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Author Archive | Nigel Savage

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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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The Four Children: Fresh insight from a beloved text

Wednesday, April 17, 2019 | 12th Nissan, 5779 The deepest question which underpins all of Hazon’s work is simply this: We are messing up the world. What should we do about that? It’s not hard to sketch out some of the main problems the world faces (burning too much carbon; consuming too many resources; destroying wild places; consuming the capital of future generations). It’s not much harder to sketch out, at least in the broadest of terms, what we ought to be doing in response (tax carbon; consume far less; end industrial meat production; preserve wild places). But between these two brief sentences lies the infinite complexity of 7.5 billion people. We don’t agree on anything. We’re in favor of other people limiting themselves, or being limited, but we ourselves – not so much. If you have ever tried to change anything, however small, in any community – a condo, a place of work, a school, a shul, a Hillel – you will understand that reaching significant change for the whole planet is impossibly hard to imagine. And yet… change we must. There is that old line: if you don’t change the way you’re headed, pretty soon you’ll get there. […]

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Visions for Our New Land

Thursday, April 4, 2019 | 28th Adar II, 5779 Dear All, I had asked Janna, Rebecca, and Shamu – leaders of our Adamah program – to write something for all of us, about the new land we have been able to buy at 181 Beebe Hill Road, contiguous with our existing Adamah land at Isabella Freedman. They’ve written an extraordinarily beautiful piece, and I hope you enjoy it and are inspired by it as much as I am. In the Jewish tradition of fractal sevens, between the seven days of Shabbat and the seven years of shmita, we have sefirat ha’omer, seven weeks of seven, starting the second night of Pesach. Seder night – just two weeks from now – is our gateway to this journey. I hope that what they have written offers wisdom for all of us. Shabbat shalom, chodesh tov, Nigel “Our design at 181 deepens the resilience of our farm while nurturing the land and a community. And maybe it will offer inspiration to you ahead of Pesach…” As we walked on the new land across crusty snow this January, we were tempted to shout out and point: Put fences here! Plant trees there! Fix that […]

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A remarkable gift from the tradition, starting tonight

Let me begin at the end. Tonight – start to clear things out. Start to clear out your attic, your basement, your garage. The pantry in your kitchen, and any opened bottle or jar in the fridge or the cupboard that’s been open for a few months or more and which you never use. Clear out old clothes, and books, and give them to Goodwill or chuck them out. Then, when you’ve gotten started on all that – start journaling. Now the question is – what is the mental gunk I need to get rid of? What stops me being free? What stops me being who I truly am? What am I needlessly afraid of? What are the things I waste my time on? (I’m talking to you, iPhone, and you, Facebook.) The reason for this is that it’s Purim today, and we so don’t really understand Purim. For sure Purim is not a kids’ holiday, even though we clean it up to be one. It’s a bacchanal, a pre-modern Mardi Gras, full of excess and debauchery and booze and sex. And there’s a reason for this, a hidden order. Today is the start of an 11-week journey that ends at Shavuot. The fulcrum of these 11 weeks […]

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Not our hazon, and not in our name – Hazon statement

Thursday, March 7, 2019 | Rosh Chodesh Adar II, 5779 A new organization called “hazon” has suddenly appeared in Israel. They are using our name – and they have very different values from us. We want to make clear not only that we have no relationship with them but also that we have issued a cease-and-desist letter to them in relation to our name. For more on this, read on… The word “hazon” means “vision.” There are many things that need fixing in the world and thus many different visions of what could be or should be. Recently a new organization called “hazon” put up billboards around Israel. Were these to protest against poverty or inequality? Against climate change, or species loss, or our human mistreatment of animals? Against discrimination towards minorities? Oh, no, none of those. It spent money to attack people who are lesbian or gay or transgender or queer. A number of people pointed out to us a recent story about them in The Jerusalem Post. Then yesterday, for good measure, the group, now described as a “hardline national-religious organization” called for demonstrations against Women of the Wall at the Kotel tomorrow morning. Then Arutz Sheva published an op-ed critiquing this […]

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The Acute and the Chronic

Thursday, February 21, 2019 | 16th Adar I, 5779 by Nigel Savage We’ve been hearing about a “national emergency.”It makes sense for governments to have provisions for such things. Every now and then – in human life, in organizational life, and in national life – there are indeed emergencies, and thus something must be done, and quickly. In human life, emergencies are often acute health challenges. Heart attacks, traffic accidents, going into labor early – these things are emergencies. We phone 911. We call on strangers for help. I had an appendicectomy over Labor Day weekend. One minute I was fine. The next minute I was in pain. Three hours later I was in a hospital. Less than 24 hours later I was being wheeled out of the operating theater, an appendix lighter. It was a classic emergency – happened quickly, needed (and thankfully received) a quick response.Chronic issues, of course, we must respond to differently. Diabetes, or MS. Asthma (unless you can’t breathe from asthma – then it’s an emergency.) Certain cancers. Celiac disease, and arthritis.Chronic issues are far harder to deal with. We have a lesser sense of urgency. We must live with them for far longer. Sometimes there are […]

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Strategy Update

Thursday, February 7th, 2019 | 2nd Adar I, 5779 We’re in the middle of our strategic planning process. I want to give you a sense of where we are and perhaps where we’re heading. First of all: a huge thank you to the significant number of people who have participated in this process. Nine people – five lay, four staff – are on the Advisory Committee that is leading this process, ably chaired by Jessica Haller.  We’re working with Wellspring consultants, and the key staffers there now feel like old friends. 298 people filled out an online survey (thank you!). 31 people did one-on-one interviews with our consultants. There have been three significant focus groups, and two weeks ago a six-hour meeting with 28 of our staff and the Wellspring folk. I believed before we began that this was going to be necessary and important. Now, though we haven’t yet landed, we have a much clearer sense of this – including one hugely significant consequence we hadn’t previously focused on. We’re not changing our mission and vision. We’re about “healthier and more sustainable.” We strengthen Jewish life – and help create a more sustainable world for all. We’re the Jewish […]

