Rabbi Michael Beyo

‘Tis the season to ask for tax credits. Every eligible organization is making their plea. I know most of the Jewish organizations and their leadership, and they all do avodat kodesh, holy work. I encourage you to support them.

As you know, every dollar counts, and your donation ensures the viability of a vibrant Jewish community.

So, why donate to the East Valley Jewish Community Center?

It’s far, there is another JCC and I haven’t heard about the EVJCC anyway.

Allow me to tell you about us. The EVJCC is not a typical JCC, we do not have a gym or a pool.

We are so much more.

First of all, we do not have membership dues — everyone is welcome and everyone belongs. In fact, we consider everyone a member of the EVJCC.

Our J is a center for Jewish engagement — providing hours of classes every week about Jewish text, history and culture. I invite you to participate in our classes. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they are completely virtual and you are welcome to join us. In addition, we offer programs on art, culture, parenting and genealogy — just to mention a few.

Our Klezmer Fest attracts hundreds of participants annually, along with our Israeli movies series, concerts, lectures about Israel and our Lone Soldier

support program.

Our JBox program provides free meals to low-income families, free lunch and snacks to low-income children enrolled in our childcare. We recently expanded this project by opening a food pantry to fight food insecurity.

CORE, our Community Outreach Relationship Engagement department, interacts with diverse faith, ethnic and community leaders throughout Greater Phoenix. We hold interfaith dialogue and discussions, conversations about race relations and interactions with political leaders here in Arizona. The Conversations with the Rabbi podcast, available from our website, shares some of these exchanges and you are welcome to listen anytime.

The Holocaust Education and Human Dignity department raises awareness of the Holocaust and the dangers of intolerance and hate. For the past 20 years, we have offered workshops to teachers, academic lectures, theatrical performances and art exhibits to the public and schools. Most recently, we added Auschwitz Virtual Live Tours, led by a docent from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. These tours are available for individuals and groups. Since we began these tours in March, we have provided Holocaust education to 16,000 people around the world. Additionally, we are working directly with school districts to provide these tours free of charge to their students in our effort to increase Holocaust education among the youngest generations.

You may have noted that I am not only the CEO of the J but also a rabbi. Why would a JCC hire a rabbi? Again, we are not your typical J.

As the rabbi of the EVJCC, I have been able to counsel and support members of our Jewish community who may not have anywhere else to go. I’ve been present for families to officiate weddings, funerals and support interfaith and unaffiliated families during life cycle events. I’ve conducted chaplaincy work for Jewish patients at various health care facilities not in the network of any Jewish agency. During COVID, I counseled countless seniors who felt alone, confused and scared. Without these sessions, these seniors may have been left without anyone to speak with or with whom to share their fears.

Yes, we are in the East Valley and you may not live nearby. But there are others — Jews and non-Jews alike — who benefit from our work.

Your tax credit donation is a sign that you support our work and our Jewish community. We are blessed to have a broad Jewish community, and when all its segments are thriving, we are all thriving; when each of us is strong, we are all strong.

So, please support all the Jewish organizations you are able to as we are all doing avodat kodesh. And please remember the EVJCC. JN

Rabbi Michael Beyo is the CEO of the East Valley JCC. Tax credit donations can be made at jcctaxcredit.org.