Tucson peace officer’s trip bolsters regional bond with Israel

Israel’s intelligence community told a cohort of volunteer first responders that it is most concerned about a new war with Syria, says Jay Korza, a sergeant with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. If that threat materializes, Korza will be there to help.

Korza traveled to Israel this summer to take part in the Emergency Volunteers Project, which trains American firefighters and first responders to assist during a national emergency. Since its founding, the program has trained 1,000 emergency workers, including 39 American firefighters — several from Southern Arizona — deployed to Israel during 2016’s operation “Water and Fire.”

Korza, 44, is a 17-year veteran with the sheriff’s department. For the last decade, he has been a member of the Pima Regional SWAT team, where one of his duties is serving as a Tactical EMS medic. He also teaches paramedic training courses for Pima Community College’s Paramedic Associate of Applied Science program.   

He heard about the EVP initiative through a coworker, and he and his wife decided to check out an informational seminar last year hosted by the Tucson Jewish Community Center.

If Korza is ever deployed by EVP, he’ll be able to perform the same level of patient care he enjoyed as a corpsman, a fact that ultimately sold him on the program. Although Korza’s wife does not want him entering a war zone, he may utilize his negotiating skills in hopes of working alongside the Israel Defense Forces.

“If an IDF ambulance shows up at the hospital, I’m probably going to be on it when they go back out,” Korza says with a laugh.

Read the entire Arizona Jewish Post article here. Originally published on Dec. 15, 2017.

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Teaching pioneer Kenneth Goodman believes education is key to social equality

The most gratifying aspect of teaching is watching your students move toward their own greatness, says Kenneth S. Goodman, a professor emeritus at the University of Arizona department of language, reading and culture.

“I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but I’m also proud of what the people who I’ve had a hand in educating have done — it gives me hope,” says Goodman.

Goodman, who turns 90 this month, has spent more than half a century improving the way educators teach and understand early childhood development. He’s an educational pioneer, who is best known for founding the whole language approach to reading.

According to the Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development, the whole language approach is an instructional philosophy on teaching based on three constructivist assumptions: learning cannot be separated from its context; each learner’s purpose for learning is integral to what is learned; and knowledge gained is socially constructed through negotiation, evaluation, or transformation.

Teaching eighth graders sparked Goodman’s love for the classroom. Adolescents are developing not only as people, but as thinkers, so teachers are afforded a wonderful opportunity of influence, says Goodman. “It’s a very moral age, and that’s the age when everything has to be fair.”

Read the entire Arizona Jewish Post article here. Originally published on Dec. 15, 2017.

Artful touches in new building express Federation mission

When the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona began designing its new building, not only did Federation leaders want to modernize their workspace, they wanted to create a sacred landmark, says President and CEO Stuart Mellan.

“We really wanted the building to be a place of meaning,” says Mellan. “We understood that we’re creating an office building, but we wanted some of the architectural elements and the art to reinforce the sacred and inspirational aspects of our work.”

The Harvey and Deanna Evenchik Center for Jewish Philanthropy, which houses the Federation and the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona, officially opened its doors on Oct. 15.

The planners designed the new building with four symbolic and functional factors in mind: unity, keeping the Federation and Foundation centralized in one, large space; visibility, having the building act as a landmark that signifies the vitality of the Federation and Foundation; security, providing an adequately secured office; and professionalism, creating an upgraded facility that will provide a modern and comfortable setting to host community events.

The Federation provides essential programming for the Jewish community in Tucson, as well as for its stateside and international partners, says Deanna Evenchik. She believes the Federation is boundless, so naming its artistic centerpiece “Infinite Possibilities” is pitch-perfect.

“When I saw it for the first time, I actually walked into the building and I cried — I got very verklempt,” she says.

Read the entire Arizona Jewish Post article here. Originally published on Dec. 1, 2017.

Tucson restaurateurs highlight joys of community in busy winter season

A handful of Tucson’s restaurateurs are working through the holidays, but instead of dreading their blistering schedule they’re welcoming in the busy season. Filling your plates and bowls warms their souls.

