Another awesome Sukkot event with our friends next door at Tucson Hebrew Academy. Just as a reminder, the J will be closing early on Sunday and be closed Monday as we conclude the High Holidays and observe Shemini Atzeret!
Today we'd like to introduce you to Shahd Baeiji, a member of our community who is benefiting from the warm welcome she receives at the J each day.
Through an Arabic interpreter, Shahd tells us how her family (including her four children) left Syria eight years ago, after the war began. To escape the violence, they fled to Jordan where they lived for four years, but they were met with much anti-refugee sentiment.
Shahd has siblings seeking refuge in Jordan and Turkey and two sisters still living in Syria. When given the choice to relocate, Shahd’s family chose the United States over Canada because they had family members already living here.
That’s how Shahd found herself in Tucson three years ago and now she happily exclaims that “We feel like we were born here.”
Through a partnership with the International Refugee Committee, Shahd was able to offer a Syrian cooking class at The J. She was scared and nervous (especially since she wears a hijab), but she was able to successfully lead the class and teach about Syrian food and culture and her story as a refugee through the help of an interpreter.
Remembering that day, she remarks on how the students paid close attention to her, the sadness and happiness visible on their faces as they empathized with her lessons. After that boost in confidence at The Tucson J, Shahd wanted to get more involved.
She enrolled her son in the Early Childhood Education program and soon found part time work there, as well. Shahd also likes to work out at the gym with her daughter on most days.
All the good things about America are at the JCC!” Shahd proclaims enthusiastically, citing the kindness she receives from all the staff, who go out of their way to greet her warmly, compliment her hijab, and inquire about her family every time they see her.
You can make a difference for community members like Shahd by becoming a Friend of the J today. Visit tucsonjcc.org/friends-of-the-j to make a tax deductible donation.
Today we'd like to introduce you to Arzu Nooroozi and her family!
Arzu, age 11, attended camp at The Tucson J for two weeks this summer, and quickly became known for her sunny disposition and friendly demeanor.
Arzu's family is originally from a suburb of Kabul, but have been seeking refuge around the world since the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan 35 years ago. They lived in Iran and in Turkey before seeking asylum in the United States in order to get better therapy and care for Arzu’s twin brother, who has a disability.
Sadly, the family experienced anti-refugee sentiment in Iran, and one of Arzu’s sisters has a scar from where she was hit by a thrown rock. In contrast, the family has found a warm and welcoming community in Tucson, including a strong bond with their next-door neighbors.
The neighbors, Tamara and Gil, have been helping the family overcome the language barrier, and also assist with transportation, as Tucson can be a difficult place to get around without a car—especially in the summer.
Arzu and Tamara’s 8 year old daughter, Mila, are very closer, so naturally the girls were hopeful that they could attend Camp J together this year. They did, thanks to a J scholarship and the generous donation of the remainder of cost made by a member.
When we asked Arzu what she thought of her experience at Camp J, she said, (in English, which she has been acquiring quickly) “It’s so cool! That’s all I can say!”
She goes on to say she loves the gym, the playground, the pool and most of all, the friends she made. If she can come back to Camp J next year, she wants to be here for Maccabiah Games again; she loves the team spirit, the cheers and the competition. When Arzu grows up she wants to be a flight attendant so she can use her language skills and continue to travel the world.
You can provide life changing experiences for children like Arzu by becoming a Friend of the J! Visit tucsonjcc.org/friends-of-the-j to make a tax deductible donation today.
The J will close today at 4 pm and remain closed tomorrow, October 9, for Yom Kippur. If you are observing the holiday by fasting, we wish you an easy fast! G’mar chatima tovah, may you be inscribed in the book of life.
For information and resources about Yom Kippur, visit our holiday page below!