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Pre-Rosh Hashanah Gratitude

Thursday, September 19, 2019 | 19th Elul 5779

Dear Friends,

This is our last formal email before Rosh Hashanah. The year ends, the year begins.

For Hazon, the year just ending is one of immense gratitude. One says that so lightly, as if it were obvious, but it is absolutely genuine.

The people who make the beds and schlep the food at Isabella Freedman, the people who cook and clean and milk the goats – early, on cold rainy days. The people who register and plan and organize and teach and daven and fix problems and fix toilets and fix everything.

All the people who work for Hazon, not just at Freedman but – for instance, and this is just alphabetical; our staff who live in Accord, Be’er Sheva, Boulder, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Hastings, North Carolina, Shuva, not to mention also Brooklyn and Manhattan and Queens – thank you to each and all of you, and anyone I left out.

Thank you to the people who fund us – the staff, the trustees, wealthy families, not wealthy families, rabbis. People who do make board dockets and who read board dockets, and do a million behind-the-scenes things that enable us to do what we do.

The kids who come to Teva, the parents, the chaperones, the schools, the teachers.

Idealistic Adamahniks, of all flavors and journeys.

Our amazing JOFEE Fellows, and the places they live and work and the people who support and encourage them.

I thank our board members who sit through long meetings and wonder, sometimes – “is this time well-spent? Am I really making a difference?” (Yes, you are; we couldn’t do this without you.)

These are what eco-systems are. We couldn’t be here either without the MTA, and the doctors and dentists, the people who haul trash, the people who make our jeans, who grow our food, who pass our laws, who enforce our laws, who write our music, who perform our plays, who investigate what needs investigating.

This is an imperfect world; yes, we know that.
But it is a beautiful beautiful world and we are blessed, most of us reading this, to live lives that our great-grandparents could barely have dreamed of.

And so… this is my pre-Rosh Hashanah gratitude. This is what I’m thinking on the eve of the Global Climate Strike, and on the eve of selichot, and on the eve of this new year. May we not take for granted this relative peace in which we live. We who didn’t grow up in Bangladesh, we who by the fortune of being born in the west take at least shoes for granted, and education, and health services – even if, yes, some of those things are fraying or seem to be crumbling, or whose services are not so equitably distributed as we might wish for.

May this be the year in which we all do teshuva; in which we all strive to be our best selves. In which we buy less and give more. In which we eat more veggies and less meat from cows that have lived un-cow-like lives. In which we thicken community, and reach out to old friends, and say hello to our neighbors. In which we vote wisely, and help our countries – in my case, that crazy troika, Israel, the UK, and the US – to honor fair voting and honest government and respect for their constitutions, things we ought to be able to take for granted… but in fact no longer can, and no longer should.

For this and for so much more – and our families and our friends and our colleagues and our neighbors – for all this may I be grateful; truly I am grateful.  May we go to shul, and daven, listen, learn, be generous and loving and supportive with our rabbis and our chazans and our prayer leaders.

And, most of all, may we have those moments of grace; the moment amidst trees, or in conversation, with an old friend or a new one, in which we have clarity, in which we have hope, in which we find the honest place to say: yes, this year I will be better; I really will be better. And so, with active hope, with determination and perspiration and inspiration – may this indeed be a better world for everyone.

Shabbat shalom. Shana tova,

Nigel