Dear Hakhel Communities,
Happy Chanukah! We hope you are enjoying this Festival of Lights with your loved ones, in community, and that you are finding ways to grow and spread the light. What are some of the traditions your community has to mark this special time?
Hakhel has been busy spreading our own light of Jewish values such as tikkun olam (repairing the world) and peoplehood, including at two recent international gatherings, at Z3 in Palo Alto, California and at Hakhel Creative Gatherings in Johannesburg, South Africa. More information about each is below. We congratulate the organizers and participants in bringing these exciting projects to life for the benefit of their communities and the wider world.
In this week’s parsha, Miketz, Joseph interprets dreams, which saves Egypt from a famine. What dreams do you have about the future, both positive visions and fears, and what do you think they mean? Chanukah is the time of miracles – you never know when your dreams will come true!
Hakhel Network Manager
This month, Hakhel Network Manager Deborah Fishman sat down with Dani Rotstein from Jewish Majorca.
Tell us in a few words about your community and what is special about it.
Our community is unique in many ways. Most prominently, we are the only community that is home to Xuetes (Chuetas). These are the descendants of Crypto-Jews on the island of Mallorca who were forced to abandon their religion and convert to Christianity, all the while not having the same legal and social rights as their “pure-blooded” Christian neighbors. This resulted in the Xuetes marrying within themselves, keeping many of them Jewish throughout the centuries. We are also unique in that we are nondenominational with members from all around the globe who are Orthodox, Conservative, Masorti, Reform, progressive, secular, and everyone in between. Our community welcomes with open arms anyone who wants to join, and seeks to accommodate each person’s religious needs.
Tell us about your upcoming Chanukah program!
2022 Hanukkah in the Street: A Celebration is a historic event, as it is the first time that the local city authorities are sponsoring a Chanukah celebration in a public city square. The event is open to the Mallorquin community! The festival begins at 5pm with a momentous candle lighting. Our traditional Xueta rabbi is coming all the way from Israel to light the first candle with the entire (mostly Catholic) general public in a powerfully inclusive and open way. This will be followed by a special musical performance by a Klezmer band that is being flown in for the occasion. There will be eight different stations running activities and offering products, including a top local chef teaching how to make sufganiyot! All details here: https://limudmallorca.com/chanukkah/. The event is supported by the ROI Community Grassroots Events program.
What is Hakhel’s added value for your community? In what ways does being part of a global network benefit you?
The fact that we are part of a global community like Hakhel is incredibly inspiring. Just learning about the Creative Gatherings event that took place in South Africa a few weeks ago was inspiration enough to know that we could pull off a historic event like Hanukkah in the Street here in Mallorca Island. The same with Hakehillah in Seoul, South Korea. To be connected to other open and inclusive Jewish communities in parts of the world that are not necessarily known to the large Jewish populations makes us feel that we are not alone and allows us to connect and share best practices with one another.
What is one takeaway or lesson from your work that you would like to share?
Just. Keep. Gathering. When the pandemic hit and the local shul was closed, we went digital and created Sha-Zoom. We met weekly for Zoom Shabbat get-togethers and received more attendance online than we did in the synagogue. When we thought that another Limud conference would not be possible because it had been too long since our last, we went ahead with the plan and new people we had never met before showed up to help and volunteer. You never know what will happen when you bring people together either in a virtual or in-person space, but we MUST always try to gather. If we don’t, there is no opportunity for connecting to happen, where if you do then there is always a chance for SOMETHING to come from NOTHING.
Hakhel Creative Gatherings in South Africa
From November 28 – December 5, arts-focused Hakhel community leaders from Mexico, France, Austria, and the USA gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, together with the local communities Creative Gatherings and 9th Street. Through the support of Hakhel and Shalom Corps, they volunteered at the Creative Arts Space, a former dump site in Freedom Park, Soweto that has become a safe place where children from the surrounding area come to learn art, sewing, crafts, music, dance, and engineering – a place where a community is creating something from nothing.
The Hakhel volunteers divided into different departments in order to be able to accommodate the more than 200 children that came out to participate – focusing on fashion design, music, visual arts, theater, and dance. Our intensive days of working with the kids culminated in a performance for the community that lasted 3 ½ hours!
Supplementing this volunteering, we engaged in cultural exploration and dialogue in a variety of settings around Johannesburg, including conversing and performing at an old age home; visiting the Apartheid Museum and Holocaust and Genocide Center; attending the Sawubona Music Jam; facilitation training; and visiting kosher restaurants in the local Jewish community. The bonding continued (and we even saw some wildlife!) when we went away for Shabbat to Dinokeng Game Reserve.
This trip was a transformative experience for those involved and the participants will surely take many lessons from the South African context back to their home community-building work.
A delegation of Hakhel community builders attended the Z3 conference in Palo Alto, CA, last weekend to join the conversation on the Israel-Diaspora relationship, Zionism, and Jewish peoplehood. This program is an extension of the sister community program and a partnership between the OFJCC Z3 project, the Varda Institute for Community Building and Hakhel.
The conference was the peak of a 3-day immersive seminar, where the group explored how such discussions are held in a local context, learned of Jewish institution’s approaches to these issues, learned community-building aspects that create the setting for such conversations, and discussed principles for holding such discussions in a way that builds and benefits the local community.
Following this weekend experience, the Varda Institute for community building will lead the development of a model for Z3-inspired events in Hakhel communities. The model will be piloted by members of the delegation in their local communities.
Our intention is to learn from those pilots and scale these experiences, offering them to all our Hakhel network members.
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- Have lived in their city for 2 or more years
- Are between the ages of 25 and 45
- Do not attend religious/traditional Jewish prayer services regularly
- Are not Israeli