Jason McCarty, a managing partner at Eclectic Cafe, says he sees the 37-year-old eatery as an unofficial anchor of Tucson’s eastside. Moving forward, McCarty hopes Eclectic stays vibrant and continues to grow without losing its “family feel.”

Eclectic has served three generations of regular customers, says McCarty. Their dedicated staff play an integral role at the restaurant, he says, and watching some of their servers get hired at age 17, then work their way through college has been an honor. “And the customers love hearing about their progress.”

“After the consistency of the food, that’s what makes our place different — the relationships the customers have with the staff,” says McCarty.

Tucson’s seasonal residents will make Eclectic their first stop when they return here for the winter, popping in to make sure the eatery didn’t fall apart, says McCarty with a laugh.

“We love our regular customers, we love to see new customers,” says McCarty. “We love this time of year.”

Although Eclectic will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, they will take special orders for holiday meals for pick-up until about a week prior. 

On Monday, Dec. 4, Pastiche Modern Eatery will host its first cocktail pairing dinner, says manager Chris Kroebig. Everyone does a wine or beer pairing event, Kroebig explains, but Pastiche decided to mix it up and show off their liquor selection, which includes 250 types of whiskey. The event will kick off at 6 p.m., cost $60 per person and $110 for couples and reservations are required. Many of the libations will feature products from locally owned distilleries.

Kroebig says as one of the founding partners of the Tucson Originals Restaurants, Pastiche strives to build up independent dining entrepreneurship and local farmers in every way possible.

During the bustling holiday season, their clientele is always very thankful that Pastiche is open, he says. “People definitely appreciate it, and we get a little flutter in our hearts when we hear it.”

It’s a family oriented atmosphere at Pastiche, says Kroebig, explaining many regular customers have invited staff members to weddings and birthday parties, because of the relationships that are built at the local eatery.

The reverse is also true.

“I’ve had people here that I don’t know other than at the restaurant invited to my mother’s birthday party last year,” he says. “And it feels pretty good.”

Read about a handful of other Tucson eateries here. Originally published on Nov. 17, 2017.

CAI scholar-in-residence to explore Kabbalah’s power, mystery

When medieval Christians claimed that Jewish history and religious practice was in decline, the Kabbalah, a mystical school of thought in Judaism, provided a powerful reimagining of Judaism, says Hartley Lachter, Ph.D., associate professor of religion studies at Lehigh University.

“Kabbalah argues that there is this secret way in which Judaism is not only a relevant religion, but the central religion — thanks to which, the entire universe itself continues to exist,” says Lachter. “And that it’s by virtue of Jewish religious practice that the unity of God is maintained.”

Kabbalah is an esoteric and secret language that attempts to explain the relationship between the divine and human worlds. 

Lachter is the 2017 scholar-in-residence at Congregation Anshei Israel, who will lead multiple community events from Nov. 9-11.

Read the entire Arizona Jewish Post article here. Originally published on Oct. 3, 2017. Photograph by Samuel David Henry.

In new book, victims of chlorine bomb, anti-Semitic attack, find healing and hope

During the early morning hours of Aug. 2, 2009, Myles Levine was jolted out of bed by the screams of his wife, Karen. Their front and garage doors were sealed shut. Globs of motor oil, paint, and foam peanuts were strewn along their walkway and driveway. A putrid chemical smell filled the air, emanating from a chlorine bomb that was detonated hours earlier. The improvised weapon produced a cloud that stretched almost a mile wide, forcing an evacuation of the neighborhood.

As the chaotic scene unfolded, the Levines were sure that Todd Russell Fries had attacked them again.

“It’s the same thing that was done to us in Dove Mountain,” says Myles Levine, recalling what he said to the 911 operator.

The couple, along with co-author Dan Baldwin, wrote, “The Levine Project: Fighting Back Against a Campaign of Terror,” which chronicles their years-long journey dealing with a vengeful contractor. The book was released on Aug. 27 by Trafford Publishing.

The Levines hired Fries — former owner of Burns Power Washing, a well-known Tucson business at the time — to resurface their driveway at the beginning of 2007.

On the morning of Nov. 1, 2008, the Levines discovered their home had been vandalized. Motor oil, grease, feces, dead animal carcasses, and foam packing peanuts were littered across their driveway and front lawn. Swastikas and anti-Semitic slurs were spray painted on their garage. 

