Posts in category "Nigel"
People used to send fundraising emails before the end of the year. But everyone did that, so they moved to early December, and then from there to late November. This year, as you know, it’s both Chanukah and Thanksgiving in five minutes time. So we’re sending our year-end appeal now – with the autumn leaves still on the trees – to ask you to become a stakeholder in Hazon.
Ideally – for us, but I hope also for you – we’d like to ask you to give a monthly gift, as a growing number of people are doing. For the price, each month, of three cappuccinos, two bars of dark chocolate, and maybe a banana, you can feel that in a purposive and persistent way you are helping to create a healthier, more sustainable and more vibrant Jewish community; and helping the Jewish community, as a community, to create a more sustainable world for all. This is not minor. Hazon is doing important work, and we certainly need your support; and/but we also want you, for yourself, genuinely to feel that by becoming a stakeholder you’re making a difference in the very many areas in which we’re doing work. (And before I go any further: a huge huge HUGE thank you to the many many of you, individuals and foundations, who have supported our work already and have enabled us to reach this point.)
Hazon is nearly fourteen years old, and I’m certainly proud of what we’ve accomplished in that time; yet I’m most excited right now not by what we’ve done but what I believe we can do, are doing, and to some extent must do in the future.
Part of this is about understanding not just what we do, but why we do what we do.
First, the wider context. The US and the world face a long litany of challenges. The American century is ending. As an English Jew with two degrees in American history and a very deep love for this country, even writing those words is upsetting to me. But globalization, the rise of China, Middle Eastern and Russian oil, two expensive wars, too many people in jail, too few kids in pre-school, roads and bridges and train systems that need fixing, dodgy accounting in relation to future liabilities; US relative wealth and power is eroding. And on a global scale, in relation to climate change, the moral obligation to act in defense of future generations increasingly runs parallel to a growing range of measures that will be needed to adapt to changes that are already irreversible. (The era of adaptation is one that will, amongst other things, be seen to have been defined by the relative underperformance of real estate values in low-lying coastal areas.)
The challenges within the Jewish community, on a smaller scale, are no less complex and intimidating. I love Jewish tradition, but the NY Population Study and the Pew Study together paint a clear picture, and back up what we see each day to be true: a growing number of Jewish people don’t connect to organized Jewish life, don’t join a synagogue, don’t give to federation, don’t feel connected to Israel. As a proportion of the US population, the American Jewish community has roughly halved in size in the last 80 years. On present trends the American Jewish community just a couple of decades hence will be smaller than it is today, and the ultra-orthodox will be a far larger proportion of it.
These enormous and complex challenges are the very reason that this organization is called “hazon,” which means vision. It is our intuition – it underpins all that we do – that these challenges are best confronted together rather than separately. That is why our theme-quote is “the Torah is a commentary on the world, and the world is a commentary on the Torah.”
To those of you who care most about strengthening Jewish life, let me say plainly: Jewish life makes no sense without an outside referent. Our parents’ and grandparents’ generation were willing to go to services they didn’t believe in, and speak words they couldn’t pronounce and didn’t understand, out of an ethnic sense of Jewishness. That world is now nearly over. The best and the brightest of our young people will not simply be Jewish out of tribal loyalty. They – we – live in the most radically free society in human history. If we are to renew Jewish life, we must do so by building multiple bridges between Jewish tradition, on one side, and the greatest challenges we face in the wider world, on the other.
That is precisely what we are doing, for example, in catalyzing and leading the Jewish Food Movement. For 3,000 years we have had a tradition of keeping kosher; a tradition which is inalienably bound up with responsibilities towards workers, land, animals, and those in need. But that which was latent needs now to be made explicit. In rising to meet the injunctions of our tradition, we simultaneously do good in the world and renew Jewish life in the process. In less than a decade we’ve built the largest faith-based CSA network in north America; the remarkable Adamah program; the Hazon Food Conference; the Jew & the Carrot; Food For Thought: a guide to food policy in Jewish institutions; Home For Dinner; our Israel Sustainable Food Tour; food justice work on the ground in San Francisco and elsewhere; and on and on. But there is much more we can and should do. Over the next two full shmita cycles we need to launch Jewish Food Festivals in every community in America. We need to train, support and network the growing number of Adamah alumni – plus the alumni of Urban Adamah, and the staff alumni of Teva, Eden Village, and Ramah Outdoor Adventures, not to mention the incredible new Jewish Food Justice Fellows here at the Leichtag Foundation’s Hub in San Diego’s North County. We need to deploy Jewish Food Educators, Jewish Environmental Educators, and Jewish Outdoor Educators within communities and institutions across the country. (The reason I’m here with the Leichtag folk and others is because we’re hard at work on what will be known next year as the JOFEE Study – an independent research project that aims to document the eruption and impact, over the last decade, of this vital emerging field – Jewish Outdoor, Food & Environmental Education.)
