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Topic: Detroit

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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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Building the Ark

By Rabbi Nate DeGroot In Parashat Noach, God promised to never destroy the earth again (Gen 8.21). But that says nothing of our precarious power as humans to jeopardize our own future1.  What could Noah have been thinking, we wonder2, as he built his ark, watching the people go by, knowing full-well God’s intent to wipe out land and flesh alike, and yet never reaching out to his neighbors or peers. No warning of what God has told him. No encouraging them to build their own arks. Or work together. No impetus to petition God. We’re told: נֹ֗חַ אִ֥ישׁ צַדִּ֛יק תָּמִ֥ים הָיָ֖ה בְּדֹֽרֹתָ֑יו Noah was a righteous person, blameless in his generation. -Gen 6.9 A righteous person in his generation? Why does the text feel the need to qualify Noah’s righteousness? Couldn’t it have just identified Noah as righteous, and left it at that? Why “in his generation”? According to the rabbis (Sanhedrin 108a, Bereishit Rabbah 30:9), Noah was righteous, but only so much so. And certainly in another generation, he would not have even made the Top 10. Noah was not righteous like Abraham, who argued with God to spare the residents of Sdom and Gmorrah. And he definitely […]

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Shake Local

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: Food Festival This Sunday!

Dear Friends, This Sunday, we will gather as a Jewish community for the 4th Annual Hazon Michigan Jewish Food Festival – the largest event annually in the Michigan Jewish community. This event, which takes place at Eastern Market in Detroit from 11am-4pm, is truly one-of-a kind. It spans geography, age, race, interest, denomination, and so much more. For four years running now, we have been able to bring a message of sustainability and food justice to the metro Detroit Jewish and city-based community, while inspiring a reconnection with the city, with one another, with the food we eat, and with the earth itself. Jewish tradition is full of references to food. In the Torah, food is part of our service to God. Growing it is how we make an income and harvesting it is cause for celebration. Throughout the ages, as Jews have migrated from place to place, food has followed us. And at the same time, we have followed food, adapting and evolving our culinary traditions to intertwine with the surrounding communities wherever we’ve dwelt. And today, food is central to our family holidays, our contributions to popular culture, and our interaction with the world around us, serving as […]

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Harvesting and Baking our Heritage | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Hannah Fine – Hazon Detroit Parshat Shelach In parshat Shelach, Moses sent twelve spies to scout out the land of Canaan and report back to the Israelites. All of the spies returned with the same objective report. It was a land of milk and honey brimming with fruit and sustenance. There were grapes, and figs, and pomegranates which they even brought back to show Moses and the Israelites. The spies also reported that the inhabitants of the land were mighty and intimidating. While all twelve spies saw the same land and shared the same observations, they were split between two opposing conclusions. Ten of the spies were convinced that the formidability of the inhabitants meant certain demise for the Israelites. Doom was a foregone conclusion so it was not even worth trying. The other two spies, Caleb and Joshua, had a different interpretation. They were confident that, despite the strength of the peoples and societies in Canaan, the Israelites could overcome it. Caleb and Joshua contended that the greatness of the Promised Land was worth the challenge.  At Hazon Detroit, we are working to overcome a formidable structure that exists in our land: the lopsided nature Michigan’s grain industry. […]

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The Bread of Healing

Rabbi Nate DeGroot gave the following sermon at St. John’s Evangelist Temple of Truth in Detroit, MI on Sunday, June 16, 2019, right next to Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, one of Hazon Detroit’s main partners. Jerry Hebron, Executive Director and Founder of Oakland Avenue Farm grew up at this church, as her mom has been the Reverend there for decades. Rabbi DeGroot’s sermon served as an invitation to Hazon Detroit’s Breaking Bread Together program happening Sunday, June 23, and was teaching about the role of bread and breaking bread together within the Jewish tradition. Good morning! And thank you all so much for having me here. My name is Rabbi Nate DeGroot and it is truly an honor to be here with you. Reverend Carter, I want to thank you for welcoming me so warmly into this beautiful community To join with you in praise this morning And to offer some words of Torah, some words of Jewish teaching from my tradition. Jerry, I’d also like to thank you for connecting me with your mom, and for being such a meaningful support and advocate for me this year. I stand here today with you as a representative of Hazon Detroit, […]

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Hazon Detroit: Will We Change?

