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Author Archive | Nigel Savage

nigel-savage

An extraordinary gift from Greta Thunberg

Thursday, October 17, 2019 | 4th day of Sukkot, 5780 Dear All, I get older and my Jewish journey evolves, but almost the only constant is a constantly deepening sense of how amazing the tradition is and how the pieces fit together. I say that because I felt, this year, that I understood – and felt – Sukkot better than I ever have before. Partly this was being at Isabella Freedman for the opening days. The trees a glorious riot of changing color. Kids running around. Davening in umpteen flavors – and then a shared Hallel. Physical sukkot that are extraordinary works of art, and testament to the Adamahniks, Tevaniks, and staffers who designed and built them. Old friends and new and good conversations and learning. And, amidst this, Hazon’s theme quote is this line – the Torah is a commentary on the world, and the world is a commentary on the Torah. Which is to say: Sukkot may nominally be the same, but we are different and the world is different, and so we see it subtly differently. This year’s sukkot comes after Hazon’s strategic planning process; after the global climate strikes; after hearing Greta Thunberg speak in NY. And I came away understanding more deeply, first, […]

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We Are the Weather: A Year of Environmental Teshuva

ראש חודש אלול תשע״ט  ——–  Rosh Chodesh Elul 5779, August 29th, 2019 Dear Rabbis and Clergy, I hope that you have now received a pre-publication copy of Jonathan Safran Foer’s We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast. I’m writing to explain why we arranged to have this sent to you, and how we hope it might be useful to you. We really are in a climate crisis, and this year, and even this summer, feels like a tipping point of sorts – not only in terms of extreme weather events – this past July was the hottest month on record – ever, but also in relation to people’s consciousness of them. A growing number of people in the Jewish community feel strongly that we ought to be “doing something” about this – but what exactly we do and how we make an impact is sometimes less clear. This is why at Hazon we intend to raise our game in the coming months and years. We’re here to catalyze and support Jewish institutions and Jewish leaders, as Jewish tradition compels us to respond to this crisis. In addition: most people have some sense that food is central to […]

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A Year of Environmental Teshuva

ראש חודש אלול תשע״ט  ——–  Rosh Chodesh Elul 5779, August 29th, 2019 Dear Rabbis and Clergy, Hazon is entering into a year of Environmental Teshuva. The backdrop is that: We really are in a climate crisis, and this year, and even this summer, feels like a tipping point of sorts – not only in terms of extreme weather events – this past July was the hottest month on record – ever, but also in relation to people’s consciousness of them. A growing number of people in the Jewish community feel strongly that we ought to be “doing something” about this – but what exactly we do and how we make an impact is sometimes less clear. This is why at Hazon we intend to raise our game in the coming months and years. We’re here to catalyze and support Jewish institutions and Jewish leaders, as Jewish tradition compels us to respond to this crisis. In addition: most people have some sense that food is central to Jewish life and Jewish tradition. But they’re far less aware that food choices – especially in relation to industrial meat, industrial dairy, and food waste – are one of the top two anthropogenic drivers […]

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A Year of Environmental Teshuva

ראש חודש אלול תשע״ט  ——–  Rosh Chodesh Elul 5779, August 29th, 2019 Dear Rabbinical Council Members, Hazon is entering into a year of Environmental Teshuva. The backdrop is that: We really are in a climate crisis, and this year, and even this summer, feels like a tipping point of sorts – not only in terms of extreme weather events – this past July was the hottest month on record – ever, but also in relation to people’s consciousness of them. A growing number of people in the Jewish community feel strongly that we ought to be “doing something” about this – but what exactly we do and how we make an impact is sometimes less clear. This is why at Hazon we intend to raise our game in the coming months and years. We’re here to catalyze and support Jewish institutions and Jewish leaders, as Jewish tradition compels us to respond to this crisis. In addition: most people have some sense that food is central to Jewish life and Jewish tradition. But they’re far less aware that food choices – especially in relation to industrial meat, industrial dairy, and food waste – are one of the top two anthropogenic drivers […]

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Gratitude… and getting ready…

