Stories of Inspiration
Project Inspire Arizona was created to ignite and empower the Arizona Jewish Community to build a grassroots movement of mutual inspiration through learning and experiential Judaism. Our mission is to create a dedicated group of men and women that grow together with their fellow Jews through learning, social programs and trips to Israel.
See just some of the local members of our Project Inspire community and read their stories about what ignites and inspires their Jewish lives.
Meet Julie and Jeremy
Julie is a health transformational coach, and Jeremy owns his own IT recruiting company and is currently developing online software to serve his niche. Julie is from Pittsburgh and Jeremy is from Cleveland though they are almost native Arizonans as they have been living in Arizona for nearly 20 years. They have three boys: Sammy, 15; Andrew, 14; and Mathew, 10. They met while on vacation at Club Med in Mexico and still love to travel. The family has visited 16 European countries in the past four years and Jeremy has documented their experiences via a travel blog for his friends and family. Sammy and Andrew are at Phoenix Country Day for high school, having spent K-8 grades at Pardes Jewish Day School, and Mathew is currently a 5th grader at Pardes. Julie is actively involved with Shabbat Project Arizona organizing a Friday night Shabbat dinner in conjunction with the worldwide Shabbat to “keep it together.” Julie noted that her Jewish Women's Renaissance Project trip in the summer of 2017, led by Kim Subrin, was one of the most impactful experiences of her life. The family recently joined Congregation Beth Tefillah and are learning more about Judaism with Rabbi Allouche and several Israeli shlichim. They are charter members of the Valley of the Sun JCC and are active participants in community events.
Meet Alejandra and Alex
Alejandra and Alex recently moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, from Minneapolis. Alejandra is a professor and teaches human evolution and Alex is a healthcare administrator. They have two beautiful girls who attend Pardes in 2nd and 4th grade, and a son who is a freshman at UW-Madison. Alejandra and Alex jumped into the Jewish scene. Alex connects with the men at Words and Whisky in Scottsdale and learns at Ahavas Torah. Alejandra is part of the Women's Leadership Institute, learns in the Partners in Torah program, and is volunteering for the Great Big Pink Challah Bake to promote breast cancer awareness and education.They both love to exercise (biking, swimming, or yoga), their girls love to sing and dance, and perform in the JCC theatrical performances, and their son loves robotics and engineering.
Meet Anne and Norman
Before moving to Arizona five years ago, Anne and Norman lived in California, although Anne was raised in Chicago, and Norman was raised in Phoenix and actually had his Bar Mitzvah at Beth El Congregation. They have two daughters who are both married and also reside in Phoenix, which is the reason Anne and Norman moved here (to be close to family)! They also have a standard poodle named Bentley who is an important part of their family.
Anne is immediate past president of Beth El Congregation's Women's League and was instrumental in getting the group organized and started. She was on the Aish Destiny Women's Mission in Israel this past March and has been sharing the Sister to Sister Candle Lighting Kit with women in Phoenix. She was so inspired by the idea that she modified it and it is going to be given to new members joining Beth El Congregation this year as a welcome gift from the Women's League! She lights candles every week, often with her daughters, as the family usually gets together for Shabbat dinner and Anne's home baked challah.
Anne enjoys learning new things about Judaism since coming back from the Aish Mission. Norman is treasurer of Beth El Congregation and a retired California CPA. He was active in Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity when he attended ASU. Both Anne and Norman have been active in synagogue havurahs for many years both in California and Arizona.
Meet Heather and Jarred
Heather was born and raised in Mesa, Arizona. Jarred who hails from Johannesburg, South Africa, moved to Arizona in his late teens and met Heather in college. They have been married 11 years and have four children ages 9 to 2. Heather worked as an elementary school teacher and in higher education administration. Jarred works as a human resources executive.
They have lived in both Phoenix and Scottsdale yet wherever they live they like to get involved in their synagogue and local Jewish organizations. They enjoy hosting Shabbat and holiday dinners, special events and building Jewish unity.
They love living in Arizona because of the laid back, warm welcoming community of people. They especially like to swim half the year and enjoy the outdoors the rest of the year with all of Arizona’s family-friendly events, parks and natural wonders. Because Jarred and his boys wear their yarmulkes, they enjoy getting stopped and chatting with fellow Jews from all over the Valley.
Meet Lori and Henry Brown
Henry and Lori Brown remember fondly being invited into many different homes for Shabbat meals when they were both single. Now that they are married, with a beautiful family of their own, they like to give back Shabbat experiences to as many people as possible.
Lori meets Jewish people wherever she goes. One time the family was at Tonto Natural Bridge, and they started talking to another tourist nearby. They discovered that they were both Jewish and Lori invited her and her family for Shabbat because she was new to Arizona and didn’t have much of a Jewish connection. Her new friend has been coming for Shabbat ever since.
And it’s not just up in the mountains that Lori and the kids find guests to invite. One day Lori and her family were were picking out library books in the kids section and met another family. They discovered they were both Jewish, so Lori invited them for Shabbat, and it turned out they lived just around the street from each other.
Now Lori and Henry’s kids love and have come to expect guests every Shabbat! Lori and Henry invite Jews of all backgrounds and affiliations - it doesn’t matter as they are all looking for connections and Jewish family.
Henry and Lori say they wouldn’t be who they are today if it wasn’t for all the Shabbat invitations they had when they were single, so they strongly believe in building a grassroots movement of inviting their fellow Jews over for a warm, family-friendly Shabbat!
Lori adds, “People are always happy to be invited! They see another Jewish person and they want to connect. No one has ever thought it was weird that I invited them. If they are new in town they think it is a very nice thing to connect - it makes people feel welcome in the community.”
Lori and Henry also give back to the Phoenix Jewish Community through volunteer roles. Lori is currently the Board President for Shearim Torah High School for Girls, and Henry is on the board of their synagogue.
To get connected to Lori for Shabbat or to host someone in your home email Robin at email@example.com.
Meet Rodney and Ariella Mollen
Rodney and Ariella are true Project Inspire Arizona partners who make sharing Torah and Mitzvot a family affair. Rodney created Words and Whisky and Ariella volunteers around Scottsdale hanging free front door Mezuzahs to those that request it through our program in partnership with My Zuzah.
Words and Whisky is a casual and accessible environment for men of all ages and levels of Jewish backgrounds to get together. The men meet every Wednesday at 8:30pm in Rodney’s home to share words of Torah and sample different types of whiskeys. It all began six years ago when Rodney and Ariella were living in Tucson and a friend was moving to Israel. Rodney said, "before you move to Israel, come to my house and bring some words of Torah, so I can grow, and I’ll bring the whisky." At first it was just two men and then a third man came and soon many more men joined in.
When Rodney and Ariella moved to Scottsdale, Words and Whisky kept going in Tucson and Ariella encouraged Rodney to start Words and Whisky in Scottsdale. Men get together to share words of Torah and the conversation builds from there. Even men new to yiddishkeit can ask questions and share words. Six years later, Rodney hosts between a dozen to twenty men each week and it keeps on growing. It doesn’t matter what Shul the men go to or even if they go to Shul at all. Rodney’s intent is to create inspiration and connecting to Torah around his Shabbos table with bonding in a light and enjoyable atmosphere.
To join Rodney's Words and Whisky or set up your own in another city, reach out to Robin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hadar, attended the first Great AZ Challah Bake five years ago and was so ignited from the event, she said she “found her Judaism again.” She was literally flying high all week long from the sheer excitement and inspiration of being in a room of more than 600 ladies preparing challah as part of the International Shabbos Project. She was so on fire and ignited that she took her inspiration and was determined to start paying it forward by teaching women and girls at Bat Mitzvah parties and schools how to make challah, light shabbos candles and even about the sanctity of mikvah. Sitting in a room with Hadar you can’t help but feel her deep warmth and sincerity! You’ve got to meet Hadar! She is truly the model Project Inspire Arizona activist. She loves her Judaism so much and shares it deeply and passionately by teaching others.