Shmita Learning and Visioning

Below are community learning and visioning ideas you might consider using in helping to bring forth Shmita awareness and excitement in your own community. Ultimately, since we have gone so many generations without observing Shmita, this whole concept is one we can only approach with new eyes, new curiosities, and in a humble, open way. We are all students in this effort, and the more we learn together, in mutual support, the more of a creative resurgence of Shmita consciousness will arise. Hopefully this learning space can take shape in the collective commons: our synagogues, community centers, schools, and gardens. And along with these spaces, it would be wonderful, if possible, to open your home to such learning, and invite the community to gather together with their stories, questions, and dreams.

Here are some suggestions to get the movement going:

– Host a Shmita Beit Midrash, which can range from an hour-long class to a full-day learning. Feel free to use the Shmita Project Sourcebook or our educational resource library to support such a learning event.  An easy way to organize such a Beit Midrash would be to host this on Shabbat, in your local synagogue, after Shabbat services or during a Kiddush/potluck lunch. Or perhaps even in the home of a community member, along with a shared meal.

– Host a Lecture Panel with local community leaders and educators on subjects relating to Shmita (food justice, local economy, debt disparity and ethical lending, land stewardship, the commons, rest & work, Jewish spirituality, etc). This can be a wonderful opportunity to bring out the diverse leadership voices within your community and local region. Shmita offers a wonderful opportunity for interfaith dialogue and exploration in this way, as well.

– Host a Movie Screening about a subject relating to sustainability, social justice, food systems, community, or other aspects of a Sabbatical culture. (Sorry, there are no movies out there yet about Shmita specifically). Follow the movie with a facilitated discussion and learning, linking the lessons and questions of the movie with the values and principles of the Shmita tradition.

– Host a Shmita-inspired Seder. So much of Jewish tradition is held within the foods we eat, and the way we come together to share in these foods. Consider hosting community meals as a way to learn more about Shmita, through the food you prepare and eat together. What are the foods of the Shmita year? Would you be able to create a full meal with these ingredients? Highlight local, seasonal foods, preserved foods, and perennial & wild foods. Enjoy rich conversation and learning along with the wonderful flavors and tastes of the meal. Check out the Hazon Shmita Foods Seder for some ideas. And if hosting a full meal is too much, experiment with adding a special Shmita dish (using wild and/or perennial ingredients) to your potluck gatherings and Shabbat meals.

– Host a Community Visioning Circle guided by the question “Imagine what this community will look like 7 years from now, inspired by Shmita values?” Find out what your community’s’ collective dreams, visions, and needs are. We cannot create change unless we have a collective vision we are working towards. Share your impressions through conversation, art, and movement. Divide into smaller groups so you can deep into many areas. Groups can be organized around: Local Food, Local Business, Local Energy, Local Education, and more. There are many layers to this vision!

– Host a Shmita Council Gathering. Building upon the feedback from the Community Visioning Circle, invite local community organizers, educators, Rabbis, and business/non-profit leaders to come together with the intention of exploring how to create a ‘roadmap’ for the practical integration of Shmita values/practices into your community. What will your seven-year timeline look like? What are your first steps? This can be an informal gathering, from a half-day to a full-day. From this seed, form a local network for your particular region, to support brining this vision into actualization.