Topic: Detroit

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Hazon Detroit: November 2022

The Hebrew month of Cheshvan marks the beginning of the cycle of praying for rain, highlighting the ancient Jewish wisdom that we are dependent on the natural world around us. In Detroit, the remaining few leaves are joining a colorful array across the ground, providing nutrients back to the soil. During this rich time of transition, each leaf crunch beneath our feet and each sip of apple cider can be a humbling and empowering reminder of our need to leave our world better than we found it.  As we write, Jewish Youth Climate Movement (JYCM) teen leaders are joining leaders from around the world gathering now in Egypt at COP27, the UN conference on climate change. Read about Detroit native Naomi Parr and the delegation in the Jewish News! Our tradition teaches “You are not required to finish your work, yet neither are you permitted to desist from it” (Pirkei Avot). While we cannot complete the task alone, Hazon is at the forefront of a national effort to inspire and motivate the Jewish community on climate.  It was powerful to gather the Metro Detroit Seal of Sustainability community at the Fall Gathering! At our gathering, dedicated members of each organization had […]

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Hazon Detroit: October 2022 Newsletter

Shana Tova! How sweet and hopeful to have arrived into this new year with you. We hope that you are nourished and inspired from these last weeks of reflection, joy, togetherness, and intention-setting. We look forward to showing up for one another and for the earth in this new year.  This year, we’re building on the impactful foundation of our longstanding Hazon Seal of Sustainability program, and working with over 50 Jewish organizational partners to provide enriching Jewish Earth-based experiences and environmental education, stewardship, and action in 5783. In the weeks and months to come, we hope you’ll join us – as individuals and organizational partners – in showing up for one another and the Earth by participating in an upcoming event (see below). Start the New Year off with opportunities to connect with community and steward our earth: Tree Planting with The Greening of Detroit One approach we’re taking to offset some of the environmental impact of our recent Food Festival, is partnering with The Greening of Detroit to plant trees! We hope you can join us. This is a great opportunity to connect with our new Hazon Detroit team and contribute to increased tree equity in our region.  […]

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Hazon Detroit: Food Rescue Update

One year in, we’ve rescued over 250 tons – or 500,000 pounds – of food! Hazon Detroit’s Food Rescue and Redistribution work continues to be a major focus for us, as we try to help reduce the amount of food insecurity in our neighborhoods and provide the most basic kind of sustainability – sustenance – to those hit hardest by the Coronavirus. One year into the pandemic, with the help of countless incredible partners, we have rescued and redistributed over 250 tons – 500,000 pounds – of food! But numbers tell only a sliver of the story, because this work is truly about the individuals and families that benefit from the food we rescue. Read the message below from one frontline volunteer about the impact that this food has for those who receive it: Dear all, I want to share some news, observations, and thanks to each of you! I am the one who greets our friends and generally has a brief (and sometimes long) chat with the vast majority of them! We help over 300 families each month and now average nearly 75-80 each week! We have lost a few because life did get better and are now providing […]

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A Call to Action for Rabbis and Spiritual Leaders From Hazon’s Detroit Rabbi, Nate DeGroot

Dear Rabbis and Spiritual Leaders, With each passing day, and each new scientific report, it is becoming increasingly clear that the climate crisis is and will continue to be the most pressing moral issue of our time. I know you, like me, feel a keen sense of obligation and responsibility to care for and protect the natural world and to ensure the safety and survival of those who are most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change. As rabbis, we have the ability to speak up and speak out on this issue. As Jews, we have a tradition that demands this of us and inspires us to care for all of God’s creation. And as humans, we have a vested interest in doing this work speedily, for ourselves, for future generations, and for the more than human world. That is why I am writing to you today, to introduce you to a new project of Hazon, called the Brit Hazon. This initiative aims at inspiring thousands of Jews from all across the country and world to commit to small and achievable environmental actions in their own lives. Participants can choose one of six paths of sustainable change, and will […]

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Food Rescue Hero: Darraugh Collins

After the completion of ten weeks of exposure, enlightenment, and heavy back breaking work, Tania and I find ourselves longing for our internship to continue on into 2021. By working with Hazon and other partner organizations and leaders in the community, we have become a part of a community of compassion — centering the needs of hundreds above their own. In this work across the city of Detroit, we’ve met individuals who consistently leave us in awe with their unwavering dedication to food rescue. This week we want to highlight the gift of Darraugh Collins. Despite only residing in Detroit for several years, she has made an enormous impact on the community. Darraugh was not always a leader in the work of food rescue; after attending a banquet at her fiance’s hotel in St. Louis, she noticed the immense amount of leftover food. She was shocked that it was all going to be thrown away. This made her wonder: How many people had she passed on the street who could have benefitted from this food? How many hotels and businesses in the area also disposed of surplus food? It soon became clear to Darraugh what the next step must be: […]

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Food Rescue Hero: April Roe Agosta

