THA Passport2Peace teaches kids importance of giving

On Monday Sept. 18, Tucson Hebrew Academy held its annual “Passport2Peace” fundraising event, which educates students about local charitable organizations and allows them to donate funds to their favorite charities.

Students prepare care packages for hurricane victims and the Primavera Foundation, Casa Maria, Tu Nidito, and Kids of Steele at Diamond Children’s Medical Center at Tucson Hebrew Academy’s Passport2Peace event Sept. 18. (David J. Del Grande/AJP)

Informational booths are set up throughout THA’s courtyard. Professional or student liaisons explain how the charities help the community.

When the afternoon starts, students are given  tokens, pre-purchased by their families, which hold a monetary value. Kids from every grade level then visit the various kiosks, learn about the organizations, enjoy activities, and decide where they’ll show their financial support.

Tucson Hebrew Academy students learn about Sister Jose Women’s Center and participate in a budgeting activity showing the limitations of working a minimum wage job at the school’s Passport2Peace event Sept. 18.

Last year, more than $1,800 was donated by students to a dozen local non-profits including Tu Nidito, Youth on their Own, The Wounded Warriors Project, Ben’s Bells, The Trevor Project, Gabrielle’s Angels, the Hermitage Cat Shelter, and Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund. More than a dozen organizations signed up this year, including the Jewish History Museum/Holocaust History Center, the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, The Trevor Project, Ronald McDonald House Charities, and Sister Jose Women’s Center.

Students designed colorful greeting cards, which will accompany care packages, for kids at Tu Nidito and the Kids of Steele at the Diamond Children’s Medical Center. At least $10,000 has been donated to local non-profits since the event started 10 years ago.

One of the core values of the THA is teaching the importance of the Jewish concept of tikkun olam or healing the world, says Head of School Jon Ben-Asher. Through service learning activities, “Passport2Peace” and other strategies, students not only learn that they have a moral imperative to make this world a better place, but actively participate in doing so, he says.

Originally published on Sept. 22, 2017.


Greetings Tour

Aching for mercy, my shell wondered two blocks west of Fourth Avenue. Time stopped that day; weeks after I noticed the Greetings Tour piece.

Muralist Victor Ving and photographer Lisa Beggs make up this RV-propelled mural project. The pair are traveling around the United States beautifying cities from coast-to-coast. Their stateside trek began in April 2015.

Ving is a former graffiti artist from Queens, New York. I caught him on the humble when he finished Tucson’s alleycat aerosol fresco. He’s drawing inspiration from Americana postcard art used between the 1930s and ’50s. I was excited when Ving told me local muralist Rock ‘Cyfi’ Martinez helped this piece along.

The day I ventured back to snap a few flicks, my soul needed a taste of the supernatural. The arts always provide.

A high school student from Des Moines, Iowa just copped a new DSLR. Here’s Dan in action, capturing a short reel for his first video project. He was all shy smiles when I introduced myself. His mom was supportive and genuinely bored, clicking a few photos with her mobile. It was a joy to see someone creating just because, then I realized we were one of same that day. Thanks, Dan.

I was losing light fast. Up with my bike, away with my phone and in a flash the evening escaped. My heartache dissipated as the night sky bled heavily overhead.

Summer stroll through New York City

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Why, and how, do you love a city so large, I’ve been asked. Since my first visit, as well as every other proceeding date, New York City’s immeasurable size remains one its most attractive qualities. Anonymity. Beautiful anonymity, how dearly I regard your humility. Disappearing within the ranks. Individualistic invisibility. Anonymity provides such a loving and infinite freedom for people like me — the difference between star gazing and believing you are seeing the world’s ceiling versus just the start of our universe.


The bustle of Canal Street always gets me lifted. My soul’s artery explodes, clashing with the limitations of my chest, ribs. Heart thunderstorms. A car horn blasts. Humid steam stains your skin. Sun bakes and wets your brow. Then, the light changes and traffic crams the avenue. Packed together we are, body seas. You want smoke, asks a local block-locker. Anything harder, he furthers. Nah, dude, I’m good, without eye contact. No fault either way. It’s just a grind. No different than most we revere in our cutthroat capitalist society.


Blare, blare. Horns continue their gunfight, ricocheting through the avenue. Ears, other vehicles getting vicked. Twenty years later, it feels like the same people are banging this strip. Knock-off T-shirts, cologne, handbags, watches, gold chains, mobile phones, electronics ranging from clock radios to earbuds, sunglasses, fatigues — name it, Canal’s got you.

By the time I left the five boroughs my dearest friend hit me up, exclaiming, I’m glad you made time for her. Anyone rooted in the City understands the pronoun. A relationship with New York City is a volatile romance with a fierce, living organism. Some days she welcomes you with blistering, lustful warmth. The next, she crushes you and devours your remains, laughing away her smirk.


There’s no reason to explain how it feels to leave your first love. But no matter where I’ve lived the City has been my benchmark. I dream about her. On occasion, I find the busiest block in my new town, squint my eyes and imagine the surrounding sounds are home — calling me back. Last night, I was looking into the midnight sky, tracing the facade of the tallest apartments on campus with my agitated eyes. Only glancing ahead, focused on the slashing wind; following a stranger’s tail lights into my dust storm.


Sun Tran ride guide, and the Tucson Arts Brigade


I worked with Michael B. Schwartz, director of the Tucson Arts Brigade, while writing for the Arizona Daily Star. When we first met, Schwartz spoke about a mural arts program he was trying to launch with the support of city leaders. The program had two goals; abate graffiti and beautify the city. He brightened, smiling wide, we he described his idea and worked laboriously to make it come alive.

Around the time these eight murals were completed, the city was looking for some photos of the successful, civically engaging project — and more specifically the local transit authority was designing its new schedule. Sun Tran wanted some shots and Schwartz says he knew who to call.

To see this program take off is one thing, but to play a small role in promoting this wonderful and invaluable project is another.

Photos from an ‘Old Neighborhood’

Tucson’s Barrio Viejo, or Old Neighborhood, is arguably the prettiest place to take photographs in Southern Arizona’s art-centric metropolis. The historic, adobe structures line a few narrow avenues between downtown and the Old Pueblo’s South Side. Since 1971, a concerted effort has been made to restore and revitalize our local, picturesque city centre. Whether you’re new to town, simply visiting or have created generations of history here, keeping Barrio Viejo healthy feels like an invaluable investment.


Teatro Carmen


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Tucson reputation as ‘world-class destination’ gets boost from new murals

Rocky Martinez painted the ‘Goddess of Agave’ mural on the Benjamin Supply building at 440 N. 7th Ave. (Photo: David J. Del Grande ; Mural © 2016 Rocky Martinez/Tucson Arts Brigade)

Bright colorful new murals scattered around downtown will do more than beautify Tucson — they’ll provide an economic boost by helping to brand Tucson as an exotic, world class destination, and by reducing the money spent on graffiti abatement, says Michael B. Schwartz, director of the nonprofit Tucson Arts Brigade, which facilitates the City of Tucson Mural Program.

“We did some surveying,” he says, and found that dozens of people have been coming downtown daily just to look at the murals, often staying to dine or shop.

Written by Phyllis Braun, Arizona Jewish Post executive editor. Find the entire article here.

Original publication date, June 24, 2016.