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Significant News in Relation to the 2019 New York Ride

Hazon as a whole is in the middle of a strategic planning process. We began it in the late summer of last year and intend to land it by late spring. It relates to all of our programs. The goal is to narrow our focus, increase our impact, and strengthen our business model. As I write it’s too soon to know exactly how the process will close, but there is a general sense amongst key stakeholders that we are making good progress. In recent years we’ve been absolutely thrilled at the human impact of the New York Ride, which has continued to be a joyous and impactful event. For those who were there in ’17, for instance, I still recall the extraordinary way that people rose to the challenge of extreme and unexpected weather. It literally brought out the best in everyone. But even as the human impact of the Ride has continued to be strong, we’ve struggled somewhat in recruitment and fundraising. Given this, we have decided not to produce the New York Ride this year. Instead we’ll go into a planning process for the Ride itself, and to some extent for “the Rides” overall. What are our overarching […]

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Kaddish for my father

Last year Tu B’Shvat fell on a Tuesday evening. We’d arrived that morning in Johannesburg, and just a few days before I’d Googled and found a Tu B’Shvat seder. It was in a place called Huddle Park. We didn’t know anyone there, but it was my 33rd consecutive Tu B’Shvat seder, and it was absolutely one of the most beautiful. This very lush park, an urban wetland, full of long grasses and exotic trees. There was a long long silent meditation walk that went on for almost an hour. I walked in the gathering darkness, and the huge full moon of Shvat came up and brought moonlight to this unfamiliar landscape. I was thinking about my Dad as I was walking. I’d been in Manchester the week before, and he was weakening very significantly. It was a strange and intense and beautiful experience, essentially alone in Africa, in this unfamiliar place, celebrating a holiday that I love, walking, thinking about my dad. And we got back to the hotel, tired and jetlagged, sorting stuff to go on safari the next morning, and the phone rang. It was my mother, to tell us that my Dad had died. He’d died about […]

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Tu B’Shvat: Bonna Haberman, MLK, Jim Joseph and my Dad…

My first Tu B’Shvat seder was with Bonna and Shmuel Haberman Browns, in London, in 1986. Bonna z”l was an amazing woman, who died too young. (This was my tribute to her that The Forward published at the time of her death.) It was memorable and beautiful enough that I hosted or attended a seder every year from then until last year. And then last year, half an hour after we got back from my 33rd annual Tu B’Shvat seder, my mother phoned to say that my father had died. So Tu B’Shvat has always been important to me, and its implicit themes about cycles of life have now been reinforced for me by the inextricable ways that its memory is bound up for me in memories of my Dad and of Bonna. Eight years ago Devora Joseph Davey gave us funding, through the foundation created in her father’s name, to create a Tu B’Shvat haggadah, and we’ve republished that every year since. This year, both in honor of my father, and because Tu B’Shvat in 2019 falls on MLK weekend, we’ve substantially revised our haggadah. Lisa Kaplan, Elan Margulies, David Rendsburg, and Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein led the charge, and my great thanks go […]

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What is Tu B’Shvat and Why Do We Celebrate It?

by Nigel Savage Introduction to the new Hazon Tu B’Shvat Haggadah You can trace the recent history of  Tu B’Shvat seders like branches on a tree. The first one I went to, in London in 1986, was hosted by Bonna Haberman z”l and Shmuel Browns, mentors to me and many others in the renewal of Jewish ritual. I made my own seder the following  Tu B’Shvat, and I’ve made or attended one every year since. Seders, like trees, grow branches, and the branches sprout fruit in all directions. Historical Roots The roots of Tu B’Shvat stretch back to the beginnings of organized Jewish life. We learn from the Mishnah (Tractate Rosh Hashanah) that “the New Year of the Trees” divided the tithing of one year’s crop from the next – the end and start of the tax year, so to speak. After the expulsion from the Land of Israel, Tu B’Shvat went underground, like a seed, ungerminated, lying beneath the soil of Jewish thought and life. The expulsion from Spain in 1492 scattered Jews in many directions, and some landed in Tzfat. Like a forest fire that cracks open seeds dormant for decades, Tzfat’s kabbalists rediscovered Tu B’Shvat and began […]

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Big News: Extending the Adamah Farm & Increasing Capacity at Isabella Freedman

By Nigel Savage Thursday, December 13, 2018 | 5 Tevet 5779 Dear All, With strong active staff and lay involvement, and support from Project Accelerate, Hazon’s board earlier this year signed off on a new master plan for Isabella Freedman. Isabella Freedman is a place that touches people’s lives individually and strengthens and thickens Jewish institutions. Through Adamah, Teva, the Hazon Food Conference, and our other national retreats it has had a profound impact across the American Jewish community. As Jessica Haller, one of our senior board members, says, “there are some places that do some of the things that this place does, but there are no other places that do all of the things that this place does.” So the master plan is critical not only to Isabella Freedman and Hazon but also, in fact, to the future of the American Jewish community. Isabella Freedman is a place where magic happens – but we need to increase capacity; we need to improve the quality and range of our accommodation and meeting space; and we also need more land to be able to grow our flagship Adamah program, and to enable us to use the land itself more lightly and more carefully. Happily, we believe that […]

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