Theory of Change
We start with the belief that engaging Jews in environmental education, action, and advocacy changes them, their families, their institutions, and the community as a whole. If we have a set of values which stand purely as values, these include:
- the value of multi-generational programs
- a strong commitment to inclusive community
- being both Jewishly serious and open
- cultivating leadership
- seeking to have impact locally, nationally, and in Israel (and, slowly, elsewhere)
We hold a series of connected beliefs:
- that Jewish tradition comes alive when we engage with some of the most important issues of our time such as environmental sustainability, the challenge of living healthily, the question of where our food comes from, etc.
- that Jewish life is most powerfully renewed through transformative experiences
- that the most powerful transformative experiences bring people together across differences
- that effecting change means thinking about multiplier effects: how to inspire and connect people to create and lead their own projects towards our greater goals
- that the distinction between (for instance) “Jewish renewal” and “social justice” is a false one
- properly understood, we believe that renewing Jewish life necessarily involves making a better world for all; and that when Jewish people, as Jewish people, work to renew the world, they necessarily strengthen Jewish life
- that education, action, and advocacy reinforce each other
We synthesize these values and our theory of change:
- Change happens when you reach people where they are not where you might like them to be, and then offer them pathways of greater knowledge and engagement (in relation to, e.g., Jewish tradition, transportation alternatives, living healthily and sustainably, eating ethically and healthily, and so on);
- A paradox: we are not value -neutral, and we are committed to an interlinked series of values and behaviors, but everything we do is taught non-instrumentally; i.e. not “I know better than you how you should be Jewish or the exact choices you should make” but rather “here’s this amazing tradition, and here are a range of different people/teachers/experiences we think you may find compelling, and here is key information on the choices you’re making in your life”.
- We engage people in a vibrant approach to Jewish tradition that is passionate, joyful, socially progressive, spiritual and that emphasizes tolerance, respect, dignity, diversity. Our programs are “Jewishly out” – proud, open, and particularistic – and at the same time completely universal – focused on the whole world and accessible to non-Jews. Jewish tradition is compelling, and when presented in the right way it offers the opportunity for transformative change and growth.
- Immersion experiences are very powerful. Once people have had an immersion experience, they’re far more likely to participate in other year-round experiences that are not as intense but which require a lesser time commitment. Also, the more you expose someone to something, the more impact you have. Hence, we offer multiple opportunities for involvement – including involvement in the programs of partner organizations as well as our own.
- The value of creating a doorway. Many of our programs are a doorway to other opportunities within and beyond the Jewish community, allowing our impact to be felt in many ways and places.
- The importance of building social capital. The most intractable global environmental challenges are doing immense human damage. The work that needs to be done in responding to environmental challenges requires mobilizing social capital over a prolonged period of time. And social capital is vital also to strengthening a sense of Jewish peoplehood. Our programs strengthen relationships within and beyond the Jewish community in powerful ways.
- Inclusive community. Jewish tradition holds that each person is made “btselem elokim” – in the image of God. From a moral perspective, we’re strongly committed to creating inclusive communities. From a sociological perspective, social capital and networking are increased with the strength of weak links, bringing people together across differences of age, denomination, background and outlook.
- Cultivating leadership as an organization strengthens all our other impacts. Therefore, we make a significant commitment to leadership development of all sorts (this includes staff, volunteers, leaders of other programs, and projects, and people stepping into leadership roles for the first time.)
- We are a learning organization, and an idealistic one; we hold ourselves to high standards, and we seek steadily to improve everything we do by learning iteratively from our experience and from best practice.
- Change is built on the ongoing interactions between education, action and advocacy, and between individuals, families, communities and the wider world. We provide rich, multiple pathways to touch people’s lives individually and to renew the world and the Jewish community overall.