Published in the Arizona Jewish Post August 17, 2007.
Makom Simcha (Place of Joy), a new alternative congregation in Northwest Tucson, focuses upon Chasidic storytelling and music to "bring people closer to G-d, each other and creation through an open, creative and joyous expression of Judaism," says Rabbi Menashe Bovit. He describes the fledgling congregation as "transdenominationa," welcoming Jews of all backgrounds to participate in services. "In my view," he explains, "each one of the established Jewish movements is a piece of a puzzle, a piece of the truth. A transdenominational perspective feels that it's okay to sample from the different movements and also to be creative and generate a new perspective that amplifies the tradition in a positive way."
The Chicago-born rabbi developed a fondness for Tucson as a psychology student at the University of Arizona in his early twenties. The son of a Holocaust survivor, Bovit was raised in an observant home, but despite a strong sense of pride in his Jewish heritage, he found it difficult to connect with Judaism in his youth. Of his early Jewish education, he says, "We learned how to read Hebrew, but there was no attempt at making Judaism a relevant experience. There was no fun in it. It was basically an obligatory experience." At the UA, his alienation from Judaism was turned around when his girlfriend brought him to a concert of "Singing Rabbi" Shlomo Carlebach. He went on to become a student of Carlebach, who ordained him as a rabbi in 1991. During his years studying with the Chasidic rabbi, says Bovit, he was inspired by Carlebach's kindness.
Bovit has served as a congregational rabbi in various communities throughout the United States, including Reno, Nev., and Ft. Collins, Colo. He returned to Tucson several months ago and has since worked toward establishing Makom Simcha. The congregation held its first informal chavurah on Aug. 8, with almost 40 people in attendance. Another chavurah will be held Wed., Aug. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the Northwest YMCA located at 7770 N. Shannon Rd.
The congregation also plans to hold alternative Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services at the YMCA. The Rosh Hashana gathering is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m. A Kol Nidre "Service of Forgiveness and Healing" will be held on Friday, Sept. 21 at 6 p.m. For more information, call 866-528-9253.