I am pleased to introduce Anna Hanau, Hazon’s Associate Director of Food Programs and co-author of “Food for Thought, Hazon’s Sourcebook on Jews, Food and Contemporary Life.” Anna is a 2004 alumna of List College / Barnard College, where she learned how to bring the best of her Jewish and environmental interests together on a personal level. Through her work at Hazon, Anna continues to merge all parts of her identity, and her story below offers a helpful view into how Hazon — through our programs, resources and ongoing work — is aiming to offer the best of both worlds as well.
Executive Director, Hazon
Something people tell us frequently at Hazon is a variation on “For the first time, I can combine all the things I’m passionate about! You really brought together all of my interests in one place. Now I really feel like I can be my full self.” They say it with relief: our hyper-specialized world lets us live in micro-communities—these are my Jewish friends, these are my foodie friends—while a nagging feeling emerges that the sum of all these parts might still not quite add up to a unified whole, and opportunities to ‘wear all of our different hats’ are few and far between.
I smile when people tell me this, because it’s one of the things that made me, too, so excited to find Hazon and the work that we do.
The notion that I could work in a field that combined all my passions was stoked by my experience in college. An eager Hebrew School assistant and Jewish Life Chair of my regional board in BBYO in High School, I was clearly pulled towards deepening my Jewish education and faith. I lived in a diverse (ie, not very Jewish) suburb of Vancouver, BC, where my other passions were jazz music and backpacking with Girl Guides. I knew that I wanted to go to college somewhere where there were more Jews, more of a Jewish community — but going to Israel felt too far away. It also seemed at the time “too Jewish.” I wanted to explore the Jewish side of me, but not only that side. Happily, I discovered the Double Degree Program at the Jewish Theological Seminary and Barnard College/Columbia University on New York’s Upper West Side. The program was advertised as offering the “best of both worlds:” first class Jewish education, with full access to the world of Liberal Arts at one of the country’s best schools.
I was lucky — I was accepted. I signed up to pursue twin passions: Bible Studies at JTS, and Urban Studies & Environmental Science at Barnard. Schleping around a tanakh (the three books that comprise the full Hebrew bible) in one hand and a report on community gardens in New York City in the other, allowed me to learn, in the same week, where I had come from and where I wanted to go, and what work lay ahead of me to create the kind of world I wanted to live in. Pursuing both at once meant I was grappling with (as college students are encouraged to do) all aspects of my identity, from faith to food politics. I didn’t have to put once piece of me on hold while I figured another piece out.
Fastforward to working at Hazon, first on our bike rides where I loved telling people “It’s Jewish to ride a bike!” and on to our food work, where 3,000 years of Jewish traditions around food mash up with contemporary food issues in surprising and compelling ways, I feel fortunate that I get to bring my full self to work, and to do work that brings meaning to my personal life. And although I initially approached Hazon with my “best of both worlds” hat — you mean I can do food stuff and Jewish stuff, together? — upon reflecting on this field 10 years after first getting involved, I can see that the truth about how these pieces line up, and why programs like List College and organizations like Hazon are so compelling, is that it’s not simply “Jewish” on one side and “everything else” on the other.
Jewish isn’t a side. It isn’t a topic. It’s a rhythm, a community, a set of values, a conversation. People feel whole at Hazon events not because every single one of their selves is represented separately, but because they can see aspects of themselves in the whole. When we support local farmers by buying a share of a CSA at our synagogue, we’re expressing Jewish values. When we work really hard all week but close our laptops on Friday afternoon for a day of unplugging, both our work and our rest are Jewish. By not wanting to study “only Jewish stuff” in college I think I instead managed to find a way to relate to being Jewish where it is actually part of everything I do, whether those things are explicitly Jewish topics or not. And this is truly the best of both worlds!
We’re so excited that Itta Werdiger-Roth is going to be presenting at the Food Conference! In 2011, she launched The Hester, an underground restaurant and music café in Brooklyn, where different kinds of people, observant and non-observant, Jewish and non-Jewish, are introduced to creative, wholesome, made-from-scratch food and great live music. At its heart, The Hester is a fusion of food, music and Jewish conversation – stimulating all three at once.
At the Food Conference, Itta will be doing a cooking demo highlighting her signature small-plate style, and she will be helping us to host the best New Year’s Eve party in the Berkshires (along with our friends Zion 80). For more info about the Food Conference, visit hazon.org/foodconference.
Itta is also getting ready to open a new restaurant in Brooklyn: Mason & Mug – check it out and help fund their dream.
Make it Happen!
How do you #MakeItHappen in your Jewish community? It’s more than a question—it’s a call to action.
#MakeItHappen invites YOU to show how small change can lead to big impact.
Submit your inspired ideas for creating a Jewish experience that will make a meaningful difference in your community.
Between October and December 2013, up to 50 ideas from around the world will be selected to receive a micro grant of up to $1,000. Five ideas could receive up to $5,000.
Dream big. Take risks. #MakeItHappen.
Loving the Real Israel:
Israel education has been taking on an increasing high profile in the Jewish community. But is it effective? Can old messages speak to a new generation? Or is a new approach called for?
Loving The Real Israel draws from the writings of Jewish philosophers, educational theorists, and Bible scholars to offer principles for a new liberal Zionist engagement. Loving The Real Israel provides guidance for educators in constructing meaningful Israel educational experiences, as well as for liberal Zionists who want to discuss Israel issues with their friends, family, and community.
NY: Greening Seminar: Building Community and Consciousness During the Shmita (Sabbatical) Year
With one year until the next Shmita, plan now for ways your community can renew this ancient tradition. This seminar is an opportunity to think about the types of programs and services that your agency or synagogue can provide to put the Shmita principles of nurturing community and sharing resources into action.
Tuesday, October 29th – 10:15 am – 12:30 pm
UJA-Federation of New York – 130 East 59th Street
For more information and to register, please click here.