Pictured above: Rabbi Nate and other food justice leaders from across the country. Dear Friends, Last week, Hazon Detroit’s Rabbi Nate DeGroot presented at the Center for Earth Ethics’ annual clergy conference, focused this year on the intersection of food and climate change. Rabbi Nate taught on our unified connection to nature and the earth as Jews, and on Jewish practices related to gratitude and food justice. Other speakers at the conference included Former Vice President Al Gore, Center for Earth Ethics Director Karenna Gore, world-renowned soil scientist Dr. Rattan Lal, and many more. Mr. Gore’s presentation – similar in style and inspiration to An Inconvenient Truth and An Inconvenient Sequel – focused on three main questions in the face of our changing climate: 1) Must we change? 2) Can we change? and 3) Will we change? 1) Must we change? We must. Mr. Gore said he likes to keep his presentations relevant, and so he included images and videos of historically abnormal flooding all around the world that has happened in just the last week alone. We know this is severely impacting the midwest region, including right here at home, where excessive rainfall has led to significant crop losses and delayed planting amongst close partners of Hazon […]

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Hazon Detroit: The Wheat Harvest

Dear Friends, According to our biblical calendar, we are in the midst of the grain harvest, a season of gladness and growth which lasted seven weeks of seven days. It began with harvesting barley during Passover and ended with harvesting wheat at Shavuot. Forty-nine days the wheat would grow and grow, until it was ready to be cut and harvested just in time for Shavuot, when two loaves of bread would be offered at the Temple. According to our Torah, this honoring and culmination of the growing season is the reason we celebrate Shavuot, and only later did the slightly more mythical aspects of receiving Torah at Mt. Sinai come to coincide with the holiday’s significance. At one time, the flour was the revelation. Nowadays, for each of those forty-nine days, Jews around the world engage in a practice called “Sefirat haOmer/Counting the Omer,” where we verbally bless and count each day that passes. While we may not be carefully watching our wheat crops grow, tending to their needs and supporting their health, we do have an opportunity to do just that for own spirits and souls. We once were slaves and now we’re free. But in order to truly […]

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Hazon Detroit: Ethical Meat Buying Club: Deadline to Order 4/7

Dear friends, At the core of Judaism is the sacred task of aligning our daily actions with our deepest values. And what daily action is more Jewish than eating?! So then what does it do to the joy of our Shabbat dinner or the holiness of our Passover seder, if we sit down to eat chicken that has been raised in a factory farm, or brisket from a cow that never saw the sun? It is hard to live in a world where the most common and readily available meat we can find almost always comes from sources that none of us would objectively support. It makes honoring ourselves, our families, the earth, all living beings, and the Jewish tradition eminently challenging. Luckily, we can take a step in right direction! Join aspirational eaters from across the metro-Detroit Jewish community in the launch of the Kol Foods Hillel Day School meat buying club, offering greater access to higher-welfare kosher meat that is 100% grass-fed, humanely raised on farms using regenerative farming practices, and ethically produced. As you may know, Hillel Day School switched over to this meat for its lunch program earlier this year. Now, the same items are available […]

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Hazon Detroit: Of Spirit and of Seed

Dear Friends, As you know, it’s been gray and rainy since November. Not as much snow as some years, but cold, drizzly, damp, and long. We’ve been cooped up indoors trying to find outlets for excess energy, and yet seasons are seasons and we can only do so much to buck the natural order of things. So for months now, we’ve been waiting around as the days grow darker and the nights grow longer, biding time patiently for the vernal release. And then, just like that we turned the clocks ahead and all of a sudden it’s light at 7:30pm and 32 degrees and sunny feels balmy and 40s and 50s are in the forecast and thank goodness, spring is coming! It’s in the full moon midst of this pent up vitality that Purim comes along with its burlesque theatrics and carnival conviviality, a cure for the common case of spring fever. We dance through distinctions and imbibe in creative intuition, recalling a fantastical and topsy turvy drama of inner-court intrigue and epic reversals of fate and fortune that cunningly parallel the natural world, paving the way for our people’s near-genocide to become our jubilant celebration of national triumph. In […]

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