Tucson native Rabbi Jennifer Krause coined the term, "The Book of Yes," as a framework for embracing the future. A product of Arizona's much-accomplished Sarver family, Rabbi Krause guides our response to Jewish tradition’s prayer to be inscribed in the Book of Life during the Days of Awe. She inspires us to embrace the unknown with a sense of wonder and affirmation. Our approach to the future, she tells us, defines “how we rise, roll, surprise ourselves with courage, creativity, power and resilience. And we will do so by saying yes.”
Our Federation, now in its 65th year, aspires to “say yes.” Tucson’s rich Jewish history dates to well before the 1910 establishment of the first synagogue in Arizona – now the site of our Federation’s new community partner, the Jewish History Museum. Our current mayor, Jonathan Rothschild, formerly the Federation’s Jewish Community Relation’s Chair, is the fourth Jewish mayor out of Tucson’s last six mayors. Nonetheless, with a community of roughly 25,000 Jews in a metropolitan area of just over 1 million, Tucson is a town of newcomers. Federation’s 2002 Jewish Community Study noted that 38% of the Jewish community had arrived in the 10 years prior to the study.
And so we are very clear that we must engage our community’s newcomers by saying “yes” – and that’s what we have done. Our Federation said “yes” when we established LEAF (the Local Emergency Assistance Fund) in response to the economic downturn in 2008, and we said “yes” by maintaining the $100,000 annual LEAF budget to respond to the most vulnerable members of our Jewish community. Our Women’s Philanthropy Mitzvah Magic program, 30 circles of women who “adopted” 30 mostly single mother-led Jewish families in need, is another way we are taking care of each other.
We said “yes” to bridge-building in our community when we established the only Latino-Jewish Teen Coalition in the U.S. – a program that brings teens to Washington, D.C., as the culmination of a yearlong civics responsibility course. We say “yes” to deepening connections to Israel though our Weintraub Israel Center, a partnership between our Federation and JCC, and through our Partnership2gether Project in Kiryat Malachi and Hof Ashkelon, Israel, in conjunction with the Phoenix and Seattle Federations. We said “yes” to inclusivity when we established the LGBT Jewish Inclusion Project, one of only two such Federation-sponsored projects in the nation, and by opening our Northwest Federation satellite office in Oro Valley – a fast-growing suburban area.
We say “yes” to Jewish education through our Hebrew High, co-sponsored by local congregations, and via adult education co-sponsored by the University of Arizona’s Center for Judaic Studies. We have said “yes” to repairing the world by adopting a local public elementary school in a high-poverty area, where we provide after-school tutoring and Friday food packs to 65 youngsters who otherwise would go hungry on weekends.
Our Federation’s reach is due to our partnerships with our remarkable beneficiary agencies and community synagogues. With the support of our Jewish Community Foundation, our Federation has affirmed these partnerships by providing additional financial support to several agencies during the past several years, resulting in an even more vibrant service-delivery system.
In the end we know that strong communities must be created anew by each generation. In a world dominated by change, thanks to the extraordinary support of people like you, we can embrace this challenge with a resounding “yes!”