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Jewish Week – “Retreat and Advance”

Retreat And Advance Debra Nussbaum Cohen – Staff Writer May 5, 2006 Next Labor Day weekend, Rabbis Jeff Roth and Joanna Katz will carefully remove the Torah scroll from its home at Elat Chayyim, the Jewish retreat center they founded 16 years ago, and carry it on the first leg of the journey to its new home. Then they’ll hand it off to pairs of friends who will take turns walking the holy scroll 62 miles, to the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. Removing the Torah will be the final act by Elat Chayyim’s leaders before they close the retreat center’s doors, bringing to an end a grand experiment in the spiritual renewal of Judaism. People with every kind of Jewish background went to Elat Chayyim to learn and practice meditation, experiment with neo-chasidic practices like chanting and ecstatic movement, and bring an environmentally sensitive consciousness to every act. The problem was that its ramshackle site was too uncomfortably funky for all but the most committed, and its creators and leaders were focused more on teaching than on finances. (more…)





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An Amazing Way to Arrive

Jerusalem Yom Ha’atsma’ut / Israel Independence Day – 20th day of the omer 5766 Wednesday May 3rd 2006 Here’s how I arrived in Israel yesterday – in the waning afternoon hours of Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s memorial day, and just ahead of Yom Ha’atsma’ut, Israel’s Independence Day, last night and today. I walked through customs at Ben Gurion airport at 4.30pm. Yigal Deutscher met me at the airport; less than half an hour later I was walking around Chava v’Adam, visiting his new Shorashim project. I’ll explain what that is in a minute and why it was so amazing, but first a word about Yigal. (more…)





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Pushing ourselves to be the best we can be

Nigel Savage Published in The New Jersey Jewish News’ segment, The Next Big Think March 16, 2006 I love the famous line from Robert F. Kennedy: “There are those who look at things the way they are and ask why? I dream of things that never were and ask why not?” It’s in that spirit that I want to address this topic. This is more about what might be than about what is. Here are three things that already exist within Jewish life — but which I’d like to see grow dramatically in the next five years. (more…)





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New strategies for an ancient tradition

At the emotional high point of one of the central prayers of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we say “teshuva, tefilla and tzedakah avert the evil decree.” Ahead of the prayer marathons of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I wanted to write something about tefilla, prayer, the second of these three things. It is in many ways the least accessible of the three. Teshuva – returning to our best selves – segues easily into a contemporary neo-therapeutic perspective. We may struggle to improve ourselves, but the desirability of doing so seems clear. (more…)





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2005 New York Ride Keynote Address

 by Ariana Silverman This summer, my uncle, a middle-aged working father of three, volunteered to be a Little League Umpire. As many of you know, the difficulty of this particular job is not the physical exertion, or the danger of being confronted by a player, or even that there are that many pitches that are too close-to-call, but having to face the genuine wrath of a parent who feels that his or her child, or even his or her child’s team, has been wronged. During one particularly heated game, my uncle’s calls were repeatedly followed by yelling from an offended mother in the stands. Trying to keep his cool, when, in the middle of the forth inning, she asked for the count, he obligingly held up his hands . My uncle was stunned by her temporary silence, and then it came: “Ump, you’re gonna hafta yell-out the count-I don’t have my glasses on!” Tonight I invite you to join me in a conversation about seeing. Our Torah portion this Shabbat begins with the command to see: Re’eh. Re’eh Anochi Notein L’ifneicheim HaYom Bracha U’klalah. See, this day I set before you blessing and curse (Deuteronomy 11:26). This theme is not […]





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2004 Israel Ride – Letter from Nigel

New York 34th day of the omer 5764 Monday 10th May 2004 Dear All, This time last week I was one of more than 100 riders cycling on a spectacular road, down into Eilat, from the red mountains of the Israel/Egypt border. We were ending the six-day, 300-mile, Arava Institute Hazon Israel Bike Ride: Cycling for Peace, Partnership & Environmental Protection. The Ride was a remarkable experience, for me inspirational and thought-provoking. In quite a number of senses, as well as the most literal, we got to see Israel from an unusual perspective. In this email I want to give a flavor of what we did and some of what I thought about as we did it. This is a long email: feel free to print this and read it at your leisure later on. (more…)





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Sitting On An Aeroplane, While Grandma Dies

By Nigel Savage Originally posted at – http://www.zeek.net/fict_0411.shtml I’m writing this on Tuesday 26th August 2003, on a plane en route back to New York. I came back to Manchester last Thursday to see Grandma and to say goodbye to her. She’s 95, has liver cancer and, according to the doctors, she has at most “weeks rather than months” to live. So when I said goodbye to her last night that will almost certainly have been the last time I see her. My other grandparents died more suddenly that this, when I was younger and at a different stage in life. I’ve never had this experience of “saying goodbye” to someone in this way. I don’t know how I feel. Sad, certainly, though I’ve only really felt the feelings, as opposed to thinking the thoughts. (more…)





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2003 Israel Ride – Letter from Nigel

New York Yom Ha’atsma’aut 5763 / 7th May 2003 Dear All, I’m back in New York after the first-ever Arava Institute Hazon Israel Bike Ride. I’m jetlagged and sunburned and, courtesy of my first-ever downhill mountain-biking, bearing one or two scars. But I had a wonderful time, and I’m delighted to report that (minus the injuries) so did the rest of our riders. I got an email yesterday from Rosie Sharabhani which was typical of people’s responses: “I’ve been to Israel over a dozen times, but this has definitely been one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever had – from biking across the desert and feeling the utter beauty of the land in a more intimate way than ever before, to bonding with Jews from different backgrounds and ages who I would otherwise never have crossed paths with, and meeting Israelis who were so gracious and welcoming, and who shared with us their commitment and incredible contributions to this country. I’ve come out of this trip feeling a deeper love and connection to the miracle of Israel, and really look forward to build upon the community/family that was formed on this bike trip!” (more…)





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Reframing Jewish tradition in an era of ecological challenge

Jewish tradition is so old we easily take it for granted. But it’s quite an incredible thing: to have been one of the world’s indigenous peoples, more than three thousand years ago, to have maintained since then a continuous historical identity and existence, and still to be here, in the postmodern age. We have gathered, in that time, what I think of as “treasures in the garden” – traditions and teachings of immense beauty and value, which we easily fail to notice, or take for granted, or perhaps never knew of in the first place. In this short piece, I mention seven of them. For those who are from religiously observant backgrounds, these seven concepts will be mostly familiar; yet contemporary environmental challenges place them in a new light. For those not from a traditional background, these ideas may be new, or newly framed. In either case, I believe that they’re well worth a fresh look. Though these are central ideas within Jewish tradition, the context in which we discuss them has often become stale. Yet these ideas truly are treasures. They have been at the heart of Jewish life for three millennia, and they bear every possibility of enriching […]





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