A Northwest Division is being formed by the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, with the intent to further connect Northwest Jews to their faith, the federation and one another.

To commence the expansion of services, the Jewish Federation is hosting "Taste the Southwest in the Northwest," a Tuesday, Feb. 23 event at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain.

"It's never been done before, to have a geographic division," said Anne Lowe, who has been named the Northwest Division staff person after working in an outreach capacity with Northwest Jewish Connections since 2006.

An advisory council is part of the expanding plan, and "we're looking for a space to have an office," Lowe said. It would be a gathering place to host book and Torah studies, "services if they'd like," the Rosh Chodesh gatherings of women at the first of the month and other events.

Through Northwest Jewish Connections, Lowe has worked to connect Jews in the Northwest "socially, culturally, with each other, and with the Jews of Tucson. Our job is to create community."

Potluck dinners, monthly book club meetings, friendship groups known as Chavurah, and other efforts have "built up a nice group of people, more than 400 Jewish families in the Northwest," Lowe said.

There are more, Lowe knows. "We've identified more than 1,200 families the federation has in the Northwest." A 2002 study indicated the Northwest has Tucson's fastest-growing population of Jews. The region is "huge," she continued. "People north of River think they're Northwest." It stretches to SaddleBrooke, where members of the faith gather regularly.

"We're missing a lot of folks," Lowe said. "We have a Jewish community, and we want them to feel affiliated with the Jewish Foundation … as well as each other."

Lowe lives in Marana's Sunflower community. "I really, really love getting the Jewish population together. I like putting a good foot forward for the Jewish population. We are nice people, we want to be a part of the community, we are not insular."

The Northwest Division is budgeted through a "Compelling Needs" grant from the Jewish Federation. It needs to establish itself financially. "We have to raise funds," Lowe said. That's part of the reason for the Feb. 23 kickoff.

Nathan Guttman, Washington bureau chief for The Jewish Daily Forward, speaks at the launch event. His topic is "The New U.S.-Israel Agenda: Iran, The Middle East and the Peace Process."

The event runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Dove Mountain members' grille, with Southwestern hors d'oeuvres and wine. Tickets are $20 per person, plus a 2010 campaign gift of $180 per household (which can be paid out quarterly, monthly, installments or by credit card). People may RSVP to Karen Graham at kgraham@jfsa.org, or by calling 577-9393.

Donna Levy is chairing the Northwest Division advisory committee in 2010, with Robert Gershon the vice chair. Stephen Saradnik chairs the Northwest Campaign. Helene Mittleman chairs Northwest Jewish Connections.

Lowe may be reached at alowe@jfsa.org, or by calling 481-3934. The Web site is jewishtucson.org.

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