Hakhel Newsletter December 2021

Dear Hakhel Communities,

What do you believe will come of you in the days and years to come? What about your loved ones and community? Why is this your vision? These are just some of the questions evoked in this week’s parsha, Vayechi, as our Forefathers Jacob and Joseph are confronted with the end of their lives, when such questions must be considered. We all want to come to the end of our lives with the sense that it has been lived with purpose. It seems fitting that the Book of Bereishit (Genesis) ends on this note.

With the end of the first book of the Torah, as well as the recent conclusion of our celebration of Chanukah (see photos from communities around the world below!), it seems like a good time to take stock of where we are with ourselves and our communities and where we see them going in the coming months and years. If you’re stuck on an issue and looking for some inspiration, why not consult with your Hakhel subnetwork (see more about that below)? Don’t forget that you have a global network of peer communities that will give you energy and advice (and who you might see soon in Israel on the February Hakhel trip or May Hakhel Summit)! 

With blessings for a successful new chapter! 

Deborah Fishman

Hakhel Network Manager

Community in the Spotlight: Living Tree Alliance

Living Tree Alliance in Vermont

This month Network Manager Deborah Fishman interviewed Sephirah Oskello, a leader of Living Tree Alliance, a community in Hakhel’s network located in Vermont. Among other community-building items, they talked about Living Tree Alliance’s Chanukah Bonfire event last week, which was supported by a Hakhel mini-grant. You can learn more and apply for your community’s mini-grant here. 

Tell us a bit about your community.

Living Tree Alliance is a kibbutz-inspired community designed for joyful, adventurous earth-based living in Vermont’s great outdoors. Situated on 91 acres, we provide authentic nature-based life experience where individuals and families of all faiths can connect through homesteading, camping, celebrations, festivals, education, and enrichment programs. We weave together a cohousing village, a working homestead, and an educational center where we bring wisdom, joy, and connection through regenerative agriculture education.

Tell us about the Chanukah event you had last week! 

On December 4, we hosted a Chanukah Bonfire and Family Chanukah event. The Chanukah Bonfire was an opportunity to celebrate the festival of light with a big fire outside connected to nature and community. We had a meaningful circle where we sang songs, created sacred ceremony, lit candles, and discussed the miracles we were sparking in our own lives. 

The Family program was the premier event in our new common house. We engaged families and young children with games connected to Chanukah, song, Chanukah teachings and lit the menorah together; as well as ate traditional Chanukah foods. 

What do you see as your role as a community leader in such an event and how do others participate/step up in your community?

As a community leader at Living Tree Alliance, I help plan and organize the events. I particularly enjoy leading sacred ceremonies for the community, and creating a space for meaningful connection within our ancestral traditions. Bringing the tradition towards its earth based connections is also really important to me.

I work closely with the Program Director to design our programs and bring creativity to our events. We also have many volunteers who participate in helping the events to run smoothly. For this year’s Chanukah event, we engaged a new volunteer who has a beautiful singing voice and led some singing; as well as another volunteer who made homemade latkes from the potatoes grown on the farm for the celebrations.

What gives you energy or do you find most inspiring about being a community leader (that you experienced at this event or otherwise)?

What gives me the most energy is connecting with community in meaningful ways. In addition, I love sharing the Jewish festivals in a way that is connected to the earth; providing a space where Judaism can inspire and shine a light of inspiration on people’s lives. Taking Judaism out of the synagogue and in connection to the land is inspiring to me, and appears to allow seekers to see the beauty in the tradition. 

Hakhel News

Have you been waiting since our last newsletter to see how Hakhel communities have celebrated Chanukah around the world? Check out these photos of our communities celebrating the Festival of Lights! 

Chanukah celebration at LAZOS Chile

JewSalsa, based in Paris, France, held a Chanukah Revolution retreat.

ACRe, based in New Jersey, USA, held a Chanukah event with talk, “Dreidels are NOT made of clay,” about a pre-Holocaust dreidel collection. This picture is of Havdalah and menorah lighting in the historic Alliance Synagogue.

FED, based in New York City, USA, held a Chanukah party with a hands-on electric menorah making and a Shpiel about the Judith story.

Adamama Farm’s Chanukah event in Sydney, Australia

Evidence from the Field: The Sister Communities Project

We’re kvelling at the connections sparked through the Hakhel Sister Communities project. It brought Ofir Ben Ari (part of Tarbut in Israel) and Anna Fine Foer (who leads a Hakhel community in Baltimore) into dialogue around commonalities amongst artists communities in Israel and the Diaspora. After collaborating on art projects virtually, Ophir has come to Baltimore for several months to direct a school production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” and has already met with Anna in person, as you see above! We’re excited to see Ofir spread the Tarbut cultural movement worldwide!

Hakhel Subnetworks

Did you know that your community can join a Hakhel subnetwork, the “homeroom” of Hakhel? A subnetwork is a smaller group of communities that have something thematic about their community’s mission in common – for some examples, Spiritual Homes, or Agriculture & Ecology. In your subnetwork, there are communities that you can network with, learn with and from, and work with to advance this mission within Hakhel and in the wider Jewish world. (There is some funding behind the subnetworks’ work to enable members to meet and work collaboratively.) If you are not sure which subnetwork your community is in but might be interested in joining one, please email Deborah, Hakhel’s Network Manager, at deborah.fishman@hazon.org, and she will set you up. 

Join the Hakhel Israel Trip – February 2022

The February Hakhel Israel trip will begin on Monday evening, February 7th, and will conclude on Sunday afternoon, February 13th. Hakhel’s Israel trip is the most immersive and meaningful experience we can offer, and one of the deepest community learning trips available in the Jewish world. Over 8 days we will explore together the world of Israeli intentional communities, established since the 1980s, glean from their experience, develop connections and take back with us invaluable inspiration and tools to amplify our communal work back home. Learn more information and register here.

SAVE THE DATE: Hakhel’s Israel Summit

After two years of Covid, we plan to gather together as a network in Hakhel’s Israel Summit!!!

The dates are May 9th-16th (including Israel trips before the Summit, and immersive professional workshops afterwards). Registration will open next month, so stay tuned!

And, if you want to be in the know, and make decisions, join the Summit’s steering committee! Just drop a line to Gabe Axler for more details (gabe.axler@hazon.org)

Recommended Podcast: Dare to Lead

Priya Parker – master facilitator, strategic advisor, and the author of The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters – is the guest on this Brene Brown podcast about “How We Return and Why It Matters.” It is highly relevant for Jewish communities leaders and all who are looking to gather again, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The community is to the civilized man what the atmosphere is to the body.”

At the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto. Source: Samson Raphael Hirsch.

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