For our second edition of Food Rescue Hero of the Week, Tania and I instantly knew the exact woman we needed to highlight. For years, April Roe Agosta has fed those in need — from her backyard to the back of Thurston High School —  nothing stops her mission. Since the pandemic hit, April and her  team of volunteers have taken lead in a constantly growing food rescue and distribution mission. Every week, Hazon Detroit partners with April to feed our food insecure neighbors  in Redford, MI.    April grew up and lived much of her life in Scotland, moving to America in 1983. She speaks of her home fondly, longing to go back when our world allows for families to once again reunite across the globe. April told us that she has always been a helper, a trait passed down from her father, a man who made sure every person was fed, whether they were his own or not. In a country like Scotland where the government provides extensive housing and medical assistance, money can be secured solely for food.  In Scotland, help is given to all — not divided up by race, religion, or class.  Hence, April faced […]

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Hazon Detroit: Tragic Hope & Meaningful Action

by Rebecca Levy   Dear Friends, Since the summer, we have had the incredible fortune of having six wonderful interns supporting and enriching our work. Much gratitude to Repair the World Serve the Moment, the Applebaum Internship Program, JOIN, and the Hornstein Program For Jewish Professional Leadership at Brandeis University. One of these interns, Rebecca Levy, has written the piece below and we are thrilled to be able to share her words with you. In loving community, Wren, Rabbi Nate, Marla, and Hannah   When sitting in shul, my favorite part of most sermons is the speaker’s call to action, which typically comes towards the end. Yes, it is important to learn and the lessons that we draw from the Torah and from life are beneficial, but as one of my English-teachers always said, “so what – who cares?” – English-teacher code for “why is this important and what can we take away from it?” Especially in days like these, when the feeling of loss and uncertainty can be overwhelming, I like to know what I can do moving forward. Do not get me wrong, I love to learn and learning is necessary if you want to act meaningfully, but […]

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Food Rescue Hero: Minister Antonio

Over the next few months, Tania and myself, Lily, will be highlighting our local food rescue heroes. In doing this work only briefly, we have been struck with the profound recognition of our own privilege, of our ability to go to the market and get as much food as we not only need, but want. Yet so many do not have the means to do so by no fault of their own. Through working with Hazon and other partner organizations, we have met those who have turned their lives into helping others, ensuring as many families can be fed as possible. For food insecurity is not a problem with lack of food per se, but with food distribution. These are people who have welcomed strangers into their home, put food on their plates, and in doing so have created a community that stands up for one another and helps with no questions asked. It is truly an honor to work alongside these heroes. When thinking about a food rescue hero to write about, we immediately knew the top candidate, a man we’ve known only briefly but whose words and spirit have begun to fuel us in our everyday work. Minister […]

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Hazon Detroit: Shake Local

Dear Friends, Our rabbis say (Tosafot, Suk. 37b) that when we shake the lulav and etrog on Sukkot, “the trees of the forest sing with joy.” So that got us to wondering, what are the conditions that might allow the trees around us to sing with the greatest amount of joy during this holiday season that just passed? Every year on Sukkot, the US imports upwards of 500,000 lulavim from Israel and Egypt so that we can construct our traditional lulavim bundles using the familiar palm fronds, willow, myrtle, and citron. This combination of species has become so definitional that most of us probably don’t even consider that a lulav could be constructed any other way. But the original text is not so clear. In Torah (Lev 23.40), where we’re first told about the four species, the text simply says: לְקַחְתֶּ֨ם לָכֶ֜ם בַּיּ֣וֹם הָרִאשׁ֗וֹן פְּרִ֨י עֵ֤ץ הָדָר֙ כַּפֹּ֣ת תְּמָרִ֔ים וַעֲנַ֥ף עֵץ־עָבֹ֖ת וְעַרְבֵי־נָ֑חַל וּשְׂמַחְתֶּ֗ם לִפְנֵ֛י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֖ם שִׁבְעַ֥ת יָמִֽים׃ On the first day you shall take the fruit of beautiful trees, fronds of palm-shaped trees, branches of woven trees, and valley-willows, and you shall rejoice before YHVH your God for seven days. Nowhere does it determine, at its linguistic core, the […]

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Hazon Detroit: I Am To My Beloved

Dear Friends, When this pandemic began it was winter. You may remember it snowing while we were Safer At Home. Winter eventually gave way to spring, as it does, and life bloomed bright while we remained in quarantine. As the months rolled by, the heat quickly picked up and summer kicked into high gear. And now, with Coronavirus still present as ever, fall is here. Our days are getting shorter while the golden hued sunlight mimics the bashful change of leaves. On the Jewish calendar, these subtle changes in light and leaf mean that the High Holidays are just around the corner. Today we find ourselves squarely in the Jewish month of Elul, a month of introspection and penitence that leads up to Rosh HaShanah. We know that this period is one of intensity and spiritual work. We’re reminded of that each day of Elul, when the shofar (ram’s horn) is blown. We know it’s a time of teshuvah (return) and selichot (repentance), illustrated by the cheshbon ha’nefesh (soul accounting) that we’re instructed to do all month. And many of us attend religious services (virtually, of course, this year) more in the weeks ahead than we do the rest of […]

