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Author Archive | Amy Hannes

Press Release: Not our hazon

For immediate release Hazon, the leading American Jewish environmental organization, this week issued a strong response to a new Israeli organization, also called “hazon”, that has published a series of inflammatory billboards attacking gay, lesbian and transgender Israelis, and then also attacked Women of the Wall. Hazon, based in New York, and with staff in five locations in the US, as well as two staffers in Israel, has worked for nearly twenty years to strengthen Jewish life and to work for a more sustainable world for all. Hazon has a legal trademark for the name “Hazon,” and its Israeli lawyers issued a cease-and-desist letter to the new Israeli “hazon” earlier this week, demanding that the Israeli group immediately cease using the name “Hazon.” Hazon’s CEO, Nigel Savage, said “Hazon works to create a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community, and a more sustainable world. We’re proud of our work and of our good name. It is frankly distressing to see our name being attached to billboards and pronouncements that so radically stand against all that we have done, and all that we have tried to do, since our founding in 2000.” Aharon Ariel Lavi, Hazon’s senior staffer in Israel and […]

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Pittsburgh/Israel

I’m in Israel with our largest ever Israel Ride – 219 participants, plus more than 60 crew and staff members. Six of our riders live in Pittsburgh, two are members of the shul that was attacked, and many more grew up in Pittsburgh or have spent much of their lives there. One person lost one of his closest friends. Two of our riders were married by someone who was shot and had an operation yesterday and is in hospital right now. So – we are a long way away, and it feels very very close. I and all of us send love and condolences to everyone in Pittsburgh and to everyone who is mourning. And, in a different sense, to everyone in the Jewish community and everyone in America who is appalled and shocked that we have reached this point. This morning we stood together overlooking Machtesh Ramon and we sang Eitz Chayim Hi – the words that we read before returning the Torah to the ark on Shabbat morning, the tune that is so beautiful and well-loved. Shuls will be packed next Shabbat morning, across America – shuls should be packed, next Shabbat morning, across America – and I suspect the most intense moment will be […]

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2017 JOFEE Network Gathering Remarks

From Steven Green, Director of Grants Management and Program Officer, Jim Joseph Foundation We are here! We tend to wish one another a Shana Tovah while we acknowledge this has been a Shana Kashe. It’s been a tough year. That’s probably the understatement of the century, but it needs to be said and acknowledged. The attacks on Jews of all creeds have been physical, verbal, emotional, and unrelenting. Our values and our resolve have simultaneously been tested. And of course we have not been the only ones attacked in these ways. But no longer are we in a shtetl. No longer are we monolithic. No longer are we even always a ‘we’ – and yet, we are still degraded and debased collectively. I know these are less-than-uplifting remarks, but processing this reality helps us better understand our work and our critical role creating deeply meaningful, personal life experiences for people. Others here will talk about JOFEE specifically; I want to focus for just a few minutes on the external realities impacting many of our lives right now. We have shown that we can stand up against something together – standing up against misogyny through women’s marches; standing up against bigotry, antisemitism, […]

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Spotlight on a Siach Partnership: Rosh Hashanah LaBehema

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 Animals”? According to the Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah, Chapter 1, Mishna 1) the first of the month of Elul is “the new year for tithing of beasts,” the same source that tells us that Tu B’Shvat is the New Year for trees. Originally, Tu B’Shvat served as a marker of time for taxation and tithes for trees and it has transformed into a spiritual/activist holiday relating to the celebration of the environment and the natural world surrounding us. The hope is that the first of Elul can also become a holiday celebrating our relationship with animals. Whereas tithing animals is not relevant nowadays – cruelty to animals in agriculture is harsher than ever. Jewish teachings about our duties to animals are thus more relevant than ever, and a day dedicated to the issue is a pressing need. By renewing and reclaiming the first of Elul in this manner, we can take a day that was once connected to sacrifice of […]

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The power of retreat

by Nigel Savage Shana tova – happy new year. I was in shul and I was wondering: if a social psychologist could somehow track the behavior of all the Jewish people in the world, relative to a/ our own behavior the rest of the year and b/ everyone else’s behavior this week, would there be some statistically significant measure of our somehow being better? Kinder, more thoughtful, more generous? I hope that would be the case. I do actually believe that that is the case. If the steady drip, drip of a religious tradition doesn’t make us better people then it’s not in either sense of the word a good religion – not morally good, not practically useful. Before Rosh Hashanah, I sent out the recent Andrew Sullivan essay on the need to step back from technology. If you haven’t read it, it’s really worth reading. If not before, print it out for the afternoon of Yom Kippur. But I also wanted to share the journal published ten years ago by Michael Steinhardt’s foundation on “The Power & Potential of Jewish Retreats.” The essays make interesting reading after a decade’s reflection. The power of retreats has, if anything, increased, as […]

