Jewish Intentional Communities At The Tipping Point

Dear All,

First: thank you to those of you who gave us a donation in response to the launch of our year-end appeal last week. One gift was from someone who phoned and said, “I’ve been supporting Hazon in a small way for several years, I was thinking about my year-end giving, and I realized that I believe really deeply in everything you’re doing – so could I give you a gift of appreciated stock…?” (That would be: yes! huge thanks; and here’s the information you need…). This was someone who had been giving us $360, and increased their gift to $2,400 – a gift in fact worth over $4,000 to Hazon because of the match we have outstanding. We have no reserves, no endowment, and we’re doing work that sometimes takes a little while to explain. But if you believe in what we’re doing, please do support us. And – yes – feel free to make a gift of appreciated stock…

Meanwhile, this has been a remarkable week and one which in retrospect I think will turn out to have been historically significant.

Last weekend we were at the Pearlstone Retreat Center in Baltimore, at our first-ever Jewish Intentional Communities Conference. It was a joint project of Pearlstone, Isabella Freedman and Hazon, and it’s been in the works for a long time. I think it’s going to turn out to be parallel in significance to Hazon’s first-ever Jewish Food Conference, in December 2006. In both cases there were already a growing number of people, to some extent underneath the radar of organized Jewish life, who cared passionately about the topic at hand. But the conferences, by placing a flag in the ground, drew many of those people together, and created a context to take inspiration, ideas, learning and action into a whole different realm. The overall impact was electric.

To those of you to whom the term may be unfamiliar, let me say a couple of words about what we mean by “intentional communities.” The heart of it is the notion of people living together, with some explicit degree of shared intent or commitment. The best-known examples, historically, have been the kibbutzim and moshavim in Israel, and a variety of communes in the USA and elsewhere. There are three main reasons that we’re now at a tipping point in relation to Jewish (or as l like to think of it, Jewishly-inflected) intentional community.

First: the emergence of a series of experiments in short-term intentional community. Adamah, Avodah, Moishe House, Teva staff, Urban Adamah, Yiddish Farm and most recently the Jewish Food Justice Fellowship in San Diego, are now collectively graduating well over 150 young Jewish adults a year who have had a taste of living, eating, and in some cases working and davening together, for periods of between three and 18 months. This is powerful medicine, and it is no surprise that a proportion of these people are now exploring ways they might live like this more permanently.

Secondly: technology and social media are accelerating the impact of model communities, and enabling people who are interested in intentional community to find each other and learn from best practice. We had people at the conference from places like Camphill Village, Earthaven Ecovillage, The Farm, and Twin Oaks, in the United States. We had people from Eastern Village, a substantial co-housing development on the DC/MD border (that’s probably about a third Jewish; it seems clear that Jewish people are dramatically over-represented in co-housing communities across the country.) And most dramatically and impactfully – and at the suggestion of Reuven Greenvald of the Jewish Agency for Israel, who became a co-chair and co-sponsor of the Conference – we had representatives from several of the new Israeli communities that have emerged in the last few years – Moshav Shivtei Shalom, Garin Shuva, Kibbutz Mishol, Kehillat Kama, Kibbutz Kramim and others.

Thirdly: the range of options for intentional community is broadening. There are a small number of true kibbutzim, in both Israel and the US, and including some that have been relatively recently formed. But sharing everything – including assets and income – is a radical step, and the number of people willing to do that is pretty tiny. But different versions of co-housing are a far, far -I would say far – larger market. People living in their own home, their own condo or apartment, but with shared play-space for kids, for bikes, for meditation, for guests, perhaps for a pottery kiln, for an office, for yoga, for storage; and with shared space to meet together, eat together, hang out together – daven together? – the market for this, in a world in which the old rhythms of multi-generational community have attenuated – this market is substantial, and sharply growing. (Some version of this is what Jakir Manela and Josh Fidler are thinking about for Pearlstone and what in due course we’d like to see develop at or near Freedman.)

So in the words we quote in the pesach haggada: higiya z’man (“the time has come…”). A number of speakers spoke powerfully and very honestly about a sense of anomie and isolation in contemporary life. Too much velocity, too much mobility, too many things, too little time. I pointed out, over Shabbat, that when we read the stories in bereishit – the stories of Avraham and Sarah, Yitzhak and Rivkah, Yaakov and his wives and children and siblings – what we’re reading is the story of multi-generational community; of children growing up with adults who are not their parents, kids of all different ages, extended families, adult children and aging parents, all kinds of people living and working together. This way of living is taken for granted by the Torah. And this is how we lived, more or less, until the French Revolution; in some ways it’s how we lived in the Lower East Side, in the East End, in Cheetham Hill. And there are people I know amongst my own friends and family who do indeed live at least to some extent in this kind of way, and I see how strong and good it is.