Friday, August 23, 2019 | 22 Av 5779Dear All,It’s summertime. This email is full of gratitude and the inspiration to strive to do good in the world.Years ago I learned from Anna Hanau this line from one of her teachers – you know you’re on the right track when your solution to one problem solves a bunch of other ones.That’s true of our work in Michigan, epitomized by the Hazon Michigan Jewish Food Festival – and last weekend we held our fourth, the largest and most successful yet, with over 7,000 people. We’re helping to drive change. We’re helping Jewish organizations to become more sustainable, including the now 20 who are in our Hazon Seal of Sustainability program from the Detroit region. We’re strengthening local food systems. We’re playing a not insignificant role in helping to reconnect the suburbs and the city, and the Jewish community and the African American community, and we’re especially proud of the work we’ve done in supporting Oakland Avenue Urban Farm. And we’re doing all this with love and celebration and Jewish groundedness and openness. So: real gratitude. Huge thanks to our staff and funders, to all our partner organizations, to our volunteers and helpers, to all the purveyors and […]

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Endings and beginnings

 Significant staff changes at Hazon… Thursday, August 8, 2019 | 6 Av 5779 Dear All, In the Torah, this is an end, and then a beginning. We’re starting to read the book of Devarim. It’s the last book of the Torah, and a pivot which leads in one direction to the post-Torah books, Nevi’im and Ketuvim (the Prophets and the Writings) and, in a different direction, back again to the Genesis stories. In the Jewish calendar, this is the end of the three weeks. On Saturday night Tisha b’avbegins, and we re-enact our own deaths; on Sunday afternoon we start to come back to life, and in due course it will be Tu b’av, the festival of love, and then Elul and the beginning of a whole new year. And at Hazon much change also. Our strategic plan marks the end of one era, and the start of the next. It represents the belated completion of the three-way merger between Hazon, Isabella Freedman, and Teva. Legally that merger took place on the 1st of January 2014. But it is only now, in a sense, that we are finally committing to weave together the different parts of this organization towards a single clear goal – changing the nature of organized Jewish life, […]

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Philip Roth’s Table & the Great Crash of 1987

Thursday, July 25, 2019 | 21st Tammuz, 5779 Dear All, Well: it was a funny week. On Shabbat I discovered my bike had been nicked, overnight. This was my fourth or fifth stolen, over the years, in this otherwise law-abiding city. Then that evening it turned out that a (lowish) online auction bid of mine had been successful – I had just bought Philip Roth’s library table. It will be the new table in our study, and I shall pull up my chair and crack open my laptop and sit there and write some of these emails. What kind of weird karmic trade-off is that, to lose a bike and gain Philip Roth’s table? Will my emails come out differently in the future? Then Britain got a new Prime Minister. Shortly before the result was to be announced, the G!d I don’t believe in demonstrated a certain kind of humor when They had me walk past a Range Rover with the license plate “FLEE”… (But flee to where, exactly?) So I was reminded again that this is a period of transition, and things are changing, as they always change, in the world and in our lives, in small ways and […]

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Summer and wilderness and complaining

Thursday, July 11, 2019 | 8th Tammuz, 5779 Dear All, In this week’s parsha, the children of Israel are in the wilderness of Tzin. A small smile arises as I read it because it’s not just a line in the Torah; it’s also a road sign we pass on the Israel Ride each year. (When I read it I think of the Ride and the place, and when I cycle past it and through it I think of the Torah. This is as it should be.) And in the Torah the children of Israel are complaining: “Why have you taken us out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place, not a place for seeds or fig trees or grapevines or pomegranate trees – and there’s no water to drink!”  (On the Israel Ride very occasionally this becomes an accidental riff on the Torah – “I’m on vacation, and this is amazing – but how long to the next rest stop?!”) But this week I found myself thinking about this complaining in the wilderness as a larger metaphor for the world we live in today. We have indeed left slavery. We’re not defenseless against pogroms, as we were in the middle ages; […]

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New Jewish spaces, community, and the power of colocation

by Nigel Savage Thursday, June 27, 2019 | 24th Sivan, 5779 If you’re involved in leading a Jewish institution do please read this… Dear All, Hazon is moving offices today. This marks at least the temporary end of Makom Hadash, our shared office space, in its current form. As of Monday morning you can find us at 25 Broadway – working within the offices of our new landlords, JFNA, and alongside JCPA and possibly in due course one or two other organizations. We are looking forward to connecting with our new colleagues. But there’s no question that this is bittersweet. We’re leaving the offices of the Forward, and our now old “new space” that we have so happily shared with Lab/Shul, with Avodah, and, over the years, with a range of smaller groups, including Art Kibbutz, Eshel, Limmud NY, as well as NY-based staffers of groups such as Keshet, Moishe House, Moving Traditions, and Svara. So today is an appropriate moment to reflect on four different overlapping initiatives that Hazon has helped to create or that we sponsor, even as we ourselves transition both physically and strategically. In doing this I want to make some quite specific suggestions to people involved in leading Jewish institutions. […]

