The last few weeks of travel have been intense and amazing. Over the next few weeks I’ll share stories and learnings from my journey.
I began in Chicago at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America. Living and working in the Baltimore Jewish community, I’ve developed a deep understanding and appreciation for Jewish federations, so it was with great excitement and gratitude that we led our own session at the GA featuring federation leaders from the Associated, UJA-NY, and Vancouver —all investing in climate and sustainability as an important aspect of their work. We also featured JFNA leadership in this arena as well as the Jewish Agency for Israel. Our goal is to grow federation partnerships nationwide—help us connect with your local federation leaders!
Then I flew to Israel, where I participated in the Arava Institute-Hazon Israel Ride, such a beautiful way to experience the country and support both our work and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, a global leader in the movement to build peaceful coexistence through environmental cooperation. I rode 180 miles over four days, including a beautiful Shabbat in Mitzpeh Ramon along the way. I was deeply moved by the beauty of the land and the loving community of riders. What a mechayeh- enlivening experience!
The ride took place in the days following an Israeli election that led to disturbing results for many of us concerned about Israel’s new governing coalition and whether they will uphold our Jewish values of pursuing justice, loving kindness, compassion, and loving the stranger. The Shalom Hartman Institute’s podcast, Identity/Crisis, did an outstanding episode delving into this moment; I highly recommend it. American Jewish organizations responded: read this to see statements from the full spectrum of American Jewry.
At Hazon-Pearlstone, we are committed to Jewish Peoplehood & Planethood, building Israel-Diaspora connections through Jewish environmental education and climate action. We are proud to welcome Israeli shlichim-educators to Pearlstone each year; we are proud of the amazing impact of the Israel Ride and the support we’ve provided for the Arava Institute over the past 20 years; and we are proud of our Hakhel network, building Jewish intentional communities across the Diaspora that connect with and learn from Israeli communities.
Amidst this challenge for Israel-Diaspora relations, I hope that somehow all the Israel Riders can convey to our friends and family the spirit of the ride: Never Give Up. Keep pedaling up that massive uphill climb in the Negev, and keep pedaling uphill to build pluralistic, shared society in Israel—and in America too. Many have been devastated by American injustice over the centuries, but giving up on America was never an option. On the contrary, leadership and activism surged in those moments of crisis, strengthening shared values and leading to progress. Israel-Diaspora relationships may indeed become more difficult moving forward, and that’s why our work is so important, now more than ever.
So it was against this backdrop that we just launched an awesome new partnership with JAFI, enabling ten college students—founders of the Jewish Youth Climate Movement—to spend a week with Israeli peers from Nitzana on an environmental/climate tour of Israel before traveling together to COP27 in Egypt. I’ll share more about that awesome leadership development experience in the weeks to come, but just one highlight for now: COP27 Shabbat dinner last Friday, November 11th. We hosted 70 people at Naama Blue Hotel in Sharm El Sheikh, including the JYCM-Nitzana delegation and a powerhouse network of Israeli and diaspora Jewish climate leaders. We sang Shalom Aleichem outside, loud and proud, with our Egyptian hosts smiling and happy to welcome us. We made kiddush and hamotzi, we ate and drank, we debriefed our week at COP27, and we built relationships and inspiration for the hard, holy work ahead. Many said it was the highlight of their week.
We need a lot more Israel-Diaspora Shabbat dinners, young leadership delegations, and gatherings like this moving forward.
There’s been a beautiful tradition on Hazon bike rides, where a mini-Torah scroll is passed from one rider to another each day, carrying the Torah along for the journey. After the ride, the Torah was passed to me, and since then I carried it from Israel to Egypt, to COP27, and now back home. It is an awesome feeling–literally, full of awe–to carry a Torah wherever I go. And it’s the physical embodiment of a deeper truth: that in every generation, we carry Jewish tradition forward, and we make it our own. That journey and that Torah will be infinitely stronger when we travel together.
Like it says on the back of our Israel Ride bike jerseys: Ride as One.
Chief Executive Officer
Our mission at Hazon-Pearlstone is to lead a transformative movement deeply weaving sustainability into the fabric of Jewish life, in order to create a healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable world for all. We connect people to the earth and to each other, catalyzing culture change and systemic change through Immersive Retreats, Jewish Environmental Education, and Climate Action.