From Judith Belasco
June 13th, 2017 | 19th Sivan 5777
I joined Hazon in July 2007 as the Associate Director of Food Programs. I was a vegan and my first day on the job, Nigel mentioned that I needed to organize our first-ever shechita (ritual slaughter) at the Hazon Food Conference. It was clear from day one that working at Hazon would be filled with growth and opportunities – both personally and professionally.
Since then, my title has changed as our programs have grown. I launched our work on the west coast with a Food Conference at Asilomar, developed curricula, started regional offices in the Bay Area, Denver-Boulder, Philly, San Diego, and Detroit, launched Siach – an international social and environmental justice conversation, stewarded Seeds of Opportunity: The JOFEE Report, and now as Chief Program Officer, I lead an incredible staff of people who are creating powerful, transformative experiences that directly reach over 25,000 people a year.
And, as of Monday, I’m Hazon’s Acting CEO, while Nigel’s on sabbatical.
Over the next four months I’m not planning to write all of these emails myself. As Nigel does occasionally, I want to give voice and a platform to some of our other (amazing) staff as they share some of what they’re doing, and their observations on the work.
But this week I did want to start simply by re-introducing myself to those of you who know me, and saying hello to those of you who don’t.
When I first joined Hazon it was because Hazon’s ideals were aligned with my personal and professional principles. It was the place where a serious conversation was starting about how our current food system is related to our 3,000-year-old Jewish tradition. In 2007, I was a new Registered Dietician (RD) and working at Linking Food & the Environment (LiFE) which is now the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy and provides key expertise in these areas for our JOFEE Fellowship.
In the last ten years, here are just a few of the things that I have learned…
The staff and volunteers that give their time and energy to creating Hazon are incredibly talented and dedicated. I’m blessed to be in a role that has allowed me to meet and partner with so many of them.
Learning together as a staff allows ideas to cut through position, age, and hierarchy in an organization. Routinely we learn together as a staff and it is during these times that we can see other sides of each other and build connections that wouldn’t necessarily happen during the workday.
Share your snacks – especially if it is chocolate in the afternoon and you are meeting with Nigel. 😉
Even though I’m nervous – of course – to take the reins of the organization, I’m also strongly in favor of Nigel’s sabbatical, and for many reasons. I know how exhausting it is to run an organization like Hazon and, truthfully, how hard Nigel works, and so in a personal/professional sense I’m happy for him to have the chance to recharge his (ecological) batteries.
But I’m equally excited – as I know he is, and our board is – at the quite deliberate opportunity that this affords for staff members to step into leadership including many people, in many ways.
The word Hazon, as you know, means “vision.” The large tasks we have set ourselves – turning Jewish life outwards, to help make a more sustainable world for all – are more important today than at any time before. So I’m excited to step up in this way, delighted to have the chance to encourage our staff, in multiple ways, and thrilled most of all to invite each of you to be part of the journey. I hope I’ll see you at one of our programs this summer (see the ever-growing calendar below). I hope that you’ll join us at one of our retreats in the coming year. I hope that you’ll think about hosting a JOFEE Fellow in your institution next year.
Most of all, I invite you to be in touch – whether with words of advice, encouragement, or caution (!) – we are excited to strengthen ourselves in new ways during Nigel’s sabbatical and we encourage you to be part of it.
With all best wishes,