Friends of the J

Throughout The J you can see the happy faces of people positively impacted by the generous support of our community! You can also see the continued need for a Community Center that is safe and welcoming for all.

Your support provides scholarships and discounts to individuals who need it most!

You are going to read two amazing stories from Athena and Arzu. The J was here for them when they needed help, and your continued support ensures individuals from different financial backgrounds can transform their lives.

Meet Athena


Athena Atkins was at a precarious point in her life. When her daughter Ariyah was born, her partner rejected fatherhood and made them the victims of domestic violence. Athena had left behind stability in another city to be with him and attend The University of Arizona in Tucson. Without a support network to turn to, Athena found herself moving into a domestic abuse shelter with her infant, where they lived for months while Athena struggled to get on her feet and continue as a full-time student at the UA.

As a recipient of the Single Mom Scholar scholarship, Athena was referred to the Tucson J by her scholarship advisor at Interfaith Community Services. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we were able to offer a financial aid package that made it possible for Ariyah to attend our Early Childhood Education program. Having a safe and stimulating place for Ariyah during the work day helped give Athena the tools she needed to stabilize her situation:

“I can do it [my degree] because no matter what, Ariyah is getting a great education from the amazing individuals who work here at the J.”

Not only does Athena appreciate the value of having trustworthy childcare at a critical time, but she truly values the high quality of the play-based education her little girl gets at the Tucson J.

“She’s getting stimulus I can’t provide at home. And at this age, that’s what you want for them, because their minds are little sponges. It has been life changing for us.


Meet Arzu and Her Family


Arzu attended Camp 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 her parents 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.

The family experienced anti-refugee sentiment in other places, and one of Arzu’s sisters has a scar from where she was hit by a thrown rock. Fortunately, however, they have found a welcoming community in Tucson, including a strong bond with their neighbors Tamara and Gil, who have been helping the family get settled in Tucson.

Arzu has become very good friends with Tamara’s eight-year-old daughter, Mila, and the girls enjoy doing all kinds of things together, including attending Camp J, thanks to a J scholarship and a generous member’s gift that covered the cost of Arzu’s camp experience. When asked about camp, Arzu said (in English, which she has been acquiring quickly):

“It’s so cool! That’s all I can say!”

Arzu hopes to attend Camp J next year, and she wants to be here for the Maccabiah Games: she loves the team spirit, the cheers, and the competition. She also loves the gym, the playground, the pool, and—most of all—the friends she made.

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