Rabbi Thomas Louchheim and 12 Tucson families founded Congregation Or Chadash — which means "the new light" — 10 years ago.
This Saturday congregants will celebrate those 10 years and have a ribbon-cutting for their new education center at the congregation's home at 3939 N. Alvernon Way.
The community is invited to the celebration, which will be held from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. and include a Hanukkah bazaar, a book fair, local bands, choir performances, food and raffle prizes. More than 60 volunteers from the congregation will be working at the celebration.
"Our congregation is now made up of 1,000 dedicated people, including 155 children participating in religious school," said Louchheim, a Foothills resident.
Betsy Sandlin, who lives on the Northwest Side, was one of the founders of Congregation Or Chadash.
"The festivities will begin at 5:30 p.m. This is called the Havdalah, signifying the end of Sabbath," she explained. "Sabbath begins at sunset on Friday night and lasts for 24 hours. The ritual of ending the Sabbath begins when three stars are seen in the sky. The party will then begin."
The education center consists of eight multifunctional classrooms. Foothills resident Brenda Landau has served as director of education at Congregation Or Chadash for six years.
"The education center is used for Hebrew school, religious school and adult education classes throughout the week," she said.
The congregation bought the 4.2-acre property on North Alvernon in May 2002. The rabbi and a staff of four moved into offices there in 2004. Instead of first building a sanctuary on the site, the congregation decided to build an education center.
"Our children wanted a school of their own," Louchheim said — for the past 10 years the congregation has rented classrooms at the Tucson Hebrew Academy at East River Road and Alvernon.
Landau explained that the children in 2001 pledged to raise $18,000 in five years toward the education center. Matt Landau, 17, organized a yearly jog-a-thon for children and adults.
"This was part of Matt's bar mitzvah project. Five years later the children raised $24,500 for the education center," Landau said.
Mitch Karson, a Foothills resident and business owner, serves as president of the congregation's board of directors. He and his family have been members for six years.
"We have completed two out of our three goals. We have our offices on site and now our education facility on our property," he said. Next the congregation, which now meets at the Junior League of Tucson, 2099 E. River Road, wants to build a sanctuary and has started a capital campaign to raise $4 million for it.
"It has been 35 years since a sanctuary has been built by a Jewish congregation here in Tucson."
Cantor Janece E. Cohen, a Foothills resident, has served as minister of music at Congregation Or Chadash for eight years.
"Hanukkah means 'dedication,' " she said. "It is appropriate to dedicate our education center during this season."
If you go
● What: Congregation Or Chadash's 10-year anniversary celebration.
● When: 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
● Where: Congregation Or Chadash, 3939 N. Alvernon Way.
● For more information: Call Paula Fuchs at 512-8500.