And I want to make the opposite point, also. To those of you who don’t necessarily care about Jewish life; to those of you, indeed, who think the Jewish world too introverted; to those of you who think each day about climate change and wonder what future generations will say of us and who cannot understand why we are not doing more; to all of you I want to suggest that, in fact, the role of religion is vital. Both governments and the private sector are starting to make a difference. But what is most needed is to mobilize faith communities, whose long time-horizons and deep moral claims offer – can offer, should offer – a sort of leverage which is lacking elsewhere. It is impossible to imagine the nineteenth century fight against slavery, the US civil rights movement, the fight against apartheid, the campaign for Soviet Jews, the movement for marriage equality, without the force of religious communities and individual religious leaders. Governments and the private sector make a difference, but they are each, ultimately, late adapters; in most cases they follow, and are responsive to, public opinion; they do not lead it.
So it is not just that the Jewish community needs to face outwards in order to renew Jewish life; it is also that the world, in some real sense, needs the Jews. The world actually needs Shabbat (ie rest, in a 24/7 frenzy). The world needs shmita (meaning longer time cycles; allowing land to rest; challenging our sense of ownership; reducing inequality in society; helping those who are most vulnerable). The world needs halacha, meaning a multi-generational process of self-control; of inducting our children into the notion that not everything we can do should be done; not everything we can eat should be eaten; that separately from the sanctions of the state, we must find ways to become, individually and collectively, more caring and more responsible.
So this is why we do what we do, and I hope that you will want to be part of it.
It’s why the JOFEE research is so vital – so that we can expand this field and touch many more lives for good.
It’s why I’m headed from here to our Intentional Communities conference at Pearlstone – because intentional community, especially urban intentional community, will be over the next ten or twenty years the front edge of renewing Jewish life, reducing our footprints, and strengthening community.
It’s why we’re working so hard to support rabbis, and hope to do much more in the future: because there have never been greater pressures on our rabbis, and we want to do all that we can to provide them with resources and ideas to support their leadership.
It’s why we want to invest very significantly in the Isabella Freedman campus; because in a fractured and privatized post-haskala Jewish community, there is no substitute for powerful immersive experiences – not just for kids at camp, not just for 20-somethings on birthright, but for everyone and anyone, of all ages and backgrounds.
It’s why investing in Teva is so vital in 2014 and beyond. Teva demonstrably has an impact not only on the kids who come to its programs, but on those who choose to teach at Teva. Shouldn’t every kid in the Jewish world have high-class environmental education integrated thoughtfully and effectively into their Jewish education?
And it’s why we’re so grateful to all of you who rode or crewed with us in 2013, or who sponsored one of our riders: the Rides have been the bedrock of our work, and they are the ultimate example of the phrase I mentioned last week, livnot u’l’hibanot, to build and to be built.
So I hope that you will want to be part of this. I hope that you will give us a year-end donation – ideally now. Or sign up to become a monthly sustainer. Please join us at one of our retreats in 2014. Be in touch if you want to launch a CSA in your community, or a Jewish Food Festival. Mention Adamah to a 20–something whose life might be transformed by it. If you’re a rabbi, join our Rabbinical Advisory Board – and if you’re free, join us next month for our first-ever Rabbis’ Retreat. Download Food For Thought or our Food Guide. Like the Jewish Climate Campaign on Facebook – and send it to your friends. Sign up for one of our 2014 Rides, or our Israel Sustainable Food Tour.
And most of all, in the face of the great challenges with which I began: do not lose hope. We are a people of vision. We are the people who, at the time of greatest darkness, not only believe that new light is possible; we take practical steps to bring that new light to life.
So, a tad early: Shabbat shalom, Chanukah sameach, and happy Thanksgiving.
Executive Director, Hazon
- Two Inspiring Experiments, and Four Stars
- Israel Ride Early Bird Registration ends April 30th!
- Torah of Food Weekend Retreat
- Hazon Food Festival: Rocky Mountain Region Three Days Away!
