Paley’s “Singing Seder” cassette, the pounding of walnuts, and laughter from a funny story just shared. My parents, grandparents,… Read more »

The Night I Learned No One Is Immune to School Violence

(Pixabay)

(Kveller via JTA) — The phone rang at midnight, jolting me awake. I smacked my husband in his sleep, annoyed that it was probably his office again, calling with some major network outage. Only it wasn’t his company; it was the local township’s police department, informing me, as a parent,… Read more »

Israel provides medical assistance and dignity across a war-torn border

Metal silhouettes of soldiers positioned as if they were protecting an abandoned Israeli outpost overlooking the border with Syria.

Driving up the mountainous road to Mt. Bental, I feel the temperature drop and the wind pick up as we reach the 3,800-foot peak where an abandoned Israeli army outpost, complete with bombed-out bunkers, sits. Anyone willing to ascend this mountain will be treated to a better understanding of… Read more »

My daughter’s doctor recommended plastic surgery. We said no way.

(Kveller via JTA) — After experiencing a yearlong medical crisis due to complications with ulcerative colitis, my daughter, Nava, made a complete recovery. Miraculously, after a tremendous amount of hard work, she resumed her life and was able to live it exactly as she had in the past. Now… Read more »

Men’s fishing trip a chance to share wisdom

Tucson’s Men’s Next Gen Group and Chai Life Men’s Group on a San Diego fishing boat. Back row (L-R): Rob Glaser, Alex Chaffin, David Goldstein, Gary Kippur, Nolan Shifren, Barry Baker, Christian Yoder, Jeff Katz, Matt Landau, Daniel Ash, Mike Ash, Doron Sears, Lex Sears, Paul Baker, Michael Shiner; front row: Tom Warne, Steve Silverman, Larry Selig, Josh Hurand, Jeff Wortzel, Bobby Present, Adam Goldstein, Stuart Mellan, Mitch Pozez, Ben Pozez, Josh Silverman, Ben Silverman, Damion Alexander, Todd Sadow

The Tucson Jewish community’s Men’s Next Gen group and the Chai Life Men’s Group took a weekend in San Diego Nov. 3-5 to build intergenerational relationships. While the trip included a fishing excursion (perhaps with a small wager on who would haul in the largest fish), great food, and… Read more »

Havdalah spice box reminder of father’s legacy of hope

An heirloom Havdalah spice box is displayed with photographs of Esther Blumenfeld’s late father, Rabbi Karl Richter. (Courtesy Esther Blumenfeld)

After the death of his youngest sister in Stuttgart, Germany, my father thought deeply about the meaning of life and death, and the idea of becoming a rabbi became a calling. The 17-year-old Karl Richter, with youthful enthusiasm, decided to do his university as well as rabbinical studies at… Read more »

Nations connect, learn at ‘Wicked Water Problems’ conference in Israel

Sharon Megdal, center, with fellow Central Arizona Project board members Jennifer Brown and Mark Taylor at the ‘Cutting-Edge Solutions to Wicked Water Problems’ conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, September 2017. (Courtesy Jennifer Brown)

I recently had the great honor and pleasure of co-chairing the international water conference “Cutting-Edge Solutions to Wicked Water Problems.” Held Sept. 10-11 at Tel Aviv University’s beautiful Porter School of Environmental Studies building, the conference was jointly convened by the American Water Resources Association and the Water Research Center… Read more »

Figuring out what Shemini Atzeret is. Finally.

I know something about most Jewish holidays. I can tell you that Hanukkah is about miracles, Passover is about slavery and freedom, and Shavuot is about cheesecake. (I have no idea why, but when it comes to matters of cheesecake, it is not mine to question.) The one holiday… Read more »

German heritage kindles journey of healing

Carolin Haase Atchison

For more than three years, I have been researching my family’s history — and I’m still at it. When I received the results of my DNA test a couple of years ago, I was surprised, like the actors in the Ancestry TV ads. Instead of being of mainly German… Read more »

Mission to Ukraine, Israel shows power of JFSA giving

Incoming Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona Campaign Chair Ronnie Sebold with Sonia, a teenage Ethiopian immigrant, at the Ben Shemen Youth Village in Israel on July 13 (Courtesy Ronnie Sebold)

A few months ago, I accepted the daunting responsibility to chair the 2018 campaign for the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona. I have been a staunch supporter of the Federation since I moved to Tucson 37 years ago, and having recently retired from Tucson Hebrew Academy as their director of… Read more »