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Author Archive | Hannah Elovitz

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Hazon Detroit: Of Spirit and of Seed

Dear Friends, As you know, it’s been gray and rainy since November. Not as much snow as some years, but cold, drizzly, damp, and long. We’ve been cooped up indoors trying to find outlets for excess energy, and yet seasons are seasons and we can only do so much to buck the natural order of things. So for months now, we’ve been waiting around as the days grow darker and the nights grow longer, biding time patiently for the vernal release. And then, just like that we turned the clocks ahead and all of a sudden it’s light at 7:30pm and 32 degrees and sunny feels balmy and 40s and 50s are in the forecast and thank goodness, spring is coming! It’s in the full moon midst of this pent up vitality that Purim comes along with its burlesque theatrics and carnival conviviality, a cure for the common case of spring fever. We dance through distinctions and imbibe in creative intuition, recalling a fantastical and topsy turvy drama of inner-court intrigue and epic reversals of fate and fortune that cunningly parallel the natural world, paving the way for our people’s near-genocide to become our jubilant celebration of national triumph. In […]

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Testimony: Proposed Revised Supplemental Finding for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and Results of the Residual Risk and Technology Review

On March 18, 2019, Dr. Mirele B. Goldsmith testified at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on behalf of the Jewish Climate Action Network for stronger mercury standards. Below are her remarks. My name is Dr. Mirele B. Goldsmith. I am a member of Congregation Adat Shalom in Bethesda, MD, a leader of Jewish Climate Action Network, and an environmental psychologist. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify. In this time of deep division in our country, I’m proud to be here with a group of 20 leaders of different faiths who will testify today.   We have our differences, but when it comes to the mercury rule we all agree that it would be immoral to weaken the current life-saving standards. The current leadership of the EPA claims that the cost of this rule is not worth the benefits. What are those benefits? According to the EPA itself, the current mercury pollution standards avoid up to 11,000 premature deaths, along with heart attacks, asthma attacks and brain damage to infants and children exposed to mercury in the womb. In one of the most famous lines in the Talmud our ancient rabbis also discuss cost-benefit analysis, but their conclusion is […]

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Hakhel Spotlight: Hashomer Hatzair USA

Hello from Hashomer Hatzair USA! We are a socialist zionist youth movement that has a sleepaway camp in the summer and year-round activities for our kenim (branches). We are excited to be here as first time members in the Hakhel community! We use experiential and collaborative education as a tool to further social justice and peace. Over the past year or so, we have begun a process for building a life movement for our bogrim (movement members that are college-aged and older). People have started thinking about what it would really look like to live their lives communally and actualize their ideals. As a result we have organized and run a handful of seminars around the topics of economics and allyship, and have built a framework to continue the learning process. This new chapter of our movement holds strong roots and is making steady progress. We are looking forward to having a special seminar in Israel to help us learn from communities successful in hagshama (self-realization), and to learn more about our relationship to Israel-Palestine. Additionally, a hub of bogrimot will be starting to live communally next year, and will host cultural gatherings and learning events. It is exciting to […]

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Hazon Detroit: Leaping Towards Connection

Dear Friends, We are now firmly in the month of February, a 28 day month in most years, that becomes 29 days in years that are multiples of four. Of course, this phenomenon is known as a “leap year.” And while 2019 is not a leap year in the Gregorian calendar, it is in the Hebrew calendar. Seven times every 19 years, the Hebrew calendar adds an extra month, known as Adar rishon (the first Adar), that precedes the standard Adar (which becomes Adar sheni, or the second Adar). Thus, Adar, the month that brings with it increased joy and the popular holiday of Purim, gets doubled up for double the joy over double the days. But why all the complicated math? Why do we have leap years in the first place? According to Wikipedia: “A leap year (also known as an intercalary year or bissextile year) is a calendar year containing…in the case of the Hebrew lunisolar calendar, a month added to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal year. Because seasons and astronomical events do not repeat in a whole number of days, calendars that have the same number of days in each year drift over time with respect to the event that the […]

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Hazon Detroit: Growth Ring Blessings

Dear Friends, At sunset this Sunday, January 20th, we will usher  in Tu B’Shvat, one of the four new years on the Jewish calendar. Just like our secular calendar has multiple year cycles—think calendar year, fiscal year, school year—so too, our Jewish calendar has multiple year cycles: birth of the world, birth of the Jewish people, the first of Elul, and Tu B’Shvat. Tu B’Shvat, named for its calendrical date – the 15th of Shvat – celebrates the birthday of the trees. Just like our birthdays mark a year of growth for us, in a symbolic way, Tu B’Shvat serves the same purpose for trees, marking another year of their growth. Regardless of when during the year a particular tree was planted in ancient times, its first birthday was always tallied on its first Tu B’Shvat. In this way, Tu B’Shvat might be considered the day when a tree symbolically forms its next ring. We have reached the cold months of winter when, like us, trees actually slow down for a period of internal hibernation. In cold winters, growth within a tree slows to a slogging crawl, before picking back up again when the temperatures rise. In fact, it is […]