Within two months of the first incident, the Levine’s moved to a gated community near the Omni National Golf Course. The Levines were attacked at their new home less than a year after the first occurrence. Those crimes would lead to the arrest and conviction of Fries, and consecutive sentences in federal and state prison.

Read the entire Arizona Jewish Post article here. Originally published on Oct. 20, 2017.

AP reporter, a THA alum, to keynote event honoring Gasches

Tucson Hebrew Academy’s annual Tikkun Olam Celebration will honor Danny and Janis Gasch for their continued service to the local and global Jewish community.

Jon Ben-Asher, head of school at THA, says it’s a great honor to recognize the Gaschs this year, because of their involvement and commitment to Tucson’s Jewish community.

“Danny and Janis Gasch exemplify the concept of tikkun olam — being a light unto the world and making it a better place,” says Ben-Asher. “In addition to the many other organizations and people they have supported throughout the years, their service to THA has included essential leadership, mentoring and advising, as well as training and providing direct services to our students for hearing evaluations.”

THA alumnus Josh Lederman, a foreign affairs and national security reporter at the Associated Press, is this year’s keynote speaker, who says it’s flattering to be acknowledged and a great honor to give back to THA.

“I think THA has recognized the way its alumni have tried to go out into the world and make a positive difference, in different ways, and that’s something that I’m proud to be able to represent,” says Lederman.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to reconnect with the issues that are on the minds of the people who formed the community that raised me,” he adds.

Read the entire Arizona Jewish Post here. Originally published on Oct. 20, 2017.

‘Stumbling stone’ gives family overdue closure

Active remembrance can provide an alternative to warfare, and taking pause to acknowledge as well as consider human tragedies may force us to search for peaceful means, says Bertie Levkowitz-Herz.   

“You only have losers with war, and killing makes no sense,” she says. “There’s got to be another way to solve differences and be a little more tolerant of people.”

Gunter Demnig, a Cologne-based artist who is not Jewish, designed the Stolpersteine, or stumbling stones, project in 1993. The brass plaques that commemorate victims of the Nazis are installed in the street, in front of the person’s last known residence or place of business.

Levkowitz-Herz attended a Stolpersteine ceremony in Holland this summer that honored her uncle, Ibertus Magnus, who was arrested by the Gestapo for “political speech” at the end of 1941. During a business trip, Magnus shared his opinion about Adolf Hitler with another train passenger, who was a Nazi sympathiser — whether he was baited into the conversation or not is unknown. He was murdered at Buchenwald concentration camp at age 24. Levkowitz-Herz was born eight weeks after his death, and was named in honor of her uncle.

Read the entire Arizona Jewish Post article here. Originally published on Oct. 6, 2017.

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.

UA telehealth pioneer sees program thriving

When it comes to healthcare in rural areas, the overarching question is how to level the playing field between geographically isolated healthcare facilities and their urban counterparts, says Ronald S. Weinstein, director of the Arizona Telemedicine Program at the University of Arizona.

That’s exactly why the Arizona Telemedicine Program was launched, he says.

Telemedicine is the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology. When the telemedicine industry began, the majority of the companies were university-based, but the trend has since shifted into the private-sector, he says. 

“And I think that where you’re going to see acceleration, or we are seeing acceleration, are the large integrated healthcare systems, which have lots of rural sites and lots of technology,” says Weinstein. “They’re trying to level the quality throughout their entire systems.”

The Arizona Telemedicine Program, a branch of the UA’s Health Sciences Department, was co-founded in 1996 by Weinstein and Robert Burns, a member of the Arizona Corporation Commission. The program is designed to provide telemedicine services, distance learning, training in informatics (the science of processing data), and telemedicine technology assessment capabilities to communities throughout the state.

The array of specialties in telemedicine can be broken down into three major application categories, Weinstein explains: gap services, where, for instance, a rural hospital will have remote access to a specialist who may not work in-house; urgent services, which can save lives remotely when time is of the essence; and mandated services, such as entitlement health services that are required by law for prisons and jails.

Read the entire Arizona Jewish Post article here. Originally published on Sept. 22, 2017.