So – higiya z’man, the time has come. We had 194 participants, from all over the country, plus a couple of Brits and some truly inspirational Israelis. All ages, all backgrounds; many people who were frum; quite a few who’d had barely any connection with Jewish life in decades. Toddlers and grandparents. More different kinds of headgear than I’ve ever seen at a Hazon event – a Polish kepi, a top-hat, all kinds of caps and scarves and kippot and so forth. It was pretty amazing.

On the cards: creating ways to connect people year-round. A second conference, at Freedman, next winter. In 2015 we’d love to take a bus-load of people around Israel to visit some of the new communities there. And intentional community is also the reason that Cheryl Cook and I are in Detroit – again – today and tomorrow. Wouldn’t it be amazing if – for instance – we could create a Jewishly-inflected co-housing community in Detroit, with an urban farm, and multiple ways for people both to have their own space, on the one hand, and deepen their commitment to community and to urban renewal, on the other? We shall see….

One last thought. The broadest application of “intentional communities” doesn’t have to mean living at Findhorn, Kibbutz Ketura, Eastern Village. In a different sense we can each take steps towards deepening our sense of community wherever we are. Having friends over to stay. Inviting oneself to stay with others, rather than staying in a hotel. Going out of one’s way to chat with the neighbors. Borrowing milk. Gathering to light a chanukiah in one’s place of work. Hosting Shabbat meals. Increasing the velocity of objects by giving more away and lending more. We each have our own boundaries, our own comfort zones, our own sense of what is or is not too much. As we gather this coming week for Chanukah and for Thanksgiving, let’s have the conversation about the walls of our tent – how wide they are, how open they are, how open they might be, the steps we might take – small, but determined – to deepen our sense of relationship with those who surround us.

Shabbat shalom, chag urim sameach – and happy thanksgiving…

Nigel Savage

Executive Director, Hazon

PS. Last night I was at the incredible Spertus Center in Chicago. It’s a beautiful LEED-certified building, and they’ve been using materials from Hazon over the last year to reduce their impact still further. In 2014, they’re launching a Green Spertus campaign to celebrate their 90th birthday, and as part of that they’re reducing their carbon output by 2,000 tons a year – and they’ve saved money in the course of doing so. They’re an inspiration to organized Jewish life, and if you haven’t visited Spertus before, I warmly recommend it.

Register Early for the 2014 Golden Gate Ride

[Image]Sign up for Hazon’s Golden Gate Ride by December 31st and save $50! Plus, because of a matching grant, if you raise $180 before December 15th, your donation to Hazon will be matched and doubled.

In addition to beautiful Northen California riding routes that accommodate cyclists of all skill levels, you’ll enjoy scrumptious local food, fun outdoor activities, soulful Jewish practice and some really cool workshops.

You can participate as a Rider (for as many days as you’d like), Crew, Shabbat Only or Team. Route options range from 30-80 miles/day. The ride will continue to support the Jewish environmental movement in the Bay Area and beyond.

Hazon’s 5th Annual Golden Gate Ride

May 23-26, 2014 – Memorial Day Weekend

Walker Creek Ranch in Northern Marin County

Learn More

Unique Chanukah Gifts from the Isabella Freedman Bookstore (plus a $10 credit!)

[Image]From Jewish books and CDs to eco-friendly Hazon t-shirts and Adamah products, the Isabella Freedman Bookstore is a great place to do your online holiday shopping.

Special items include:

· Adamah Gift Baskets

· Neshama Carlebach’s new CD Every Little Soul Must Shine for young children

· Emily Stern’s new CD of performed poetry Birth Day

· Rachel and Matti’s beautiful CD Rayati is back in stock

· David Gordon’s new CD The 21st Century

· Our locally grown favorite CDs: Teva Tunes and Adamah’s Avodat Lev

· Hazon, Adamah and Teva T-shirts

Learn More

Hazon Named One of America’s Standard-Bearing Innovative Jewish Organizations by Slingshot

Hazon is proud to have been named one of 17 “standard bearer” organizations in the ninth annual Slingshot Guide. The organizations included in the Guide are driving the future of Jewish life and engagement by motivating new audiences to participate in their work and responding to the needs of individuals and communities – both within and beyond the Jewish community – as never before.

Selected from among hundreds of finalists reviewed by 83 professionals with expertise in grant-making and Jewish communal life, the Guide referred to Hazon as the organization that “sets the standard in every area it touches” across the fields of food, the environment, and sustainability.

