Fear and light

by Nigel Savage

Thursday, November 16, 2017 | 27 Cheshvan 5778

Dear All,

It’s Rosh Chodesh Kislev this weekend. Light in the darkness.

I say: Bring it on.

That was my first thought.

And my second was: What’s the line between cliché and language that is alive and real?

I feel this at the moment. “Light in the darkness” is both incredibly clichéd, and also the most real and vital thing we need to hear right now. The present undercurrent, the theme tune to our lives, stronger each day, is fear. It manifests in all directions. Globalization and technology and jobs at stake, across the western world – thus fear of the future, fear for family finances, fears for retirement, fears for health. Climate change and the environment and all of that. Fears for and about Israel. The fear that an African American parent feels if their teenager gets pulled over by the police, and says the wrong thing. The fears of an Israeli soldier, manning a checkpoint, as a Palestinian comes towards him; and the fears of a Palestinian coming towards the Israeli soldier. The newish fear that we might have a war with or about North Korea. Fears about the crazy proliferation of guns in this country, and the people who die needlessly because we haven’t done anything about it.

The fears layer each other, they come and go, they are stoked by news and social media and the things we say and the things we don’t say.

I’m sad and to a considerable extent shocked that in Hazon’s 17 years in existence – in my 17 years in this country – these fears have gotten significantly worse. But it is also why Hazon has grown; why we have become more vital and necessary with each passing year. The name of Hazon – the fact that it means “vision” – is central to who we are, what we do, why we do the things we do, and how we try to do them.

We do need practical changes. We need to live more lightly and we need to eat more locally and stop eating industrial meat and industrial dairy and we need to get on fewer planes and ride our bikes and so on.

But above and beyond and before these things we need what Kislev brings – we need light, we need hope and we need vision. We need to be our best selves, and we must bring out the best in those around us. The riders who completed the Israel Ride last week, and those who sponsored them, and the extraordinary crew who deliver the Ride (Jewish, Christian, Muslim; Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, American) – they both manifest and experience a sense of hope and a sense of possibility. These things are clichés but they are also real, and more real when we push ourselves and risk ourselves in order to experience them.

I was in Detroit a few days ago, and the new synapses there, new connections around food and land, between the city and the suburbs, the Jewish community and the African American community, connections between foodies and rabbis and activists – these things are changing the community, developing new muscles; bringing light and bringing hope.

(It’s true we don’t have a simple elevator pitch. But if you want to understand Hazon, and its values, just watch this two-minute video. It’s from our second Michigan Jewish Food Festival, this last August, but I only saw the video for the first time this week. It is an amazing video, and it sums up Hazon about as well as anything we have.)

(Seriously – don’t read on just yet – you’ll really enjoy it. And if you don’t watch it now, at least bookmark it and watch it later.)

I do want each of you, reading this email, to have a sense of being a stakeholder in Hazon. I – we – want you to feel that in being part of this organization you’re enlarging your own sense of vision. Your own commitment to light and to hope as a choice and not simply a reflex. 

We’re about to come into the season of year-end fundraising, and I do want to ask each of you to give a significant year-end gift, not because you have to – obviously you don’t – but because of the growing reach of Hazon, its ethos, its values, its young people, its programs; I wish that they were not more needed than ever before, but they are – we are – and so I hope that you will want to be a stakeholder. If we can grow our reach it will be good for the Jewish community and good for this country and good for the world. If you want to give your Chanukah or year-end gift early, please do so – just click here.

May this be a year of lightness, and hope and vision.

Courage. Good food. Family, community, friends.

Rooting in Jewish tradition. Opening to the world.

And gratitude.

Shabbat shalom, chodesh tov,