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JEWISH TUITION ORGANIZATION
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Arizona Jewish Life
Executive Director Linda Zell
Linda is from Cape Town, South Africa and spent part of her childhood in Israel before coming to the United States. Linda was the principal of a Jewish community religious school in Rhode Island for 20 years before moving to the Valley 20 years ago. In her current position as executive director of the Jewish Tuition Organization, Linda is driven by the fact that she knows without the JTO about 65 percent of the students in the JTO affiliated Jewish day schools would not be able to attend. The JTOâ€™s mission is to ensure that every child has access to a Jewish day school education, regardless of their familyâ€™s financial ability to pay for it. The JTO raises funds for need-based scholarships from both individuals and corporations through the dollar-for-dollar Arizona private school tuition tax credit. Without the JTO scholarships, these children would not be able to attend Jewish day schools. As the executive director of the JTO, Linda is responsible for all aspects of the organization. Under her leadership the organization raised more than $4 million dollars last year to provide need-based scholarships for children in the community to attend Jewish day schools.
It's fortunate that Linda Zell was in Arizona in 1997 - and not still in Rhode Island or South Africa - because she played an important part in the management of Jewish Tuition Organization of Greater Phoenix.
She's been its executive director since 2005. Linda was born in Cape Town, the eldest of five children, to parents who were also natives of that city. She remembers living "a privileged life, with lots of household help, in a large home with lots of family around. Spending time with all four of her grandparents as well as her aunts and uncles enriched her early years. She lived in Cape Town until she was 12, then emigrated with her family to Israel, where she lived until 1967 when Africa lured them back to Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). In 1968 Linda moved back to Cape Town to meet her fate - her husband, Howard, with whom she had a son, Steven, and a daughter, Karin. She worked for the Zionist Federation there and experienced another fated event. Of that era Linda says, "In every town we were welcomed with open arms by the small Jewish communities. They were very cohesive, strong Zionists (as most South African Jews were) and traditional. Every little town had an Orthodox synagogue where Friday night services were the highlight of the week. Shabbat dinners were very important family events." Linda moved with her family and all their belongings in the year America celebrated its bicentennial. Their first stop was Worcester, MA, where Howard's cousins welcomed them. After a short time, they moved to Kingston, RI, so Howard could attend the University of Rhode Island to earn a master's degree in pharmacy administration. That's where they stayed for the next 22 years - and welcomed their third child, daughter Lauren. While in Kingston, Linda was active in the Jewish community. "I ran a community religious school for 20 years, was vice president of our shul, served on the bureau of Jewish Education as president of the school board, was area vice president of our Zionist Federation and I served in many roles in Hadassah, including president." Although they met many friends and were very involved in their community in Kingston, the Zells did not like winter. "All three of our children went to colleges in warm climates, and when the last one left home, we did too," Linda says. "We moved to Arizona at the end of 1997 and have never looked back." Unlike in Rhode Island, the Zells found a community of South Africans in Arizona. Although they knew no one when they relocated, the couple happened to meet someone Linda went to school with in 1961 in Cape Town, which opened a new door in their social lives. The Zells' life in Arizona includes attending community events, especially those put on by the Israel Center, Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center, Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix and other pro-Israel organizations. They are members of Hadassah (Howard is an associate), the JCC, Congregation Or Tzion, AIPAC and others. Linda says, "Involvement in the community is of utmost importance - to set an example for our children." As for setting an example for children, Linda herself did that in spades. For years, a passport, tickets and boarding passes stood in for Linda's college degree. "I did not have the opportunity to go to university as a young girl, but when my children went, I decided it was time for me to do the same," she says. "I started in Rhode Island and finished at ASU, graduating at the age of 50 one day before my youngest daughter who was at the U of A. I am very proud of this accomplishment and thankful for the support I had to do it." The federation's Bureau of Jewish Education hired Linda to market Jewish day schools in the Valley. "In the process of doing that, I found out about the private school tax credit program, which at the time was run on a very part-time basis by a federation staff person," says Linda. She recognized its potential and asked to take on that responsibility on a part-time basis. After about a year, it evolved into a full-time position, and the day school marketing work reverted back to the schools. In the beginning, the tax credit tuition program was called the Jewish Community Day School Scholarship Fund. After a couple of years it became the Jewish Tuition Organization of Greater Phoenix. In 2014, close to $4 million was raised by JTO to help more than 500 students attend seven Jewish day schools. Linda says, "I am extremely proud and passionate about this and hope to see it grow even more."
Linda Zell, Executive Director
12701 N Scottsdale Road, Ste. 203E Scottsdale, AZ 85254-5457 480-634-4926 Fax 480-629-5147
Class 31 | Scottsdale Leadership
Linda Zell, Executive Director, Jewish Tuition Organization
Community Giving Opportunities | Beth El Congregation
If you have any questions or desire a form mailed to you, please contact Linda Zell, JTO Administrator, at: