Siach

Every day, hundreds of Jewish environment and social justice activists work tirelessly to make the world a more just and sustainable place.

We talk of Tikkun Olam, highlighting the Jewish People’s responsibility to the entire world.  We use phrases like “Think global, act local.” We speak the language of globalization, raising awareness about the realities of a ‘flat’ world in which the clothing we wear were produced by sweatshops in far-off countries, in which one nation’s environmental policies affect the quality of life in a different continent, in which the internet brings the suffering of people thousands of miles away into our own homes.

And yet, few, if any, opportunities exist for global conversations among these activists.

The world is getting smaller and yet the miles – geographical, cultural, political, and otherwise – separating Jewish environment and social justice activists in Jerusalem from those in New York or London don’t seem to be getting any shorter.

All the while, we are missing precious opportunities for sharing information and best practices, we are duplicating efforts instead of maximizing them, and failing to articulate global visions for Jewishly-inspired social change – visions that have the power to inspire and galvanize the international Jewish community and the world at large.

Why have these kinds of conversations so rarely happened?  What is the significance of having Jewishly-rich conversations? Can we move beyond the geographical, cultural, and political differences that divide us to work towards a common purpose and, if so, how? What can we learn from colleagues and organizations half-way across the globe?  What models of successful international collaboration already exist?

These are the kinds of questions that Siach: An Environment and Social Justice Conversation is seeking to explore.  

The Siach network aims to create:

  • Conversation: an open dialogue about points of similarity and difference facing Jewish environment and social justice activists from around the world, and a nuanced understanding of Jewish Peoplehood and Israel engagement with those for whom the pursuit of social and environmental justice is a defining characteristic of their identities
  • Connection: meaningful, long-term relationships among Jewish environment and social justice activists
  • Cooperation: ongoing, year-long collaboration and partnership

The Hebrew word “siach” refers primarily to “discourse” and is used in the Bible to describe conversations of anger, intimacy, bitter complaint, and sweet praise. By engaging in honest discussion and exchanging ideas, resources, and best practices with colleagues located half way around the globe, we can find new and surprising ways to approach familiar issues in our own backyards.

Yet, Siach also has a secondary meaning: a small bush or shrub. This alludes not only to the environmental aspect of this network, but also to the fact that conversations initiated at the conferences will remain grounded in the small details of the world, while grappling with the big questions of social change.

The Siach gathering in 2015 was focused on Shmita – the Biblical Sabbatical year – as a frame to explore parallel, overlapping conversations around social justice around the world. We aimed to capitalize upon the Siach network to involve both people and organizations, across borders, in a wide range of events and programs that taught about the shmita year as part of the shared cultural heritage of the Jewish people and engender a conversation – and concrete action – about implications of shmita for the world today.

Visit the Shmita Project to learn more about the radical challenges of the Shmita year and to download resources including primary sources, program ideas, and the Hazon Shmita Sourcebook.

Special Recent Posts

Siach for the Seas

Siach for the Seas

October 4th, 2017

By David Krantz Imagine a Siach that isn’t just for Jews, but isn’t secular — a Siach that’s wholly religious and spiritual, but involving many religions —  and you’d have a conference run by the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care.[...]

Reflection on Law Society Human Rights Conference

Reflection on Law Society Human Rights Conference

October 4th, 2017

By Simone Abel On 10 December 2012, I was privileged to attend the annual Law Society Human Rights Conference in London on a Siach Stipend.  The focus of the conference was the impact of human rights principles on discrimination law, particularly[...]

Tu B’Shmita: Jewish Energy Guide Released

Tu B’Shmita: Jewish Energy Guide Released

October 4th, 2017

By David Krantz NEW YORK (Jan. 16, 2014) — The next Shmita year is scheduled to begin in September, so we need to get ready! The Jewish Energy Guide is designed to help the Jewish community become more environmentally sustainable and[...]

Having a gay old time from Freedman to Eshbal… a cave man’s song not a cave man’s attitude!

Having a gay old time from Freedman to Eshbal… a cave man’s song not a cave man’s attitude!

October 4th, 2017

A group of activists from North America, Israel and Europe who met at the first Siach conference at Isabella Freedman Retreat Centre, have been collaborating on a couple of projects since we left the lentils, goats and lake behind in[...]

René Cassin Fellows Program

René Cassin Fellows Program

October 4th, 2017

When Simone Abel of Rene Cassin and Rabbi Sid Schwartz of CLAL first ran into each other at Limmud, they had the sense that they might enjoy working together. But it wasn’t until the Siach Conference that they found the[...]

Siach Collaboration Spreads as Far as India

Siach Collaboration Spreads as Far as India

October 4th, 2017

By Yonatan Glaser, Director, B’Tzedek, (and Manager of the joint initiative in India), and Nir Lahav, Director, Project T.E.N. and the Director of Young Activism Unit, The Jewish Agency For Israel It is with great excitement that the Jewish Agency’s Project[...]

Spotlight on a Siach Partnership: Rosh Hashanah LaBehema

Spotlight on a Siach Partnership: Rosh Hashanah LaBehema

September 6th, 2017

Aharon Varady (The Open Siddur Project, USA) has joined forces with Yossi Wolfson (Ginger, Israel) and Shmuly Yanklowitz (Uri L’Tzedek, USA)  to revive the Mishnaic idea of Rosh Hashana LaBehama, Rosh Hashana for animals. So what is “the New Year for[...]