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Shana tova / The year in wider perspective…

by Nigel Savage This is our last email of the first year of this shmita cycle. Rosh Hashanah – a week on Sunday night, October 2nd – marks the start of year two. It has been a good and productive and impactful year for Hazon, and I am so grateful to our staff, our board members, our funders, our participants. Just doing one thing makes a difference. Being kind, offering advice, pitching in, being brave, stretching, supporting. We each of us influence myriad others, each day, directly and indirectly. Thank you for your support. Thank you for your ideas. Thank you for showing up. As good as it has been for Hazon, it has been an unsettling year for the Jewish community, for America and for the world. We were refugees or immigrants once, every one of us reading this – we or our ancestors, known or unknown. “Civilization” is a grandiose term for the ups and downs of our day-to-day life, all that we take for granted. Water from the tap, medicines, decent schools. Food from around the world, just down the street. All this technology. Bike lanes. GPS. All these practical things and a thousand others we rely […]

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360 degrees / change your place

by Nigel Savage “Shanah,” the Hebrew word for year, has two opposite meanings: change, and repeat. On one hand, we know the coming year will hold the same calendar, the same holiday cycle, and what seems like the same life situations as the year before. On the other hand, life is always in flux. Life is unpredictable. And the potential for change is always present. If the Jewish new year was only about acknowledging external change, or celebrating the renewed cycle, it might have been called “shanah chadashah,” new year. Instead we call it Rosh Hashanah: head of the year, head of the change; a time when we dig into our heads, focusing on internal work, repairing relationships, fixing the past, improving ourselves… teshuvah. So it is within this framework that I’d like to place our work at Hazon, and specifically the hard work of change. To truly create a healthier and more sustainable world, we need the support and initiative of world governments. And that kind of advocacy is indeed part of our work. Yet the macro changes cannot happen without a sea change of individuals aspiring towards the transformation demanded by teshuvah – to treat each other better, […]

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Feeling The Gratitude Of Our Bounty And The Pride In Our Colleagues

by Mordechai Schram, Director of Food Services It seems like just yesterday that we celebrated Shavuot/Yom Habikurim with a celebration of First Fruits – reveling in the tingling fresh taste of our delicious Shavuot Schav Shooters – Schav, is a delicious Sorrell and Potato Soup served hot or cold and made with Sorrell from Adamah Farms. Now that we are in early August, our fruits and veggies are in full abundance, and they have begun making their way to our kitchen in their full glory. So many colors, flavors and textures from the Collards, Kale, Cucumbers, Salad Turnips, Salad Greens, Romaine, Oregano and Basil. Today we held our second annual Farm & Table Team Farm Tour (say that 5 times fast). We toured the farm together and learned how the farmers grow such bounty without the use of chemicals- through the use of crop rotation, the creation of habitat for beneficial insects that help control pests, the mile high compost piles of food waste decomposing into rich fertilizer, drip irrigation technology (developed is Israel) and more. A fine and fun day was had by all. Now is a glorious time to be here at the farm, so we look forward to […]

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The People of the Bike Redux

by Nigel Savage A version of this email was due to go out on Thursday evening. But 85 people were murdered in Nice that evening, so we decided to hold off until this morning. Over the weekend – as we know – an attempted coup killed more than 260 people in Turkey and then yesterday three police officers were murdered in Baton Rouge. In my email three weeks ago, post-Brexit, which clearly hit a chord with many people, I ended by noting the huge gap between the challenges we face, and the tools we feel we have – individually – to make a difference. It’s against this backdrop that I want to talk about the evolution of Hazon’s Rides, and I want to try to place them in a wider context. Because the gap is huge, and/but, paraphrasing Edmund Burke, it must be the case that our response to evil is to strive to do good, in all the multiple ways that we can. I learned from Anna Hanau, many years ago, a line I like very much. “You know you’re on the right track,” she said, “when your solution to one problem solves a bunch of other problems too.” That […]

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The View From England

by Nigel Savage This has been a shocking week to be in England. I feel very sad. The overarching thread of the emails that I write for the Hazon list is our theme quote – “the Torah is a commentary on the world, and the world is a commentary on the Torah.” The various programs that Hazon delivers, the curricula we produce, the experiences we curate, the things for which we advocate; these exist not in and of themselves but as part of a larger picture. How do we best renew Jewish life so that the Jewish community can help to create a more sustainable world for everyone? That’s the frame through which I’m back in Manchester, soaking up what’s going on. I make these observations. This is all one story. I mean this not in the simplistic sense, widely commented upon already, that there is a revolt, across many of the democracies, against the established post-war order, encompassing Syriza, the Scottish Nationalists and to some extent Bernie Sanders on the left, and Le Pen, UKIP and Donald Trump on the right. But the underlying thread is deeper still. In contemporary life “electoral politics” is one set of conversations – […]