- Behar 2013: Bringing SHmita to Your Community
- reIMAGINE Society: Behar in the Bay Area
- Become a JCarrot Writer Today
I just got back from a fascinating and inspiring trip to the West Coast, in which I spent time with our Bay Area staff, finished the first draft of our forthcoming Shmita materials, and visited not one, but two of the most profoundly exciting experiments in Jewish life in the whole country.
The first was in San Diego, visiting the Leichtag Foundation’s Paul Ecke Ranch. It’s a 67-acre plot in the middle of San Diego’s North County, and they have an incredible vision for its future (including their new Jewish Food Justice Fellowship.
Then I spent Earth Day with Adam Berman in the East Bay, meeting the current crop of Urban Adamahniks and visiting what (I trust and hope; and Adam believes and intends) will be the new permanent home of Urban Adamah – a beautifully-sized and well-located site in West Berkeley.
These two new projects are deeply significant, because so much of post-emancipation Jewish life involved a kind of privatization – the classic idea that we would be Jewish in our homes, but simply citizens in public space; variously French, Germans, Brits, and ultimately Americans, “of the Mosaic persuasion”. It was a compromise that was intended to offer civic tolerance, but too frequently in its wake it engendered anti-semitism, and in critical ways narrowed the frame of Jewishness.
Places like Paul Ecke Ranch and Urban Adamah – and like Brandeis Bardin Institute in LA, the Pearlstone Center in Baltimore, and the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in CT – are vital because of the opportunity they afford for what I think of as 360-degree Jewish life. Each of these places bears the possibility, not only of touching people’s lives in profound ways, but also of creating bubbles in space and time that enable new expressions of Jewish life to evolve.
Speaking of bubbles in time: it was great also to be in Seattle, where our Cross-USA Ride kicks-off on June 16th. You’re warmly invited to ride across the USA with us this summer – or just part of it.
Finally: we just received two phenomenal pieces of news:
First: Charity Navigator, America’s largest and most-utilized independent evaluator of charities, has just awarded Hazon the prestigious 4-star rating for good governance, sound fiscal management, and commitment to accountability and transparency. (To put this in perspective: if you type “Jewish” into Charity Navigator’s site, you get 263 hits – and 213 of those don’t have four stars.) This is a significant external endorsement and it reflects hard work and high standards on the part of both our board and our staff.
Secondly, and partly linked to Charity Navigator’s 4-star rating: a family foundation has just offered us a new matching grant. New or increased gifts will be matched, by them, up to a total of $50,000. So if you’ve never supported us in the past, or decide now to increase your gift to us – your gift (or the increase over the previous year) will help us to earn that extra $50,000.
As per the grant we received recently from The Samuel Bronfman Foundation’s Second Stage Fund, you can read my reflections as part of a series on eJewish Philanthropy.
Finally: that match applies also to our Benefit, which takes place next Tuesday, and which promises to be an amazing evening. We will be honoring Richard Dale, Nili Simhai, Saul Kaiserman, and Mira Schwartz. I hope to see you there.
Thank you, and Shabbat shalom,
Executive Director, Hazon
Experience Israel like never before: from the seat of your bike. Join over 75 people who have registered for the Arava Institute Hazon Israel Ride. Register now for only $399 and we’ll see you in Jerusalem in October! This special price ends on April 30th.
Bike Israel. For Yourself. For the Environment.
Join us the weekend after Shavuot for a Hazon Food Conference-inspired weekend that will fill up your senses with the first fruits of the season, and the finest fruits of Torah learning. With guest chefs, rabbis, and educators to guide us, we’ll delve into the world of food in the Torah, and the Torah of food in the world. Programming will include text study, farm tours, cooking demos, permaculture workshops, and lively Shabbat services.
The Hazon Food Festival: Rocky Mountain Region is ONE week away! April 28th will be a day of learning, celebration, and hands-on doing at the intersection of food, the environment, and Jewish tradition. Early bird registration ends Friday ($50/$25). Tickets available Saturday and at the door ($75).
The Food Festival has many exciting programs that will encompass contemporary Jewish life and our sustainable food movement in Colorado and the nation. From hands-on workshops to in-depth panel discussions, the programming is packed with amazing eye-opening experiences to write home about!
Panels range from topics on “Farm to Table: Meeting Your Meat” where you can learn how to shecht (ritually slaughter) meat to “Creating a Just and Sustainable Food System in Our Community: Ways to Take Action!” that will encourage participants to get involved in making food just at a local level.