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A Real Question

by Nigel Savage Thursday, June 13, 2019 | 10th Sivan 5779 Dear All, Do we strive to change the world through fear or through a positive vision? This is not a fake question, or the set-up for an obvious answer. I’m more confused by this question, at the moment, than at any time in my life. I used to feel that the answer was “through a positive vision.” The word hazon is Hebrew for vision, and our name symbolized this view. Yes, we needed to tackle complex and depressing issues; but we would do this by inspiring people, and by sharing a positive vision for change. And now I’m not so sure. Most people most of the day simply get on with our lives. This is the nature of being human. It’s rare that there is an acute incident – a heart attack, a traffic accident, a major fire, an act of terrorism in our own community – that really cuts through normal daily life. Other than that we toggle between obligations and celebrations, work and play, family and friends and work and study. But the climate challenge that faces the world right now is absolutely real, and it is worsening. A report from […]

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Elections

Thursday, May 30, 2019 | 40th day of the omer; hod she’b’yesod Dear All, I’ve been in Israel this last week – a week in which the European elections saw continued strength from populist parties – and the Greens–, in which a British prime minister resigned, and in which an Israeli prime minister called an unprecedented second general election, essentially ten minutes after the last one. These are not normal times, as we know. I come away with just two thoughts from all this. First: that line about you can make an omelet from an egg, but you can’t make an egg from an omelet. Actions have consequences. A referendum (ill-thought out in advance, to put it mildly) produces a result which is close to unactionable; that in turn paralyzes a political system and enrages people on opposite sides. It’s not impossible to imagine Boris Johnson as PM; Britain crashing out of Europe; Scotland and Northern Ireland each then demanding their own referenda to rejoin the EU, and the United Kingdom then literally dissolving. And maybe this would be a fine thing; we don’t know. But when we read the history of the Russian Revolution, or the rise of Hitler and Mussolini and […]

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Where do we begin? The Hazon Food Conference

Thursday, May 16, 2019 | 26th day of the omer; hod she’b’netzach by Nigel Savage Dear All, This is indeed a global environmental crisis – indeed, a series of crises. “Climate change” is not only a thing in itself; it is also shorthand for multiple different ways that (a) our daily behaviors are literally unsustainable; (b) we’re already seeing profound negative consequences; and (c) things are on track to get worse before or if they have any chance of getting better. And Jewish tradition compels us to respond.  How we do that goes to deep questions that we’re thinking about, and that will influence our work these next coming years. What’s the relationship between education, action, and advocacy? How can any one person or institution make any measurable difference? Do we effect change through a positive vision or fears of a dyspeptic future – or maybe both? Hazon recently completed a strategic planning process that has refined our focus on the ways in which food and climate change and Jewish life intersect. We’re doing this because it builds on our work thus far, and is intended to focus and amplify it, quite considerably. All of this work crystallizes around a […]

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Vision.

By Nigel Savage Thursday, May 2, 2019 | 12th day of the omer; hod she’b’gevurah Dear All, Today is Yom Hashoah, and the attack in Poway of course remains on my mind. Like many of us, I was inspired by the words and deeds of Rabbi Goldstein, and by the courage of the people in the shul. I feel, as others do, the need to respond to anti-semitism, both on the right and on the left. The world is changing, and it needs us to act, both proactively (challenging bigotry and banning guns) and defensively (increasing security in Jewish institutions). But I want to add this, and strongly: we must not obsess about anti-semitism. History doesn’t repeat, and it doesn’t repeat mechanistically. The very fiber of Hazon and of all that we do is built around the notion of vision, positive vision, and of the need not simply to be against things – anti-semitism, or attacks on Israel, or for that matter bigotry or racism of any sort – but instead to offer a strong and powerful positive vision of the nature of Jewishness in the 21st century. This applies even to the big ticket items that are Hazon’s raison […]

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