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The old and the new

by Nigel Savage Na’aseh v’nishmah – “we will do and we will learn” – are the words with which the Jewish people received the Torah, which we celebrated last weekend. The words are famous because of their order: it is the Torah’s intuition that one learns by doing, by trying things out, by taking a leap. These words underpin experiential education in general and the work of Hazon in particular, because they speak to the necessity of trying new things. Newness is not good for its own sake, and birthing new things is certainly hard. But the world is changing fast, and Jewish life is changing fast. We need to relearn the ancient wisdom of Jewish tradition. We need to learn old things in new ways, and sometimes new things in old ways. We need to inspire those who are already involved in Jewish life, we need to bring new people through the door, and we have to point Jewish life outwards to address some of the largest issues of our time. I’m thinking this because last week saw the inaugural JOFEE Network Gathering, bringing together leaders of the field with fresh faces and curious newcomers. It was an exceptionally […]

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Israel / leaning in

by Nigel Savage Hazon will be in the Celebrate Israel Parade in New York this Sunday, riding bicycles alongside our Topsy Turvy Bus. Many people would not mind if we were not there; it’s 2016, nothing about Israel is uncontroversial, and for a growing number of Jewish leaders and institutions it is easier to change the channel. But I like the Sheryl Sandberg notion of leaning in. I think it’s intuitively right. And it applies to Israel, it applies to the Celebrate Israel Parade and it applies to what Hazon is trying to do more generally in relationship to Israel. Each one of us reading this has our own Israel history, our own Israel relationship, our own values, our own set of questions. Mine is pretty wide, though not necessarily wider than anyone else’s. I had a traditional Jewish education, and bounced against it. I was provoked by anti-Zionism in undergrad in England, and bounced against it. At Georgetown I overlapped with Hisham Sharabi and Jan Karski, and learned from both. I finished my MA at Hebrew U, and the best class I ever took in 20 years of full-time education was Jeremy Milgrom’s Politics and Religion in Jerusalem – […]

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Learning from Lubavitch

by Nigel Savage Hazon’s tag line, built into our logo, is “Jewish inspiration. Sustainable communities.” These four words are an imperfect attempt to summarize not only an ethos that underpins our work, but also some of its contradictions. Those contradictions have, if anything, grown over time. This period between Pesach and Shavuot is a good time to explore them. Metaphorically we’re in the wilderness, traveling without Torah and without rules, trying to figure out how we go from being against something to being for something. The former, of course, is psychologically far easier. We were against apartheid. We were against the oppression of the Soviet Jews. We were and are against racism, we’re against anti-semitism, we’re against attacks on Israel. (There was a moving article yesterday which makes clear that murderous hatred is alive and well, amidst the things for us to be against.) But what are we for? What do we do with our freedom? What exactly is “Jewish inspiration?” When should we allow ourselves to be inspired, and when by contrast should we become alarmed? I recently read both Chaim Miller’s and Rabbi Joe Telushkin’s biographies of the late Lubavitcher rebbe, z”l, and right now I’m reading David […]

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Organic Jewish life, now

by Nigel Savage It’s spring, we’re counting the omer, much is happening. I wanted to say something about the nature of Isabella Freedman as a Jewishly-inflected retreat center – why that is so unique and vital and also hard to define, and then a few words about some of what’s happening at Freedman in the next few months. The significance and necessity of a place like Freedman goes back to the flattening of Jewish life that traces back to the French Revolution, the enlightenment and the emancipation. Each, in various ways, good in and of itself – or a harbinger of good things which we take for granted – yet a toll was paid; not just the general toll of modernity, but also a toll within the Jewish community. Until then – and absolutely without over-romanticizing it – Jewish life was lived organically, ie with some degree of separation from the surrounding culture, in a world that encompassed Jewish space, Jewish time, Jewish language and Jewish thought. These things cannot and should not be solely in their own bubble; but neither should they be flattened by the surrounding culture. But that’s what has happened, to some extent, after the French […]

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“Freedom to…..” / seder night in the age of Sanders & Trump

by Nigel Savage What do we read? The vital lesson of Hillel in the 21st century. I was mooching around the internet, looking for a copy of the (excellently-named) Chazon Ovadia (the haggadah of Rav Ovadia Yosef, z”l) and I was thinking about the fact that President Obama is the first president to host and lead a pesach seder at the White House. This somehow led me back to the remarkable speech that the president gave in eulogizing the Reverend Clementa Pinckney z”l last year. His speech included this: Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history; but we haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.” What is true in the South is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other. That my liberty depends on you being free, too. That history can’t be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past – how to break the cycle. A roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind – […]

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