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Hakhel Spotlight: Kehila Ivrit Amsterdam

Kehila was established by Israelis living in the Netherlands who teamed up to create a joint framework for cultural, social, and educational activities in the Hebrew language. Kehila is based on its members’ active participation and involvement in the spirit of pluralism and cooperation. Indeed, in the context of intentional communities, this is very obvious to expect people to give a hand and carry out all community needs and ventures, but, still this community is revolutionary for many of the members. Fans of community life see the power of devotion so clearly. Volunteering, co-creating is so basic. And yet, there are so many people out there who fear this level of intimacy, who rarely dare to step in a social circle. It is mainly fear which holds people back from attaching, not ideology. And there you go, a group of Israeli parents who can’t stand aloneness any more and feel the need of warmth and tribal power as part of their parenthood. They live the ultimate urban life Amsterdam has to offer, they are not used to being part of anything. For many of them, this step was confronting and scary. Once you feel how much love and warmth melt […]

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Hazon Perspective: Farm Bill Update

Our tradition teaches us to open up the corners of our harvest through pe’ah and to attune ourselves to the needs of land for rest and restoration through shmita. We at Hazon are therefore greatly relieved that the recently passed Farm Bill maintains food assistance access for those in need rather than imposing draconian work requirements and that it preserves programs that incentivize farmers to reduce erosion and increase soil carbon. The shift to an incoming house of representatives that is more committed to preserving food assistance and conservation funding after the 2018 midterm elections pressured the current congress to pass a farm bill that is more of a status quo than the conservation-slashing, poverty-worsening revamp that many in the house pushed for this summer. Thanks to high voter turnout in November and a huge wave of phone calls to our representatives from farmers and eaters alike, small but crucial programs will be funded rather than eliminated including organic research, the local agriculture market program, and supports for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers. Another huge win is that, despite a few concessions to the timber industry, the push toward legalizing expanded clear cutting was not included in the bill. And yet the relief […]

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Hakhel Spotlight: The Kehilla in South Korea

Hakehillah is a Jewish cultural community focused on welcoming and including all who wish to celebrate Jewish tradition, religion, and culture. There aren’t many Jews in South Korea, and we want to make everyone feel like they have a family here, whether they’re a “good Jew” or “bad Jew.” We’re family. Using photos of Korea taken by our members from throughout the year, we’ve produced a calendar which includes both Korean and Jewish holidays from September 2018 to October 2019, or in other words the Jewish year 5779. If you would be interested in supporting our community in a small way, the calendar can be ordered here. The suggested donation is $35, and it can be shipped to most countries. The calendars were designed by Sarah Gavin of www.coffeecatskimchi.com who is also a core Kehilla member.   Hakehillah is a Hakhel community. Learn more about Hakhel – the first-of-its-kind Jewish Intentional Communities Incubator

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Hakhel Spotlight: Urban Moshav Boston

On our Hakhel tour of intentional communities last month, our small group bonded quickly. With representatives from Baltimore, Boston, New York, Philadelphia – as well as Mexico, Ukraine, and Russia – we easily bridged our linguistic and cultural differences (everyone speaks some English and everyone enjoys good food). At Degania, the first kibbutz, founded in 1909, we had the opportunity to speak with Muki Tzur, one of the foremost leaders and historians of the kibbutz movement. Now in his 80s, Muki spoke with a deeply grounded knowledge and wisdom about what it means for Degania to now be entering its 6th generation. He also explained how the “poison of nostalgia” freezes the past into a false ideal, and he drew the distinction between testament and heritage: testament is an approach to the past that says “this is the way things were and must be, therefore I will tell you what to do”, while heritage says “I trust you to look at our shared past, and decide what to keep and adapt for your future.” The gifts history has to offer are insights into how people of the past thought about the future; across time, people are always thinking about the […]

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Hakhel Spotlight: November Newsletter Message

Dear friends, “There were shots in a synagogue in Pittsburgh,” my hosts in New York informed me last Saturday night when I returned from a wonderful Shabbat with UWS Jews, a community of young Jews in New York, who are part of the 2018 cohort of Hakhel. “There are 11 dead, an anti-Semitic murderer.” In the second before the shock hit me, I still had time to think about the blessing of Shabbat that cuts us off from the world for a moment and enables us to gather as a community, and even to postpone such bitter news for a few more hours. On Monday, I was supposed to continue to Canada for meetings with other communities, but I quickly concluded that it would not make sense to continue with the schedule as if nothing had happened: I canceled the meetings, organized what I needed and arrived in Pittsburgh after a six hours drive from New York. “You may have gotten used to such things in Israel,” Dafna told me, “but you just live in a constant sense of anxiety.” I met Dafna after I arrived at Pittsburgh’s JCC. All attempts to contact acquaintances and colleagues in Pittsburgh in advance […]