Hazon is proud to be included not only among this year’s selectees, but among the hundreds of innovative Jewish organizations included in the Guide over the past nine years who continue to improve the world we live in. Being named a Slingshot standard bearer is a true honor – and endows Hazon with a responsibility to model how we have sought success for fellow Jewish communal organizations and projects near and far.

Learn More

Bring Hazon and Teva to Your Community

for Tu B’Shvat[Image]

Tu B’Shvat is a perfect holiday to learn about creating a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community, and a healthier and more sustainable planet. Enrich your Tu B’Shvat programming by featuring a Hazon speaker at your Tu B’Shvat seder, or bringing a Teva educator to run a youth program at your school or synagogue.

For more information and to create a unique Tu B’Shvat experience for your community, contact

Learn More

Adamah is Hiring a Field Apprentice

Do you (or someone you know) have a deep interest in field work, crew leadership, ecological farming systems, community building around agriculture and education through production? The Adamah Field Apprenticeship (April 1st – December 6th in Falls Village, CT) is a great opportunity to take the next step in becoming an organic farmer. The apprentice leads crews of Adamah fellows in the field and works closely with the field manager to run the farm, produce high quality organic vegetables for the CSA and other markets, and to maintain it as a healthy space for fellows and people to grow.

Learn More

Leichtag Foundation Seeks Ranch Director to Drive and Support Programming in Encinitas, CA

The upcoming years at the Leichtag Foundation will be ones of experimentation and piloting of programs that utilize the Ranch to best serve the various constituencies the Leichtag Foundation seeks to support. As part of these efforts, the foundation is seeking to hire a senior staff person who will coordinate all physical plant related and facility efforts on the Ranch, including management and development of the facility, short- and long-term planning, and business development that strategically aligns and integrates with the Leichtag Foundation’s other efforts.

Learn More

In the Movies: Judaism on the Fringe [Image]

On Tuesday, November 5 Hazon sponsored the U.S. premiere of the new documentary film “Fringes” at the JCC in Manhattan. The film chronicles three stories of families living Jewishly, outside of the traditionally defined terms of Judaism. One story follows a Jewish couple from their farm in rural Virginia who, among other things, attend the Hazon Food Conference at Isabella Freedman. We applaud producer Jonathan Lopatin and director Paula Weiman-Kelman on their beautiful portrayal of the possibilities of modern Jewish life.

Learn More

In Boulder: Soil & Sacrament:

Food, Faith and Growing Heaven on Earth[Image]

Come enjoy an evening of rich conversation with Fred Bahnson, author of Soil & Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith, and local growers who are working to recover from the flood. KGNU 88.5 and The Collaborative Community Radio Show will be recording the event live for later broadcast and there will be delicious complimentary food donated by local restaurants.

This event is free and donations to the Front Range Farm Relief Fund will be accepted. RSVP is encouraged.

Monday, December 9 at 6:00 pm

Impact Hub

Boulder, CO

Learn More

From Our Friends

In Philadelphia: Tomato Rabbis

Who picks the food that you eat? How much are they paid? Would you pay a penny more for better wages for the workers who pick your food? Every year, from September until May, millions of tomatoes are harvested by farm-workers in Florida and shipped all around the country. But their earnings have not changed in 30 years.

This panel discussion will cover the movement to prevent slavery in America’s tomato fields and how a group of rabbis have made this their mission. Meet Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, Director of North American Programs for T’ruah (formerly Rabbis for Human Rights-NA) and Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann of Kol Tzedek as they discuss the Tomato Rabbis.

Wednesday, December 11 at
7:00 pm

Kol Tzedek Synagogue

48th St. and Baltimore

West Philadelphia

Learn More

In New York City: Yeshivat Hadar’s 2014 Winter Learning Seminar —Can a Morsel of Bread Bring Peace?

Hazon is proud to be co-sponsoring Yeshivat Hadar’s 2014 Winter Learning Seminar. Get a taste of beit midrash community in an immersive week of Torah study, prayer, shared meals, and dynamic conversation about what Torah can teach us about food, identity, and responsibility – with passionate teachers and committed peers.

Sessions include: Do ethics of food production affect kashrut? Is kashrut intended to create social division or cohesive community? Eating as a Jewish spiritual practice. Vegetarianism: preference, commandment, or rebellion? Hands-on: bake your own kosher-for-Pesah matzah!

Tuition: $200 for one week, $350 for both. $50 discount for referring friends. Includes daily breakfast and lunch. College Credit is available ($500/credit)

Week 1: January 5-9, 2014

Week 2: January 12-16, 2014

Come for one or both weeks

Yeshivat Hadar
190 Amsterdam Avenue,
New York

Learn More

Comments are closed.