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Inspiration, aspiration, respiration…

From Nigel Savage

 

Dear All,

In December we had a board meeting and took part of the time to discuss the election. One of our older and wiser board members said, people are moving too fast, right now. We need to let this administration get started, and see what happens.

Well, here we are: six days into this administration, with 1,455 still to go. (0.4% of the time has passed, and 99.6% still remains.) Buckle your seat belts.

Hazon’s task is not to lose focus, in relation to the vital and good things we are doing, things which at their heart are about helping us to be the people we aspire to be, helping the Jewish community to be the community that it aspires to be. So: a few suggestions and requests:

The Hazon Seal of Sustainability.

We’re patient. This is messianic.

From 2007 to 2014 we did systemic work on the Farm Bill. And we worked to grow Jewish CSAs. And we were persistent in helping to bring shmita back to life. And now we’re in year two of a new seven-year cycle in Jewish life, and the Hazon Seal pilot we launched last year – in year one – is good.

We mean to grow it between now and 2022 – and for many years afterwards. It’s intended to help institutions craft multi-year pathways to significant change. It incorporates education, action, and advocacy. It includes audits to help you establish baselines and improve from them. It’s incremental. It’s different from a LEED certification in many ways, but the greatest and most significant is this: LEED certifies that which has been accomplished; the Hazon Seal is a commitment to ongoing and future work. (And we’ll award it once a year, so you’re committing to make a difference one year at a time.)

If you’re the leader of an institution – a rabbi, an executive director, a board member – or if you’re a civilian, and/but you’d like to help your institution drive systemic change, then be in touch with seal@hazon.org. We’re going to grow this steadily, year-by-year.

Renewing yourself / renewing your community.

I write to all of you, but especially to those of you in the tri-state area. Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center isn’t just a place, it is a unique treasure. People fall in love there. They step back, learn, celebrate, find voice. It is too minor to say “people have a good time.” Many do, but that’s not the point.

The deeper, and much more important point, is that contemporary culture is too fast and too frenzied to really soak up Jewish tradition, and step back, and learn, and celebrate, and integrate.

So shleimut – wholeness – is critical. Little kids running around with their tzitzit out. Women dancing with the Torah. 20-somethings farming and milking the goats. 80-somethings marveling at pickling and canning that they last remembered from when they were kids. Isabella Freedman isn’t just good, or nice; it’s important.

And this is the start of a new year.

So pull up your calendar, and look at our calendar and decide when you’re going to treat yourself to inspiration and aspiration and respiration, and take the step back that will help you step forward as your best self.

If you’re involved in leading a community, bring your community to Isabella Freedman. Our calendar books out, but talk to elisheva.massel@hazon.org.

And if you want to have the biggest impact – on yourself and on our world – sign up for the New York Ride & Retreat. The biking is a chance to push yourself physically. The fundraising is the gift of giving money and raising money to help a good organization – that would be us – get even better and do more good in the world. And the community, year-after-year, is inspirational. Check out our new video, and the cute one from last year as well. We’re on track to sell out early this year. The sooner you sign up, start training and start fundraising, the more fun you’ll have.

Advocacy.

Advocacy is a part of our work, and it’s something we all can do.

If you go to hazon.org/advocacy we’ll steadily post ideas and suggestions – including calling your elected representative to question whether Scott Pruitt is the best possible person to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, at this moment in human and American history.

Together with Pearlstone, Wilderness Torah, Urban Adamah, and a growing number of Jewish organizations, we want to say: the Shabbat of April 22nd is Earth Day; and the Shabbat of April 29th is the People’s Climate Mobilization. Pencil them in your calendar. Start to figure out how you want to celebrate those shabbatot. As we move forward in time, we’ll steadily provide ideas and suggestions. You can be any denomination and of any political perspective: we all live on one small planet. Common sense teaches us that we’re not leaving the world in better shape for future generations; Jewish tradition reminds us that we have a moral obligation to pitch in, however we can. So let’s use the gift of those shabbatot to inspire Jewish people to be the best Jewish community we can be – and make a difference for all.

Supporting Hazon.

A growing number of people are donating to Hazon, and a significant number are becoming monthly sustainers. They want to feel that they are ongoing stakeholders in the work that we do. Please join them. We’re growing, we’re doing important work and we need your help. To donate, click here. If you want to give a larger gift or you’re involved in a foundation that would like to support our work, please speak to me or to gina.schmeling@hazon.org. And if you have a friend or family member who might like to support us – feel free to forward this to them.

One last thing. Jewish tradition believes that language matters. We parse each word of the Torah with extraordinary care and attention. We teach that lashon hara – literally, bad speech – is something always to be avoided. And we see words as multivalent: seeing and feeling multiple shades of meaning in a single word or phrase.

I wrote parts of this email whilst visiting a large Jewish community that voted 70% or so for Donald Trump. I was chatting there with someone whom I like and respect, who didn’t vote for President Trump, but who strongly disliked President Obama and was happy to see him leave office. Participants and stakeholders in Hazon represent a wide range of American Jewish life, and we want that range only to widen, not narrow. So somehow – somehow – we have both to step up and to step back; we have to listen and also act; we need the confidence to drive positive change, yet also the respect and humility genuinely, not nominally, to listen to those with whom we disagree.

Wishing you a fine and wonderful Shabbat,


nigel-savage
Nigel

PS – It’s Tu b’Shvat in two weeks’ time. Click here for ideas and info.