Topic: Activism


Food and Farm Policy: Update and Action

Important food and farm policy work moved forward this winter amid all of the daunting political news. On December 20th the 2018 Farm Bill became law. The law’s passage was a win simply in that it allowed the continued function of crucial programs that address issues like hunger prevention and price stabilization. Thanks to widespread public advocacy, there were also specific wins for sustainability. Keep reading to learn more about the good and bad of the law, about the work ahead in influencing implementation, and crucial action steps you can take today. If you don’t have time or energy to absorb the details of our update but want to join the throngs of individual citizens nudging those in power toward a more equitable and climate-friendly food system, you can skip to the script at the end and call your legislators! The overwhelming state of our national politics won’t stop the Jewish community from participating in the greatest work of our generation: combating climate change and inequity. Update Passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which became law on December 20th, was critical to the continued basic functions of the farming and food systems in the U.S. Hazon applauds lawmakers for slugging their […]

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Farm Bill Update

A few weeks ago we wrote about the hugely important Farm Bill. Well, the 2014 Farm Bill has now expired and our legislators have postponed taking any action until after the mid-term elections. This means several valuable programs are immediately unfunded and the direction that our food system takes in the coming years depends hugely on who wins in November. We encourage you to read the brief update that we’ve pasted below from the National Young Farmers Coalition and take action on this important issue, and to make sure you and your community are all registered and ready to vote. We’ll continue to keep you updated when Congress picks the Farm Bill back up. On September 30th Congress allowed the 2014 Farm Bill to expire without a new bill in place or an extension passed. Thus, the following key programs, among others, will no longer be funded: Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG) Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (2501) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI) Program National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program (NOCCSP) Rural Microentrepreneur […]

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Listen Ya’ll! | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Alex Voynow, Jewish Farm School  Parshat Haazinu [NOTE: Applications for the next JOFEE Fellowship cohort are open now through October 5! Apply today!] In Ha’azinu, Moses sees the Israelites for who they are: humans, scarred by 40 years of impatient wandering and in no mood to listen obediently. Moses is 120 years old and holds so much wisdom; this is the last day before his death, and he has some things to say. He has the story of his life to tell, which in his epic personal union with the Israelite people is also the story of God. He needs them to understand, like the tender, concerned patriarch that he is, how to live in God’s favor so they can blossom into the promised land and not mess up this covenant (fast-forward: oops).   What he has to say is so important that he does something that really resonates with me. Moses speaks language that heaven and earth themselves will understand, and in a language that will more likely move the people: in song. He launches into a 48-verse poem doing his damnedest to sum up his life’s spiritual learnings. I’m not going to get into it because it’s densely […]

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Indigenous Rights and Reconciliation | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Jared Kaminsky, Shoresh Parshat Shoftim The parsha of the week is Shoftim, which means Judges. As Moses nears the end of his life, he wants to ensure there is a system of governance in society. Shoftim gives detailed ordinances on many topics of law, including appointing judges, laws that kings should follow, creating cities of refuge when crimes are committed, and the rules of war. For example, the parsha states that appointed judges are forbidden from taking bribes and there must be two credible witnesses for a conviction. Another ordinance demands that kings must not have too many horses and must always carry around two Torah scrolls to remind them that G-D is above them. The Torah even provides a city of refuge for those who accidentally murdered someone to live in safety! While many of these laws do not apply to modern society, there are some important insights into preventing corruption and treatment of humankind that we can still learn from. Moses recognized that every generation has the obligation to critically examine and apply the laws of the Torah. As Jews we should examine the laws that govern the places we live and work to protect the rights of […]

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Reflections on Kindness | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Brenden Jackson, Amir with Shalom Community Farm Houston Parshat Eikev In Parshat Eikev, Moses calls upon his people to reflect on their past in order to remember and obtain the future that was promised to them. As they prepare to enter the Promised Land, the lines blur between past transgressions, promises, sufferings and joys, made inseparable from the current joy at the edge of the holy land. As summer comes to a close here in Houston, so does summer camp programming, which means ending my mentor role with summer farmers and transitioning to fall programming. With the end of the summer chapter, I find myself guided by Moses’s reflections while I enter the reflection stage of this particular learning cycle. Here in Houston, we have several projects occurring and converging at one time: On the one hand, we have Shalom Community Farm – a Jewishly centered agriculture program aimed at connecting flora and Torah for community members. On the other hand, we are developing a Garden Kitchen program with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Houston, where I grow, harvest, and prepare produce with different community members. While in many ways these projects are totally separate, Amir has […]

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47 years… and the next ten days