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Food, then and now

Thursday, August 6, 2020 | 16 Av 5780 Dear All, This week’s sidra, Eikev, is the week that introduced into English (via the King James version)  “man does not live by bread alone” and “a land flowing with milk and honey.”  It’s the week that lists the seven species – shivat haminim – that are indigenous to the land of Israel, which Bill Slott points out to me every few years as we ride from Jerusalem to Ashkelon on the first day of the Arava Institute Hazon Israel Ride. And it includes the second paragraph of the shm’a, linking our behavior to the climate of the world. Food is a recurring motif. Perhaps that was why Ruby Rivlin, President of Israel, chose this week to spend the day helping Leket pack food for people in need. As Joe Gitler subsequently wrote, President Rivlin wasn’t just doing a photo-op. He’s seriously engaged by the topic and thinking hard – and striving to put the weight of his office – behind new ways to help get food to people who are food insecure. But you don’t have to be President of Israel to make a difference. “Pivot” and “swivel” are words-of-this-year, and they encapsulate […]

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Out of the Crash

Dear Friends, R’ Benay Lappe, who runs SVARA queer yeshiva in Chicago, teaches what she calls her “crash theory.” Every person and every group has a narrative that defines us and our beliefs, she says. This is called a “master story.” At some point, however, ultimately and inevitably, every master story will one day come crumbling down. On a personal level, this might be a job loss, a divorce, or a tragedy of some sort. On a Jewish communal level, the prototypical “crash moment” was the destruction of the Second Temple, which we will mourn as a community nine days from tonight, on Tisha B’Av. You see, when the Second Temple crashed in 70 CE, the Israelites’ entire way of life crashed with it. For our ancient ancestors, the Temple was their center of peoplehood and practice. It was where they made pilgrimage three times a year, where they spiritually and physically oriented, and where God’s presence – they believed – dwelt most close and most high. When the Temple was destroyed, their entire system was in shambles and the future of Israelite religion was unclear at best. So what does one do when their master story is in peril? […]

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Hazon Detroit: Time to Grow

Dear Friends, I was present once, when a teacher told a full room, “In the years ahead, we will be called to be both the hospice caretakers of the old world, the old structures, and midwives of the new one.” It has stuck with me deeply ever since, as I’ve attuned my senses to a crossfade of sorts, watching the volume of an old way being turned down as the volume of a new song increases. With Passover just a few short days away, perhaps we could think of this crossfade like the mythic Israelites leaving Egypt, escaping the cacophony of slavery while cranking up the volume on liberation. At the crux of that crossfade is the 10th plague, when God vows to kill all Egyptian firstborn (Exodus 12:12). This of course, leads directly to the Israelite exodus across the sea. But this is not the whole story. In that same breath, God also promises to bring judgment on the false gods of Egypt (12:12). According to the midrash (Exodus Rabbah 16:3), the true and lasting liberation comes not only from the physical leaving of Egypt, but from the Israelites’ emphatic refusal to worship the idols of Egyptian rule. Yes, […]

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Hazon Detroit: Ice Cores in Greenland

Dear Friends, At a conference last year, I got to visit Ohio State’s (I know: like Haman, boo!), Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center. There, I heard from a lovely couple who had been working in the basement of the facility for decades, gathering ice core samples from around the globe and bringing them back to Columbus for research purposes. Traveling to far off places where ice is rapidly melting, they and their team drill down into ice sheets, extract multi-foot long, narrow cylinders of ice known as “cores,” and then transport that sample back to their labs for testing. By examining the contents of the ice they collect, they can draw a wide range of climate-related conclusions. It is as if they are developing film of sociological phenomena, their lab like a “dark room” where pictures of history, embedded in these artic time capsules, come into focus. Perhaps the most interesting finding for a Motor City newcomer like me, was when they described how they could tell precisely when the auto industry began in Detroit by looking at ice core samples from Greenland throughout the 1900s. How so? As Detroit factories and the Industrial Revolution boomed here locally, wind […]

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Hoda’ah Sermon

By Rabbi Nate DeGroot Shabbat shalom and I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving yesterday with family and friends. It’s an honor and pleasure to be here with you on behalf of Hazon Detroit – the Jewish lab for sustainability, and a grateful partner of Temple Israel’s, and I’d like to say thank you for having me. — On Friday mornings in my previous job as a congregational rabbi in Los Angeles, I would sometimes get to lead “tot shabbat” At our Early Childhood Center, for the little ones. Early in the service, me and the students would get to “modah,” or “modeh ani” – Our prayer of gratitude that we say Each morning As the very first thing We recite upon rising. Before we’d sing though, As a sort of warm up, And to get us oriented to the meaning of “modeh ani,” I’d ask the group to share what they were grateful for, And one by one, (Or sometimes all at once!) They would share charming and unsurprisingly cute responses like: My mommy My brother Cereal! And it was the best thing ever. And, Almost without exception, one of these little ones would also say something having […]

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