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Topic: Detroit

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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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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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Rabbi Nate

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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Hazon Detroit: Leaping Towards Connection

Dear Friends, We are now firmly in the month of February, a 28 day month in most years, that becomes 29 days in years that are multiples of four. Of course, this phenomenon is known as a “leap year.” And while 2019 is not a leap year in the Gregorian calendar, it is in the Hebrew calendar. Seven times every 19 years, the Hebrew calendar adds an extra month, known as Adar rishon (the first Adar), that precedes the standard Adar (which becomes Adar sheni, or the second Adar). Thus, Adar, the month that brings with it increased joy and the popular holiday of Purim, gets doubled up for double the joy over double the days. But why all the complicated math? Why do we have leap years in the first place? According to Wikipedia: “A leap year (also known as an intercalary year or bissextile year) is a calendar year containing…in the case of the Hebrew lunisolar calendar, a month added to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal year. Because seasons and astronomical events do not repeat in a whole number of days, calendars that have the same number of days in each year drift over time with respect to the event that the […]

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Hazon Detroit: Growth Ring Blessings

Dear Friends, At sunset this Sunday, January 20th, we will usher  in Tu B’Shvat, one of the four new years on the Jewish calendar. Just like our secular calendar has multiple year cycles—think calendar year, fiscal year, school year—so too, our Jewish calendar has multiple year cycles: birth of the world, birth of the Jewish people, the first of Elul, and Tu B’Shvat. Tu B’Shvat, named for its calendrical date – the 15th of Shvat – celebrates the birthday of the trees. Just like our birthdays mark a year of growth for us, in a symbolic way, Tu B’Shvat serves the same purpose for trees, marking another year of their growth. Regardless of when during the year a particular tree was planted in ancient times, its first birthday was always tallied on its first Tu B’Shvat. In this way, Tu B’Shvat might be considered the day when a tree symbolically forms its next ring. We have reached the cold months of winter when, like us, trees actually slow down for a period of internal hibernation. In cold winters, growth within a tree slows to a slogging crawl, before picking back up again when the temperatures rise. In fact, it is […]

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Light In The Dark | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Ilana Unger, Pearlstone Center Parshat Vayeishev In parshat Vayeishev (Genesis 37:1-40:23), lands on the third Shabbat of Kislev, we connect deeply to this Jewish month of actualization and revelation. For example: Vayeishev is the Hebrew word for “and he lived” (actualization) and nine out of the ten dreams that we read in the Torah are in this month (revelation). To recap the many things that happen in this parsha: Joseph is exiled and sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers. Joseph is then falsely accused of sexually assaulting Potiphar’s wife and is sent to the Pharaoh’s prison where he becomes an overseer in the prison. He is joined in prison by the Pharaoh’s butler and baker. They say they have had vivid dreams and are looking for an interpreter. Joseph interprets their dreams and accurately does so, predicting that the baker be hanged while the butler will be restored to his job duties. As Joseph is literally in a dark place in the prison, he is selfless and wants to hear and listen to how he can help the butler and baker. Kislev, which derives from the Hebrew word kesel (כֶּסֶל), means either “security,” or “trust.” Joseph seems to […]

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Detroit Newsletter: Drops of water

Dear Friends, Last night at sundown, we concluded the Jewish lunar month of Cheshvan, the first month following High Holidays and the only month on our calendar without a Jewish holiday. For this reason, there’s a tradition dating back to the Mishnah(~200 CE) of calling this month Marcheshvan, meaning “bitter Cheshvan” (mar like marror on Passover). This bitterness seems to have been reflected all around us these last thirty days. Here in Michigan, the leaves started turning, and then falling. We turned our clocks back, and all of the sudden it’s dark by 5:30pm. There’s a chill in the air we haven’t felt since the final snow melted late last winter. And most bitter of all, we’ve faced numerous heartbreaking tragedies as a Jewish community and a country. However, there is another interpretation of mar that may provide us some clarity and hope – mar can also mean “drop,” as in a drop of water. During this month, mar is our prayer for rain and the month when Noah’s flood swept through the land. When read with this in mind, we begin to understand that we must act and live with a sense of sacred responsibility, adding our drop to the turbulent waters of this historical moment, trusting that with enough drops comes […]

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Hazon Detroit at Interfaith Justice Speak-Out

Hazon Detroit is proud to have stood alongside so many powerful faith leaders on November 1, 2018 at the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn to denounce white nationalism, show support for the Jewish community, and affirm solidarity for all those who are targets of hate. Praying for a time when these gatherings might be prompted not by hate, but only by love. To see more from the speak-out, click here or here, and read Rabbi Nate DeGroot’s full remarks below.   Thank you Imam Elahi and the Islamic House of Wisdom for having me here today. I wish I was here for a different reason – but we’re alive in this moment – And so I am grateful to be here with you this afternoon in heartbreak and solidarity And I am humbled to be up here, amongst such respected colleagues and fellow travelers. — I was asked today to speak on how the Jewish community is feeling in this moment, And I will do my best to articulate some of that. But capturing the sentiments of an entire people is an impossible task – Since I can only truly speak to how I am feeling, And even that […]

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