From Nigel Savage April 20th, 2017 | 24th Nisan 5777 | 9th day of the omer; gevurah she’b’gevurah   Dear All, Nearly half a century ago, on April 22, 1970, twenty million people took to the streets for the first Earth Day – which happened to fall during Pesach, the holiday of mass protest against injustice. Within months, the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts passed Congress, and the Environmental Protection Agency was born. America showed the world that industrial might could be paired with respect for the health of people and the planet. Hazon seeks to build a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community, and a healthier and more sustainable world for all. We share many of the aims of those who brought about a transformation in our country’s approach to the environment 47 years ago. In our retreats and our immersive programs we touch people’s lives very directly, one by one, sometimes in profound ways. Our riders have raised several million dollars to support our work, to support the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, and in mini-grants that have gone to a wide range of organizations. Our curricula resources have underpinned educational work across the Jewish world, especially […]

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This Passover, Take Action for the Climate – D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Rachel Aronson – JOFEE / Sustainability and Community Engagement Fellow, Hazon  Jews across the world this week commemorated leaving Egypt to become free people for the holiday of Passover. Friends and family sit around the table together for the seder, celebrating freedom with comfy pillows to recline on and lots of kosher wine. Unfortunately, Passover can also represent something else: the holiday of waste. Those who keep kosher for Pesach (Passover) deep-clean our kitchens before the holiday, rooting out bread, tortillas, muffins, crackers, and every other kind of chametz (leavened or yeasted products) that’s sitting around the house. And to ensure that everything is kosher, we switch out our regular sets of dishes with a special set of only-for-Passover dishes. But who wants to keep an extra set of dishes around the house? It takes up storage space. It’s inconvenient. Understandably, many of us – out of convenience, or out of necessity – use disposable plates, cutlery, cups, and more. Ironically, many of us end up celebrating this holiday of freedom and liberation with trash bags full of styrofoam. Thankfully, Passover is also a holiday that reminds us of our ability to make change — as individuals and as a society. […]

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Transitions & beginnings / a first-ever joint email…

Dear All, This past Shabbat, we read the last chapter of Bereishit, the book of Genesis. On Sunday and Monday, we celebrated MLK weekend. And this coming Shabbat, we start the book of Shmot, the book of Exodus. Bereishit is a story of individuals – a person, a family, a heritage. With Shmot, we begin the story of a people. We make this journey – from an individual to a family to a community – every year. It’s core to the Jewish narrative and to the human process – born into a family, individuating and figuring out our own unique journeys, then binding our own lives with those of others, in multiple ways. It’s the journey of our organizations, also, and that’s why this is the first email ever that is being sent out jointly by Hazon, Pearlstone Center, Urban Adamah, and Wilderness Torah. Each of our organizations has its own history, its own foundation myth, its own mission and vision. We have separate boards and staffs and CEOs. Yet we support each other in multiple ways, and we share many common values. We’re each involved in one or more of the elements that in acronym we summarize as JOFEE – Jewish Outdoor, Food, Farming, […]

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Prayer in Action: Upholding our Covenant for a Brighter Future | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Daniella Aboody, Wilderness Torah, Berkeley, CA Parashat Chayyei Sarah Editor’s Note: Welcome to D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog! Most weeks throughout the year, you’ll be hearing from the JOFEE Fellows: reflections on their experiences, successful programs they’ve planned and implemented, gleanings from the field, and connections to the weekly Torah portion and what they’ve learned from their experiences with place in their host communities for the year. Views expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily represent Hazon. Be sure to check back weekly!  P.S. Interested in being or hosting a JOFEE Fellow? Applications for prospective fellows will continue to be reviewed as positions are available. The Torah portion for this week, Chayyei Sarah, begins with the death of our matriarch Sarah. We see Abraham mourn the loss of his beloved, and then immediately take action by purchasing her burial grounds—the cave of Machpela—and then sending his servant to go find a wife for their son, Isaac. Abraham says goodbye to her in an honorable way, and then makes moves to follow through on the covenant that God has made with him and Sarah—the promise of land and descendants. God makes this promise on several occasions, but only now, once Sarah […]

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Why I’m Marching for a Clean Energy Revolution

by Josh Kimelman     Tiptoeing into the world of environmentalism over the past ten years, I’ve certainly taken my time.   In high school, around the time An Inconvenient Truth began making waves, my brother developed a deep-seated interest in the environment. Some of his enthusiasm rubbed off on me, but mostly I thought it was, well, cute. A nice thing to care about, but requiring too much thought and effort. My brother’s environmentally-motivated vegetarianism earned my respect but did little to change my reluctance to engage the issues behind it (or my diet).   Sure, I was ten. But every time environmental issues came up over the next eight years, the same thing happened: momentary respect and care giving way to a shrug (and homework).   Standing where I do today, having attended the People’s Climate March in 2014, and excited to go march for clean energy in Philadelphia this Sunday, it’s almost comical looking back. Now, in college, much of what I study and care about revolves around the environment, food systems, and climate change. I learn and think all the time about how environmental issues intersect with everything: poverty, hunger, race, class, trade, agriculture, law, politics, national […]