9:00 am – 5:00 pm
April 28, 2013
Denver Jewish Day School
The parsha (weekly Torah reading) of Behar, which literally means ‘On the Mountain,’ introduces the detailed, visionary teachings of Shmita. As we continue to delve into the process of reacquainting ourselves with the Shmita tradition, we are very excited to use the opportunity of Parshat Behar as an annual mark, as a reminder, and as a guide. This year, the parsha of Behar is read on the Shabbat of May 3-4. In the week leading up to and following this occasion, join Jewish communities all over the country in a decentralized, local, grassroots movement to celebrate the visionary teachings of the Sabbatical Year and bring these values to life. We hope your community will join us!
The parsha (weekly Torah reading) of Behar, which literally means ‘On the Mountain,’ introduces the detailed, visionary teachings of Shmita. As we continue to deepen into the process of re-acquainting ourselves with the Shmita tradition, we are very excited to use the opportunity of Parshat Behar as an annual mark, as a reminder, and as a guide.
On Sunday, May 5th, Hazon is proud to present a day of Shmita-related activities in Berkeley and San Francisco. From 1:00 – 5:00 pm, we will be hosting a skillshare and swap meet at the Urban Adamah farm. Then, at 5:00 pm, herbalist Jolie Lonner Egert will lead an edible and medicinal plant walk in Golden Gate Park. We hope you’ll join us!
Jew and the Carrot, Hazon’s blog in partnership with the Jewish Daily Forward, is the homepage of the Jewish Food Movement. With articles ranging from food justice to shabbat meals to new twists on Jewish classics and everything in between, there is a place for omnivores and vegans, kosher-keepers and pork lovers to share their stories. If you’ve bitten into something delicious (or not so delicious), take the opportunity to share it with the JCarrot community! To become a JCarrot writer email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, May 8th, 7:30 pm
Hosted by Nigel and Liz Savage
RSVP for details
The Israel Ride: For Yourself. For Israel. For Peace.
Meet and hear from:
- Nigel Savage, Hazon and Israel Ride Founder
- David Weisberg, CEO of Hazon
- David Rendsburg, Ride alum and 8-time staff member of the Ride
- Annie Jacobs, former Program Assistant at the Arava Institute (and current Dairy Apprentice at Isabella Freedman)
- Arava and Israel Ride alumni
They will speak about cycling through Israel, the Middle East’s environmental challenges, and the potential for regional cooperation at the Arava Institute.
The Arava Institute Hazon Israel Ride is a weeklong cycling adventure from Jerusalem to Eilat, including 5 fully-supported riding days and a Shabbat rest day.
Bring your friends with you | All are welcome at this event!
11th Shevat, 5773, 22nd Jan 2013
In the broad scheme of things, spelling isn’t the most important thing in the world. (Sme of yu wll hv seen th wll-crculated rticle by Grhm Rwlinson tht demonsrates hw relatively easily we reed thngs lk this; if you haven’t, check out Typoglycemia .) The fellow we know as “William Shakespeare” spelled his own name in different ways during his lifetime, and its spelling evolved further after he died.
Nevertheless, the world has moved on since Shakespeare’s day; few of us nowadays would knowingly misspell a word. But a Jewish blogger thinks that we’ve been misspelling Tu B’Shvat for some while now, and last year he wrote a rather excellent blog post, titled, “Hazon sinks deeper into the hall of shame.”
Of all the things that we might, over the years, have been attacked for, I never imagined that the spelling of Tu B’Shvat might have prompted such opprobrium, but so it goes: the world of Hebrew transliteration is more passionate than some of you might suppose.
How, then, does one spell Tu b’Shvat?
The answer of course is: טו בשבט or, more accurately sometimes, ט’’ו בשבט.
Within this, ‘Tu” is the letters tet and vav, whose numeric values in Hebrew are 9 and 6, which sum to 15; “Shevat” is the Hebrew month; and “b” is a prefix meaning “of” or “in” (in standard transliteration, using a prefix causes the month’s name to conjugate to Shvat). So Tu B’Shvat – in Hebrew – is the 15th of Shevat.
Congregation Ohev Shalom, Wallingford, PA is thrilled to present Nigel Savage, founder of America’s largest Jewish environmental organization, Hazon, as the 2013 Scholar-in-Residence. Throughout the weekend of February 8-10, Mr. Savage will be presenting a series of engaging and thought-provoking lectures around the theme, “Eating Jewishly in the 21st century.”
On Sunday morning, the weekend will culminate with a brunch event where Nigel Savage will team with renowned Philadelphia chef, Michael Solomonov, for further conversation. All events are free and open to the public.
