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Author Archive | Nigel Savage

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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Sitting On An Aeroplane, While Grandma Dies

By Nigel Savage Originally posted at – http://www.zeek.net/fict_0411.shtml I’m writing this on Tuesday 26th August 2003, on a plane en route back to New York. I came back to Manchester last Thursday to see Grandma and to say goodbye to her. She’s 95, has liver cancer and, according to the doctors, she has at most “weeks rather than months” to live. So when I said goodbye to her last night that will almost certainly have been the last time I see her. My other grandparents died more suddenly that this, when I was younger and at a different stage in life. I’ve never had this experience of “saying goodbye” to someone in this way. I don’t know how I feel. Sad, certainly, though I’ve only really felt the feelings, as opposed to thinking the thoughts. (more…)

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2003 Israel Ride – Letter from Nigel

New York Yom Ha’atsma’aut 5763 / 7th May 2003 Dear All, I’m back in New York after the first-ever Arava Institute Hazon Israel Bike Ride. I’m jetlagged and sunburned and, courtesy of my first-ever downhill mountain-biking, bearing one or two scars. But I had a wonderful time, and I’m delighted to report that (minus the injuries) so did the rest of our riders. I got an email yesterday from Rosie Sharabhani which was typical of people’s responses: “I’ve been to Israel over a dozen times, but this has definitely been one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever had – from biking across the desert and feeling the utter beauty of the land in a more intimate way than ever before, to bonding with Jews from different backgrounds and ages who I would otherwise never have crossed paths with, and meeting Israelis who were so gracious and welcoming, and who shared with us their commitment and incredible contributions to this country. I’ve come out of this trip feeling a deeper love and connection to the miracle of Israel, and really look forward to build upon the community/family that was formed on this bike trip!” (more…)

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Reframing Jewish tradition in an era of ecological challenge

Jewish tradition is so old we easily take it for granted. But it’s quite an incredible thing: to have been one of the world’s indigenous peoples, more than three thousand years ago, to have maintained since then a continuous historical identity and existence, and still to be here, in the postmodern age. We have gathered, in that time, what I think of as “treasures in the garden” – traditions and teachings of immense beauty and value, which we easily fail to notice, or take for granted, or perhaps never knew of in the first place. In this short piece, I mention seven of them. For those who are from religiously observant backgrounds, these seven concepts will be mostly familiar; yet contemporary environmental challenges place them in a new light. For those not from a traditional background, these ideas may be new, or newly framed. In either case, I believe that they’re well worth a fresh look. Though these are central ideas within Jewish tradition, the context in which we discuss them has often become stale. Yet these ideas truly are treasures. They have been at the heart of Jewish life for three millennia, and they bear every possibility of enriching […]

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Original Mission Statement

In 1917 Walter Lippmann, then barely 25 and destined to be one of the great American journalists of the twentieth century, wrote “we have changed the world more quickly than we know how to change ourselves.” Now here we are, in the year 2000, and what was true 80 years ago is true today, kol v’chomer – how very much more so today. And as the world spins, the Jewish people spin with it. We have been a distinctive part of the world through three millennia and countless countries, and everywhere we have stayed faithful to our best understanding of what our tradition demanded of us, and yet have learned and changed and evolved at the same time. So as modernity mutates into postmodernity, we face issues that every person and every people responds to, consciously or accidentally: What is our place in the world? What is our vision? A few specific questions: How do we remain faithful to an ancient and often particularistic tradition whilst being part of a diverse postmodern world? How do we get to love Judaism, yiddishkeit, the Jewish people, kosher food, Pesach seder, Jerusalem, the Negev, Golders Green, the Upper West Side . . . […]

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Jews in the Woods

In the summer of 1998, I led a group of Jewish teenagers on a two week hiking trip in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This is the story of how awful it was – the miserable weather, the arguments, the religious problems, the midpoint mutiny – and why, nevertheless, I think we should all get out in the woods a lot more often… This is the group: nine Jewish teenagers: seven girls and only two boys. Religiously most are observant, but not all: of those who are there is some difference between the strictly halachic and the conservadox. At the other end of the spectrum is a girl who attends a Conservative dayschool but has a Turkish Moslem father and and is proud of her Turkish heritage. Most are from the Boston area, but one is from the Midwest. The strongest character is a sixteen year old girl; the youngest, a thirteen year old boy who is big for his age and who seems to be present in consequence of familial “encouragement” – his cousin really wants the trip to happen and says that without him there’ll be too few people. (more…)

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The Queen and the Messenger

Once there was a Queen. She was a wise and kindly Queen, and she loved her subjects. Saddened at the pain and suffering of her people she decided to send messengers to help them in their lives. To each messenger she said: “You are my chosen messenger and the message I shall give to you is a special message. The future peace and happiness of my land and its people depends upon you. My message is simple and complex; timely and timeless; personal and universal. Guard my message; never forget it; teach it to your children, lest anything happen to you and my message be lost.” The Queen gave roughly the same message to each messenger; but she met with each messenger individually, and inevitably the Queen would vary the message slightly each time. To be honest, we don’t know whether this was deliberate or accidental. Perhaps she felt that it would be dangerous to entrust the entirety of his message to just one person. Perhaps she really wanted to transmit messages that were slightly different from each other, thinking from the very beginning that each messenger and each message would contribute something unique to the welfare of her people. […]

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