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Hazon Detroit at Interfaith Justice Speak-Out

Hazon Detroit is proud to have stood alongside so many powerful faith leaders on November 1, 2018 at the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn to denounce white nationalism, show support for the Jewish community, and affirm solidarity for all those who are targets of hate. Praying for a time when these gatherings might be prompted not by hate, but only by love. To see more from the speak-out, click here or here, and read Rabbi Nate DeGroot’s full remarks below.   Thank you Imam Elahi and the Islamic House of Wisdom for having me here today. I wish I was here for a different reason – but we’re alive in this moment – And so I am grateful to be here with you this afternoon in heartbreak and solidarity And I am humbled to be up here, amongst such respected colleagues and fellow travelers. — I was asked today to speak on how the Jewish community is feeling in this moment, And I will do my best to articulate some of that. But capturing the sentiments of an entire people is an impossible task – Since I can only truly speak to how I am feeling, And even that […]

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Turning Yom Kippur into Action

Dear friends — If you’re like me, you probably spent some of your Yom Kippur last week thinking about how to better live up to your ideals — how to be kinder, more just, more in touch with the sacred. Well, here’s an advertisement for how to put that resolution into practice. Having spent twenty-five years exploring spirituality, therapy, meditation, medication, self-help, human potential, sacred sexuality, entheogens, and a dozen or so paths to the holy, I think that meditation retreat has been the single most effective tool in the never-finished project of becoming more alive, more awake, and more invested in pursuing justice. I’m sure this isn’t true for everyone, but it has definitely been true for me and for many of the “spiritual friends” and teachers who have inspired me along the way. In my experience, no awesome spiritual state, no study, and no political action can transform the mind and heart the way that meditation does — and no amount of daily meditation can do the work of a multi-day meditation retreat. That’s true whether you’re suffering and looking for healing, or comfortable and interested in doing more with your one, precious life. Contemplative neuroscience has now […]

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Hakhel Spotlight: FED, Harlem

FED – an intentional community based in Harlem, NYC – feeds you with delicious food, inspirational art and ideas, and the creative energy of others you find here. For the first time, this year FED will be offering services and meals for the Jewish High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. There is a universal need for spiritual experiences, for a sense of community and belonging. FED offers a platform for creativity and dialogue where those from a variety of backgrounds feel welcome and included. It so happens that creativity with the tradition and how it can inspire reflection, help us find and realize a sense of purpose, and be our best selves is to me what Judaism – and FED – is all about. For Rosh Hashanah on September 9-11, Hadar Cohen will lead us in interactive services incorporating sound and movement, and two delicious dinners will mark the start of the Jewish New Year. For Yom Kippur, we are hosting a service on September 18 at 7pm called Kol Nidre, perhaps the most dramatic, significant and powerful service in the Jewish calendar, which launches the Day of Atonement. In a participatory music theatre take on the Jewish ritual, […]

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Hakhel Spotlight: Sadeh, UK

This past July at Sadeh, we organised our first summer camp.  Rooted in Jewish values Sadeh cultivates community, grows food, and sows the seeds of change.  Sadeh, which means field, is the first UK Jewish farm and environmental community of our generation. Our summer camp was a week long day camp for children ages 5 – 10 and we had a great mix of children from our Jewish community and our local community. This was one of the first events both specifically for children and to encourage local people to come to our site. It was a massive success and we are already planning next year’s event! Three practical tips we learnt from this event that I want to share: – We definitely needed all 4 staff for 15 – 20 children. – Don’t be afraid of doing morning Jewish songs with non – Jewish participants. Everyone loved it! – We planned every second of the week but a lot of the time at least some of the children just wanted to play on the obstacle course or colour in by themselves which we let them do. Free play is so amazing and otherwise they might as well be in […]

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Hakhel Spotlight: Shana Tova from Hakhel!

Dear friends, Shana tova, Happy New Year! Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot are upon us again. It is the month of the year the Jews all over the world most look to their communities for meaning, connection and personal acceptance. Much has been written about the Jewish Holidays being like an ascending spiral: although the Holidays repeat year after year, those celebrating them ascend rather than return around the circle as they find deeper and more personal connections to the festivals each time they come by. The same can be said of many of the communities which have grown through Hakhel – as the only Jewish Intentional Communities incubator. We map out growth of communities which may run the same programming year after year- communal prayers, Rosh Hashanah dinner, a picnic at sukkot, but it is a great honour to see that through those activities, communities deeper their internal connections to each other, find more meaning in their interpersonal relationships, and give of just a bit more of themselves into the collective spirit with every year that goes by. Benedict Allen, the jungle explorer famed for crossing the Amazon basin by foot, describes his philosophy saying, “exploration isn’t about […]

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