If you want to understand the impact of Hazon’s programs, how they can truly change people’s lives in profound and meaningful ways, you needn’t look further than me.
I first attended the Hazon NY Bike Ride in 2008. At the time, I was serving as the Executive Director of Friends of the Arava Institute, Hazon’s partner in the annual Israel Ride, and I was invited to come to the NY Ride, bringing some Arava Institute alumni with me. I brought along my wife Jamie and our children, Mikayla and Grace, then ages 10 and 6, for the Labor Day weekend retreat, which that year was held at Camp Kinder Ring, having no idea what we were going to experience, but genuinely just hoping to have a good time.
We had more than a good time; we had a life-changing transformation.
What we found at the NY Ride & Retreat, almost immediately, was a community like we had never experienced before. A community that was pervasively Jewish and radically inclusive. A community that felt both open and safe for our children. A community that encouraged Jewish journeys, including our own family’s journey. A community with a ruach and a neshama that we instantly felt a part of, like we were coming home.
I recall our children instantly bonding with Teva educators and making their own signs to cheer on the riders. (Gracie made a memorable sign, simply reading “I Love Bikers.”) I remember learning pickling from Adamah fellows.
And, I remember Jamie saying the words that would foreshadow how our lives would change forever from this single retreat weekend, “David, I want to live in this bubble.”
We would come back to the NY Ride each year that followed, immersing ourselves for a few days in that community that, in our hearts, we wished we could be part of always…
…until 2011, when I was in the midst of a job search and the opportunity came to become the Executive Director at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. We went up to make a visit and Jamie almost instantly said “This is that bubble.” We knew that’s where we needed to be.
Amazingly, just six years after our first Hazon NY Ride experience, I not only became the Director of Isabella Freedman, but, after our merger this year, I find myself as the CEO of Hazon, the organization that profoundly changed my family’s life.
And our Hazon experience has not only changed where I work or where we live. It’s had a significant influence on what we eat, how we bless our food, the purchasing choices we make, how we handle our waste, the songs that we sing, and the friends that we have.
And I know we’re not the only ones. Week after week, I speak to individuals and families whose lives have been transformed by Hazon, whether on a Hazon Bike Ride, at a retreat at Isabella Freedman, serving as an Adamah fellow or a Teva Educator, or by finding an alternative energy for Jewish life at a Food Festival in Philadelphia, San Francisco, or Colorado, on our Israel Sustainable Food Tour, or as part of a Jewish CSA in countless communities across North America.
Just in the next couple of months, you or your family could have a similar transformation at programs ranging from our fun Adamah Farm Vacations to our incredible Elat Chayyim Living Laboratory or – like our family did – at the NY Ride & Retreat.
This year’s NY Ride & Retreat – held at Isabella Freedman – will be yet another transformation for me, as, for the very first time, I plan not to be cheering along the riders, but instead to be on a bike myself. I hope you’ll be riding along with me, taking the next leg on our Jewish journey together.