For more information visit, www.ohev.net, and see the link to “Scholar-in-Residence.”
You can trace the recent history of Tu B’Shvat seders like branches on a tree. The first one I went to, in London in 1986, was hosted by Bonna Haberman and Shmuel Browns, mentors to me and many others in the renewal of Jewish ritual. I made my own seder the following Tu B’Shvat, and I’ve made or attended one every year since. Seders, like trees, grow branches, and the branches sprout fruit in all directions.
The roots of Tu B’Shvat stretch back to the beginnings of organized Jewish life. We learn from the Mishnah (Tractate Rosh Hashanah) that “the New Year of the Trees” divided the tithing of one year’s crop from the next—the end and start of the tax year, so to speak. After the expulsion from the Land of Israel, Tu B’Shvat went underground, like a seed, ungerminated, lying beneath the soil of Jewish thought and life.
The expulsion from Spain in 1492 scattered Jews in many directions, and some landed in Tzfat. Like a forest fire that cracks open seeds dormant for decades, Tzfat’s kabbalists rediscovered Tu B’Shvat and began a period of mystical celebration of the festival. The idea and structure of Tu B’Shvat seders traces back to them.
Among early Zionists, Tu B’Shvat became the day to celebrate their reconnection to the land. As a kid in Manchester, I got JNF tree certificates at Tu B’Shvat and Israeli school kids to this day celebrate it by planting trees.
The fourth phase of Tu B’Shvat’s flowering was pollinated by the first Earth Day in 1970 and by growing alarm at the degradation of the planet’s resources. Its ground was fertilized by the countercultural havurah movement, and the beginnings of an upsurge in Jewish renewal and creativity.
Each of us can draw upon these roots to sprout our own branches, seeds, and fruits.
The origins of Tu B’Shvat remind us that we are the descendants of an indigenous people, heirs to an ancient wisdom whose echoes can inform our choices today on subjects like how to eat in a manner that is healthy for us and sustainable for the whole planet, or how to rest in a 24/7 world.
The kabbalistic Tu B’Shvat of Tzfat encourages us to open ourselves to mystery, wonder, creativity and celebration; this is an oral wisdom, something learned from others, rather than from books. Naomi Shemer’s beautiful contemporary song, Why Do We Celebrate It?
“Shirat Ha’Asavim,” (lyrics, pg. 29) is based on a Reb Nachman story about angels encouraging each blade of grass simply to grow. The spreading in many parts of the Jewish world of drums, yoga, and meditation is part of this phenomenon. So, too, is the way that “Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu,” written originally by the Israeli band Sheva, has erupted as this generation’s anthem. The peaceful and the joyous in Jewish life are being rediscovered. Tu B’Shvat is a moment to celebrate new life and new beginnings, physical and cultural.
The Zionists’ Tu B’Shvat prompts us to think afresh about the assumption that the era when Jews were connected physically to the land is over, with Israel now a country of venture capitalists and MBAs. Kibbutzim like Lotan and Keturah, among others, are renewing that connection with the land, and although agriculture is shrinking, there is growing awareness of the need to preserve the environment. Kosher organic farms and educational gardens are spreading across North America, and there is a deepening move in American Jewish life toward reconnecting with the land in a variety of ways. Tu B’Shvat is a fine time to think about creating a community garden at your synagogue—or exploring Israel on a bike or by foot rather than by car.
Tu B’Shvat today is like a bonsai tree that helps us see in miniature the broader shape of contemporary Jewish renewal. It is one of the clearest examples of the rebirth of rooted Jewish life after the Shoah. The charred site of a forest fire slowly gives birth to new growth, and 40 or 50 years later a new forest stands in its place. Each of the elements of that forest grows literally from seeds that survived the fire, yet the forest itself has its own unique characteristics. Today’s Tu B’Shvat seders grow organically from more than 2,000 years of Jewish tradition; yet the vital elements of them are new and reflect the world we live in. The encounter of postmodern urban life with contemporary environmental challenge is renewing Jewish life in unanticipated ways. It is an opportunity to deepen our roots, and to branch out afresh to engage the world.
Originally published as Tu B’Shvat: The People and the Book: Deeper Roots, Wider Branches by Nigel Savage, The Jerusalem Report
December 13th 2012 / 5th day of Chanukah 5773
Since our beginning in 2000, Hazon has worked to use a range of new modalities – the outdoors, food, the environment – to renew Jewish life and to create a better world for all. Mini-grants from our Rides help to raise money and awareness — we’ve given away over $2 million since 2000. Our annual Hazon Food Conference (seephotos from our most recent conference) helps us do this by networking and supporting people who are doing great work all over the country. And our merger with the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center — which we announced last week to very positive reviews from across the Jewish community – will enable us to grow our impact and reach.