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a time for service-thumb

A Time to Serve

Where will you serve? Tikkun Olam: Repair the World. That’s a pretty ambitious goal. Luckily, in the field of Jewish service, with great ambition comes great programming. There are so many organizations out there working every day to make a difference, and providing volunteers with the opportunity, knowledge, and partnership to have a positive impact on the world. But, with so many options and so much to be done, how do you choose the service program that is not only right for you, but the program in which YOU can make the biggest difference? We know how. This year, six Jewish non profit organizations are joining forces, as a force for good. We want you to be able to dedicate your time and energy to the causes you are passionate about through a year of service or long-term immersive service program. We also want to make sure you have everything you need to find the program that is the best fit for YOU, all in one place. Below you’ll find a range of excellent long-term service programs, and links to all of the information you need to thoroughly explore each program, your questions and qualifications, and the potential impact you […]

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Shmita, like Shechina, Goes Global: Reflections from a Hammock on This Shmita Year

By Amichai Lau-Lavie A year ago I was laying in a hammock on a Brazilian beach, planning a year’s worth of Shmita study and action that will rebrand this ancient sustainability practice rooted in the Land of Israel for new digital generations all over the world. Hovering between earth and sky provided the perfect setting to what I was designing: An adaptation of the Shmita concept beyond its original halachic, geographical and agricultural settings so that it will prove useful and meaningful to so many more of us. Now that the year is almost up and FallowLab, the project I designed, is starting its descent, it’s time to get back into the hammock and reflect on lessons learned and theories tested. Many creative projects and conversations emerged this year with varying degrees of success at wrestling with Shmita and offering ambitious renditions and new traditions. What sticks for future? Did we live up to the values of Shmita, did this year live up to expectations? Luckily I don’t have to go back to Brazil to find a reflection-friendly hammock. When I got back home last summer I set up a shmita garden in my Manhattan backyard: Stripped the garden of […]

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NY Finalizes Major Initiative to Expand Solar Access

From the Press Office of Vote Solar Diverse Coalition Applauds Cuomo Administration’s Commitment to Improving Community Health, Resiliency, Opportunity through Clean Energy Albany, NY – July 16, 2015 – Today the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) established an innovative Shared Renewables program that will expand consumer access to local solar, wind and other clean energy resources, particularly among low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. More than 70 local and national organizations join together in applauding state leaders for their commitment to a healthier, more resilient clean energy system that creates opportunities for all New Yorkers to thrive. “Solar is working for the Empire State in a big way. Record numbers of New Yorkers are harnessing sunshine to save on their energy bills, which is creating local jobs and reducing the need for traditional polluting power. This new program will empower even more communities, families and businesses to participate in that great solar success story,” said Sean Garren, Northeast Regional Manager for Vote Solar, a national solar advocacy organization. “We thank Governor Cuomo, his administration and the PSC for making equal access to solar a priority and for speeding our transition to a healthier, more resilient clean energy system.” New York […]

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From Shmita to Hak’hel: Assembling on October 4

By Rabbi Arthur Waskow In the last several years, many societies and cultures have been stirred by the sense of a great planetary crisis caused by human action to overwork the earth — – the burning of fossil fuels scorching our global ecosystem, the human gobbling up of eco-space bringing on the extinctions of many other species, widespread deforestation weakening the Earth’s ability to absorb the overproduction of CO2, human behavior poisoning rivers and oceans and exhausting many watersheds. For some, these events have stirred two biblical memories and midrash: the identification of corporate “Carbon Pharaohs” that profit from bringing plagues upon the Earth; and for the first time in Jewish history, a serious exploration of how the Torah of the Shmita/ Sabbatical Year of rest for the land might be applied outside the Land of Israel –- indeed, universally. The realization of this powerful biblical way of understanding and addressing our generation’s crisis came soon enough before the Shmita year of CE 2014-2015 to stir rich discussion, but not soon enough to make the year a time of public transformative action — a real Shmita. As our present Shmita dwindles down, what can we do now, to keep our planet livable? Facing this crisis, 380 rabbis from every stream of Judaism have signed the Rabbinic Letter on the […]

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Making Hummus with Shmita Values

By Michael Bomze On a weekly basis, I make hummus – very much at the mercy of area farmers, as I use fresh produce in each batch – and I donate all of the profits to Philadelphia urban farms. Admittedly, I do not think I ever had learned of the concept of Shmita before this year’s Hazon Philadelphia Jewish Food Festival – and I wasn’t initially sure how, in any capacity, I could apply the tradition of the Shmita to my 21st Century-paced life in a very large city. I think I’ve made some sense of it since November’s festival, though, and I offer my thoughts below. Though Shmita, a biblical mandate instructing farmers to let land lay fallow every seventh year, is a seemingly straightforward commandment, its implications are several. For instance, it isn’t Shmita that is the reason I’ve been preserving local produce in hummus, but thoughts and discussions regarding Shmita have helped me affirm what I am doing (and, if nothing else, the notion of Shmita has seemed a valid excuse to calm down my everyday life and to pay particularly close attention to my relationships with family, neighbors, and with nature). Regarding my hummus practices and the Shmita, perhaps the most obvious relationship is how each batch serves as […]

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