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Author Archive | Nigel Savage

Isaiah Berlin, Shavuot and the Rides

San Francisco, CA Monday 17th May 2010 48th day of the omer, 5770 Dear All, There is a notion in Jewish tradition of “hiddur mitzvah” – beautifying the mitzvah. It means something like “going above and beyond.”  Hiddur mitzvah is the beautiful table cloth for Shabbat, the flowers, the fine china; also the freshest produce from your farmer’s market or your CSA, and the time spent cooking from first principles, rather than just buying something pre-cooked. The omer is a sort of rorschach process, in which we see in each day some reflection of our own life in the sefirot, and vice versa Hiddur mitzvah in relation to counting the omer means not merely counting – actually saying the bracha and counting each day, on the evening of the omer – but, coming back to it through the day; having a real sense of each day of the omer as distinct from each other day, and being conscious of it, and reflecting on it.  (I’d add that there is a relationship, in some sense, with the evolution of the first 49 years of your life; each is distinct and, just as the omer culminates in Shavuot, I’d argue that the first 49 years of one’s life […]

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Hazon Launches Makom Hadash

We are pleased to announce that this week we signed a lease to create Makom Hadash, a shared office space and communal resource center for second-stage Jewish nonprofit organizations. This new multi-tenant nonprofit center will enable member nonprofits to focus more on their missions, develop more sophisticated organizational infrastructure, and collaborate more effectively together. The goals of Makom Hadash are to strengthen the capacity of innovative Jewish nonprofits, especially at the second stage of growth, to facilitate collaboration and creativity amongst both resident and non-resident organizations, and to reduce operating costs for individual participating nonprofits. We’re tremendously excited about this project becoming a reality. (more…)

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An End and a Beginning

Dear Friend , I had a marvelous morning tromping in the snow in Central Park yesterday, marred only somewhat by the knowledge that at about the same time I was meant to have been on a flight to San Francisco. The snow giveth, and the snow taketh away… But it was a good morning to look back and look forwards. Chanukah has just ended; also the Copenhagen Climate Conference. We’re now 10 days from the end of the year and the end of the decade. Hazon began with the decade. Our first Ride was in the summer of 2000. Next year sees our 10th New York Jewish Environmental Bike Ride and our 10th Arava Institute Hazon Israel Ride, not to mention our sixth season of Hazon CSAs (now 40 of them, around the country). Two days from now more than 600 people will be at the largest event in our history, our fourth Hazon Food Conference. (more…)

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A Bishop, an Imam and a Jew Walk into a Room

Opening panel –  The speakers are: Grand Mufti of Egypt Kusum Vyas- Hindu environmentalist from India Rev Sally Bingham, founder of Interfaith Power and Light Master Yang, Daoist, China Bishop Walter Thomas, New Psalmist Baptist Church, Baltimore, US Bishop of London, Richard Chartres Windsor, 4th November Dear All, I’m writing from the end of a remarkable conference, at which the Secretary-General of the United Nations and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh met with religious leaders from more faiths than I knew existed, ahead of the Copenhagen Climate Change conference next month. There were two main goals: to make clear to governments that religious communities support strong action next month; and to try to catalyze deeper and more substantive change, within and between religious communities, over the next seven years and beyond. (more…)

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Four Weeks and Six Years

New York / 20th Nov 2009, 3 Kislev 5670 Dear All, If one can speak of a tipping point for the Jewish environmental movement, and for Hazon’s work, these last four weeks have surely crystallized it – an absolutely extraordinary series of events. I challenge you to read to the end of this email and not be astonished at quite how much has happened in the last four weeks – and how good it is, and how inspirational, and how much hope it creates for the future. October 23rd: Jewish Climate Campaign at the UN. Representatives from Hazon and Teva and others were at the UN for the launch of the Jewish Climate Campaign. The Campaign is significant in its own right, and the launch received significant press, as well as the endorsement of senior staffers at the UN. (more…)

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The World Turned Upside Down

(A slightly different take on Tom Friedman, the meltdown, quantitative easing, the Age of Awareness, Jewish history, Purim, Pesach, Zipcar and birkat hachamah.) Dear All, Tom Friedman’s piece in the New York Times this week (The Inflection Is Near?) provides a clear summation of how most environmentalists understand our current financial crisis, and if you haven’t yet read it I recommend it – You can read the article here. My one sentence precis: we’ve been overconsuming the world, and our behaviors are no more sustainable, in aggregate, than Bernie Madoff’s investment strategy. I want to argue that he’s right, but that we’re not properly following what should be the policy implications of what he argues; and, further, that Jewish history provides a particularly cautionary note on some of where we now might be headed. (more…)

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Second Thoughts on the New Millennium