And we’re now thrilled to announce that we’re working with the Jim Joseph Foundation, Leichtag Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, UJA-Federation of New York, and Rose Community Foundation of Denver, to conduct research exploring how participation in immersive Jewish food, environmental, and outdoor education programs influences individuals’ Jewish growth and leads to increased Jewish involvement.
This project is the first of its kind in our field, and is exciting in that it gives us the opportunity to identify and document, in a real way, a/ what is going on in the movement and b/ the impact that Jewish food, outdoor and environmental education is having on individuals and communities. The widest goal is to provide actionable recommendations to the Jewish philanthropic community about how to use this work to strengthen Jewish life in America over the next ten years and beyond – and to help the Jewish community play a serious role in creating a more sustainable world for all.
We encourage you to learn more about the research project, and also in due course to be in touch; over the next few months we’ll be reaching out in different ways to gather information. We’ll particularly be interested in learning about what events or experiences have changed your life; how you first heard about those experiences; what consequences they have had in your life; and what you, or your institution, need for you to grow and flourish in the future. If you have thoughts or ideas, please be in touch. (We’re opening up a new mailbox – email@example.com – and if you have ideas, suggestions, experiences or questions that you want to share, please feel free to start to send them there. But let me add: we’re in the final stages of selecting an external research house to work with; we’ll follow-up in 2013 with more information on what’s happening.)
Finally: thank you to the many of you – individuals, foundations and federations – who have given us donations or new grants in the last few weeks. It’s the end of the year; we are doing good and important work; if you feel inclined to support us, it would be a great mitzvah. Click here to make a donation…
Wishing you a happy Hanukkah, a merry Christmas, and a happy, healthy, peaceful and sustainable new year,
Executive Director, Hazon
Monday December 3rd 2012 / 19th Kislev 5773
Sometimes our lives cross and crisscross in unexpected ways.
Things that one thinks are incredibly significant prove minor; and minor or accidental decisions can change one’s life.
So it was for me in the summer of 1998. That was when, for the first time, I visited Isabella Freedman; spent time at Elat Chayim (then in Accord, NY); and met people like Adam Berman (who went on to direct Isabella Freedman and to found Adamah), Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Nili Simhai (currently the director of Teva) and Rabbi Dr Arthur Waskow.
Not more than a few moments’ thought went into the serendipitous construction of that summer. But encountering those people and institutions led me to found Hazon, late the following year. And today, things go full circle: we’re announcing that Hazon is merging with Isabella Freedman (which includes Elat Chayyim, following a merger a few years ago). The Teva Learning Alliance, until now a part of Surprise Lake Camp, is also going to be part of the new Hazon. (Click here to read the official press release.)
Why did we do this, and what will change?
At one level (happily) it involves no change at all. The values and vision that underpin Hazon are strongly shared by Isabella Freedman, and vice versa:
- We both believe that immersive multi-day experiences (retreats, bike rides, conferences) play a unique and vital role in reframing Jewish tradition, in transforming people’s live, and in weaving a stronger and more inspirational Jewish community. Other than for kids (summer camp) and young adults (birthright) the American Jewish community has under-invested in such retreats, and we’d gradually like to change this in the future.
- We’re both significantly engaged with leadership development. How do we re-frame what Jewishness is or could be? How do we tease out the places where Jewish tradition’s understanding of how we relate to the natural world critiques some of what today we assume is “normal?” How do we connect and network young leaders so that they can support and encourage each other for a lifetime to come? This area includes Hazon’s work in curriculum development, the support we provide to the growth of Jewish CSAs, the platform we’ve created for the Jewish Food Movement overall, and the determined work we’re already doing in preparing for the next Shmita year in 5775 (September 2014). For Freedman this includes their Jewish Greening Fellowship, spurring institutional transformation through leadership development; and it especially includes the Adamah and Teva programs, whose alumni fuel vibrant Jewish life of all sorts across the country;
- We both have a strong commitment not just to what we do but to how we do it. Both organizations care passionately about inclusive community. We’re both explicit in seeking gender equality, and in running as many extra miles as we need in order to be organizations in which someone who might be in a minority in the room – for having a different sexuality, or age, or religious background – is made to feel especially welcome. Both organizations engage the front edge of Jewish religious development (new ideas, new liturgy, new forms of practice) and seek to make the most observant and traditional members of our communities feel at home. (When Hazon organizes a retreat or a ride somewhere other than at Freedman, we send in staff and volunteers in advance to build an eruv – a symbolic domain beyond which an observant Jew doesn’t carry on Shabbat. We do this even though only a minority of our participants observe the rules of eruvim. And – yes – we’re pretty happy that Freedman already has its own eruv.)
