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Author Archive | Nigel Savage

Nigel 2018 Color_square_web

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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Nigel 2018 Color_square_web

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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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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Hazon Book Club, Sukkot, the Farm Bill and the midterms

Thursday, September 20, 2018 | 11 Tishrei 5779 Dear All, I hope you had a good and strong Yom Kippur. Someone yesterday asked me: how do we take all this intensity and good intentions and vulnerability and desire to change and actually integrate that into our real lives? And my immediate response – which, on reflection, I think was absolutely right – was that’s exactly what Sukkot is for. Because here is this festival – Sukkot – which literally celebrates our new openness. Instead of just walling ourselves off from other people and other issues we open ourselves to our neighbors and the world around us. And now, instead of teshuva done in a necessarily heavy way – noting our failures, apologizing, promising to do better – now we have a sense of our best selves and so we do teshuva from a place of joy and celebration. So – may your best intentions for yourself come to fruition. And if you fail – get back on the horse. And that’s literally the perfect segue to two things. First – the Hazon Book Club. I told you that for the first time ever we were inviting people to read a […]

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The Paris Accords – Now What?

From Nigel Savage June 2nd, 2017 | 8th Sivan 5777 Dear All, Jewish tradition isn’t just for kids and it isn’t just for synagogues and it isn’t just about bagels or dressing up on Purim. This last week, across the Jewish world, we celebrated Shavuot, “the giving of the Torah.” It’s called the time of the giving of the Torah, and not the receiving of the Torah, because Jewish tradition, fundamentally, is about choice, and responsibility. We choose whether to receive this gift, and in what ways we receive it. It’s an act of responsibility and of obligation to take on the injunctions of Jewish tradition and to use them not merely to be good Jews or good people, but to create, day by day, a better world. In every country of the world in which Jewish people live, their government has endorsed the Paris Climate Agreement. Every religious faith community spoke up for it. I went to Paris in 2015 to represent the Jewish community in the lead-up to the negotiation of those Accords; alongside senior religious and governmental leaders – Ségolène Royal, then-President Hollande, Cardinal Turkson, Vandana Shiva, Mary Robinson, and so on – to say that the Jewish people […]

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I hope to see you this Sunday at the Celebrate Israel Parade…

From Nigel Savage June 2nd, 2017 | 8th Sivan 5777 Dear All, It’s the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration this year. When Lord Balfour wrote to Lord Rothschild, on behalf of the British government, neither of them knew that, thirty years later, the United Nations would vote to establish a third Jewish commonwealth. (Nor that, in the intervening years, the Jews of Europe would be hunted down and massacred, country by country, family by family, for six years.) Though my grandparents were alive that day, the world seems unimaginably changed since then. This is not the Israel of Ben Gurion or Jabotinsky, it is not the Israel of Golda Meir or Yitzhak Rabin. This is the Israel of Barbie, by Static and Ben El Tavori, which I find strangely irresistible. Also of the new food scene, the growth of the haredi population, the burgeoning of an Israeli non-orthodox Judaism. The new/old train stations. The Mizrachi revival. Racisms, old and new. The dilemmas of the Israeli Palestinians, the flourishing of Be’er Sheva, the new airport in the Negev, Israeli TV shows on Hulu and Amazon, Etgar Keret, Leah Shakdiel, Moshe Halbertal, Ilit Azoulai and Sigalit Landau, veganism, food co-ops, urban […]

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Light in the Darkness

Rosh Chodesh Kislev, 5776 I got back to the US on Tuesday, after a swirling Israel trip that was rich and intense and thought-provoking. I share with you a few provisional thoughts, many of them self-contradictory: The self-reinforcing mirror worlds we live in cause damage in the real world. It’s far too easy to read op-ed pages we agree with and to like things on Facebook in a narrow range. Resist the urge to do so! I had rich and fascinating (and long) conversations this trip with a strong AIPAC supporter; with a Palestinian from Akko (her self-definition, by the way: not Israeli; not Israeli Arab; not Israeli Palestinian. Our conversation was in Hebrew); with parents from Talpiot, just across from the bus that was attacked; with a Jordanian from Amman; with a friend whose son is an anarchist and another whose son is in Sayeret Matkal. I had dinner with someone who didn’t want to go on vacation to Norway “because I just wouldn’t want to go to Oslo…” (!). And, more formally, an Encounter trip to Beit Jala; our Israel Ride with students from the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies; our Siach conference with a range of Israeli […]

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Being in Israel this Week

I’m tired but feeling good. We rode today from Jerusalem to Ashkelon – 162 riders, on the first day of our 2015 Arava Institute Hazon Israel Ride. It was a good start. We took precautions against both rain and terrorism. As of the time of writing – Wednesday afternoon in Ashkelon – it’s happily been a quiet day on both fronts. A couple of reflections on the last week: Hamatzav (“the situation.”) I was thinking about the famous line in Mishnah Sanhedrin: anyone who saves a life, it is as if he saves an entire world. It’s preceded by the slightly less famous bit: one who takes someone’s soul; this is like destroying an entire world. In this most recent period that amplification of human power – taking one life, destroying a world – has played out not only the sense in which the Talmud intended (that each life has infinite significance) but also in the broader sense, that one or two individual acts of destruction can do existential damage on a far far larger stage. It is sad and tragic that there are young Palestinians so full of hate and despair that they would risk their lives – in […]

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