We entered the new millennium as planned, hosting a shabbat dinner in Jerusalem. We went to synagogue – in black tie – and afterwards had eighteen friends for a more-lavish-than-usual but nevertheless recognizable Friday night dinner. We made kiddush over the wine (champagne, in this case) and the traditional blessing over the bread. We had a great dinner, looked back, looked forwards, played one or two games, sang songs. At midnight we began the traditional bensching, the grace after meals, to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, and included a prayer for peace in the future. All in all it was a great evening. The following morning the house was devastated. We had plates and debris everywhere; streamers and balloons, leftover pudding, candlesticks, washing-up stacked in heaps. We had wine glasses and champagne flutes and little shot glasses from those important impromptu l’chaims. By contrast with how beautiful it had looked when we first returned from synagogue, it indeed seemed like terrorists had wandered in during the night and done their worst. (more…)

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Ba Midbar – In the Wilderness…

Leviticus 26:3-27:34 A few years ago I went hiking with friends and with a Bedouin guide in the area around and behind Santa Katerina, in southern Sinai. Sinai is an extraordinary place, raw and grand. The peaks are majestic and whistling cold. The wadis are full of hidden crevices, shade and light, little crawly things, small shrubs and unlikely greennesses. On a hot day, moving slowly, we rounded a corner and came upon a pool, translucent blue, still in the windless day, ice-cold despite the heat. As we read parashat Be-Midbar, and begin the book of Be-Midbar, that hike and that natural pool provide insights into two important questions: why was it necessary for the children of Israel to spend so long in the wilderness? And what message should we learn from that today? (more…)

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Judaism and the Environment 101

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?” – Rabbi Hillel, Mishneh Avot, first century CE Like all peoples and faith communities, the Jewish people has had an evolving relationship with the physical world. Because we have traveled through time and place for more than thirty centuries, ours is a rich and diverse tradition. Right now we’re at an interesting moment in history. There is, on the one hand, a growing awareness of the need to manage our planet’s resources more carefully, and an intuition that as well as acting as individuals and as citizens, we also have the resources of Judaism and the Jewish people to draw upon. On the other hand, our postmodern perspective is a different one than a biblical one, and in its contemporary form, the conversation between Judaism and environmentalism is young – all sorts of issues, open questions and problems abound. (more…)

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Tu B’Shvat 2007

Friday, February 3, 2007 / 14 Shevat 5767 Dear All, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just issued a report which is front page news in nearly every paper in the world today. The Guardian’s summary is typical: The report predicts a rise of between 18 cm and 58 cm in sea levels by the end of this century, a figure that could increase by as much as 20cm if the recent melting of polar ice sheets continues. “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level,” the summary said. (more…)

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Shabbat Hazon 2006

Friday July 28th 2006 / 3 Av 5766 Dear All, This Shabbat is Shabbat Hazon, which you would think would be the sort of time I ought to write something to our list. But then one recalls that Shabbat Hazon is not about “hazon” – vision – in a positive and inspirational sense (which is largely why Hazon is called Hazon) but rather about a prophecy of destruction and despoliation, especially in Israel. And then I think: well, perhaps I should indeed write something… (more…)

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An Amazing Way to Arrive

Jerusalem Yom Ha’atsma’ut / Israel Independence Day – 20th day of the omer 5766 Wednesday May 3rd 2006 Here’s how I arrived in Israel yesterday – in the waning afternoon hours of Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s memorial day, and just ahead of Yom Ha’atsma’ut, Israel’s Independence Day, last night and today. I walked through customs at Ben Gurion airport at 4.30pm. Yigal Deutscher met me at the airport; less than half an hour later I was walking around Chava v’Adam, visiting his new Shorashim project. I’ll explain what that is in a minute and why it was so amazing, but first a word about Yigal. (more…)

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Pushing ourselves to be the best we can be

Nigel Savage Published in The New Jersey Jewish News’ segment, The Next Big Think March 16, 2006 I love the famous line from Robert F. Kennedy: “There are those who look at things the way they are and ask why? I dream of things that never were and ask why not?” It’s in that spirit that I want to address this topic. This is more about what might be than about what is. Here are three things that already exist within Jewish life — but which I’d like to see grow dramatically in the next five years. (more…)

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New strategies for an ancient tradition

At the emotional high point of one of the central prayers of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we say “teshuva, tefilla and tzedakah avert the evil decree.” Ahead of the prayer marathons of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I wanted to write something about tefilla, prayer, the second of these three things. It is in many ways the least accessible of the three. Teshuva – returning to our best selves – segues easily into a contemporary neo-therapeutic perspective. We may struggle to improve ourselves, but the desirability of doing so seems clear. (more…)

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2004 Israel Ride – Letter from Nigel

New York 34th day of the omer 5764 Monday 10th May 2004 Dear All, This time last week I was one of more than 100 riders cycling on a spectacular road, down into Eilat, from the red mountains of the Israel/Egypt border. We were ending the six-day, 300-mile, Arava Institute Hazon Israel Bike Ride: Cycling for Peace, Partnership & Environmental Protection. The Ride was a remarkable experience, for me inspirational and thought-provoking. In quite a number of senses, as well as the most literal, we got to see Israel from an unusual perspective. In this email I want to give a flavor of what we did and some of what I thought about as we did it. This is a long email: feel free to print this and read it at your leisure later on. (more…)

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