And it’s not just that our values are shared, strongly held, and will not change. It’s also important to say: this is not one of those mergers where you put two organizations together, fire a bunch of people, and thus save money. David Weisberg and I (who will together run the new postmerger Hazon) think that both organizations are understaffed. Over time we need to increase headcount, not reduce it.
So if many things will not change because of the merger, why are we doing it? The simplest answer is: More impact.
In the last two or three years it has become clear that after 15 years of investment in “start-ups” in the Jewish community, we now need to devote different sorts of resources to enable a smaller number of organizations to really go to scale. Doing this is vital if we’re serious about transforming American Jewish life (let alone enabling the Jewish community, as a community, to have any impact on some of the greatest issues of our time, such as developing sustainable food systems, or seeking to prevent even worse climate-related destruction for generations to come).
Becoming a larger single organization – with a wide variety of programs, and revenue-streams, but with shared educational resources, and a single fundraising department, communications department, finance team, website, database etc – will enable us internally to be more specialized and to devote more resources to particular tasks. Externally it will enable us to orient ourselves more determinedly around the needs of others– to offer to individuals and to institutions a wide range of resources from a single website and a single staff-team.
This is important because the growth of the Jewish Food Movement, of Jewish outdoor education, and of Jewish environmental education in the last 10 years is incredibly profound – and it’s still incredibly under-resourced. Under the radar of American Jewish life, – and despite a community that is in overall terms trending flat to trending downwards, by a variety of metrics – remarkable things are happening. The Adamahniks and Tevaniks are fanning out into the rest-of-their lives: becoming rabbis, educators, farmers, leaders of all sorts. Many of them, along the way, are founding or leading their own institutions: Becca Weaver and Leora Mallach at Ganei Beantown (Boston); Jakir and Netsitsa Manela at Pearlstone (Baltimore); Risa Alyson Cooper at Shoresh in Toronto; Vivi & Yoni Stadlin at Eden Village in Putnam Valley, NY; in the Chicago area, the Margulies family at Pushing the Envelope Farm, and Jill Zenoff at the Gan Project; Zelig Golden and Julie Wolk at Wilderness Torah in the Bay area. Plus people like David Fox at Amir, in San Francisco, and Robert Nevel in Chicago at KAM Isaiah.
We are no longer an alternative to organized Jewish life; for a growing number of people, we are Jewish life. We’re weaving the Jewish community of tomorrow, and it’s happening today. The kids who go to camp at Eden Village or Ramah Outdoors, who go with their school to Teva, who go on to do a trip with Jewish Farm School, who teach at Teva, who live at Adamah or Urban Adamah – these are people who take for granted that there is no distinction – and should be no distinction – between learning and growing Jewishly, between celebrating our ancient tradition, and between being good citizens of our small fragile planet.
In our very first ride, in the summer of 2000, Hazon set out not only to touch people’s lives directly, but actively to support other great people and organizations. That summer our riders raised $32,000 in sponsorship, and WE gave away 100% of what we raised. (100% because I believed that a tooth-fairy would support Hazon’s work indefinitely in the future; that is definitionally not a sustainable business model.) Since then the percent that we have given away has steadily reduced – but the dollar-amount we’ve given away, and the other ways that we support people and organizations, has steadily grown.
In the next ten years, we want this merger not so much to fuel our own growth as to help drive positive change across the American Jewish community. That’s what this merger is most about. Here’s some of what we need:
- High-quality Jewish food education in every day-school, every Hebrew school and every synagogue – so that we’re connecting a 2,000-year old history of keeping kosher and of Jewish food traditions, with the deepest possible understanding of where our food comes from, and what it is to eat healthily as an individual, as a community and as a society;
- High-quality Jewish retreat centers – at Isabella Freedman and around the country – so that far greater numbers of people can experience a taste of living in Jewish space and time;
- New resources for rabbis and educators, to support them in teaching and leading in a way that’s grounded and inspiring;
- New ways to take Jewish people outdoors – not just for our kids, and not just at summer camps. That’s what Hazon’s bike rides are about, that’s what Teva’s Yitziah program is about, that’s what Wilderness Torah has done at its retreats. This in turn needs more training, more resources and more coordination;
- New ways to connect to Israel. Through our rides, through our Israel Sustainable Food Tour, through Siach, we’ve seen that food and environment are profound ways to connect to Israeli Jews, (not to mention new ways to start to build relationships with Israeli Palestinians, with Palestinians and Jordanians and other neighbors in the region). We’d like to play a role in helping to strengthen and renew the American Jewish community’s relationship with Israel;
- New ways to bring Jewish tradition to life. An institution like Elat Chayyim is, in a sense, an R&D unit for the whole Jewish community. What the Jewish Renewal movement pioneered – in relation to the status of women, to sexuality, to the language of prayer, to silence, meditation, yoga, the encounter with Buddhism, with Sufism, with Hinduism, with the ecstatic prayer and movement of born-again Christians: these things are not for all Jewish people, and they don’t need to be. But those of us – including me – who come from somewhat more traditional backgrounds, or who practice Jewishly in more traditional ways, shouldn’t fail to recognize how influential – and how fundamentally good – that R&D work has been, often without subsequent accreditation.
There’s more to be said, but I hope you get the point. Overall: I’m incredibly proud of what together we’ve accomplished in the 13 years since the Nash family first gave me the money to found Hazon. But I also note, overall, the challenge of asset allocation in American Jewish life. The installed capital base of the American Jewish community – all the synagogues, day schools, camps – is probably worth more than $10 billion. The total value of family foundations established by Jewish families is almost certainly in excess of $50 billion. Yet the total revenues of all the Jewish green organizations – broadly defined – is barely $10 million. That’s probably up 10-fold in a dozen years, but it’s still less than a fraction of one percent of the annual revenues of American Jewish life. Given the vitality of food, the environment and the outdoors as profound gateways to Jewish life and to social change, that just doesn’t make sense – and we’d like to help change that in the coming years.
In the coming year we’ll work hard, internally and externally, to build the new enlarged Hazon. We invite your help and your involvement in multiple ways. These organizations and programs have grown because of the passion and commitment of our staff, our board members, our volunteers, our participants and our funders. In the coming year we’ll be reaching out in new ways to ask questions and to invite feedback and involvement going forwards.
I want to end by noting that this is the time of year-end appeals. A growing number of people are proud to be Hazon stakeholders. Lots of us – me included – are members of shuls that we don’t necessarily go to each week, or we write checks to organizations that we don’t necessarily interact with every week or every month. But we pay dues because, even if we’re not there, the shul or the organization is; and we want it to be there, and to do what it does. So whether you’ve been recently to one of our Rides, or you’re coming to our Food Conference next week, or this year you were part of a Hazon CSA, or a member of your family was touched by work that we did – even if one of these things isn’t true for you, we hope that you’ll send a year-end check –or, better yet, become a monthly sustainer – because we stand for things that I know so many of you believe in.
From a standing start 13 years ago we’ve grown incredibly. We reach people who are affiliated and unaffiliated; orthodox and Reform; we work with a wide range of institutions, across the country. We’re renewing Jewish life in powerful ways, and we’re taking practical steps towards creating a better world for all. Please become a Hazon stakeholder – please give us a year-end gift, or make a commitment to become a monthly sustainer. Click here to give a donation.
Thanks – and wishing you a happy Chanukah and a healthy and peaceful new year,
Executive Director, Hazon
PS. I’m thrilled to announce that, thanks to the generosity of an anonymous supporter, if you’ve never supported Hazon before, your gift will be matched up to a total of $5,000.
September 28th 2012 / 12th Tishrei 5773
Sukkot starts on Sunday. It’s one of my favorite holidays: Sitting in a succah; the lulav and etrog; celebrating the harvest; feeling exposed to the world – in good ways; thinking about relationship to place – both locally, and in relation to Israel. Celebrating the change of season.
Liz and I are going to Isabella Freedman for Sukkahfest this Sunday – Freedman being the perfect place to spend Sukkot, as the New England leaves start to change color; and Sukkot being the perfect time to be at Isabella Freedman, especially since this year the succah, which is huge and beautiful, has a solid foundation, and thus won’t slide into the mud if it rains, which the weather forecast says is statistically unlikely. (Sukkahfest is almost sold-out, but to get one of the last reservations, or to join a list for cancellations, check Isabella Freedman’s website.)