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Topic: Hakhel Blog

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The Ashamnu Prayer in the Year of Environmental Teshuva

Yom Kippur 5780 An Invitation by Leah Palmer, Hakhel Administrative Director The “ashamnu” prayer from the Ashkenazic Yom Kippur service is once of the most iconic moments of the High Holiday prayers. The congregation stands in silence, beating their chests in regret for a list of sins which appear in the book in front of them. A list canonized several centuries ago. A list containing a number of words I’d need to look up in a dictionary- which themselves are a translation of Hebrew words normally considered to be synonyms of each other. Many a rabbi has explained that even if you personally have not committed each of these sins (personally, I’ve not spent a lot of time trespassing this last year, but that’s just me), we are repenting for the Jewish people as a whole. Whilst this is a nice explanation, I know that I’m far from perfect, and would like to spend some time on Yom Kippur repenting for the things that I actually have done.  Whilst reading this prayer in preparation of Yom Kippur I was surprised to find myself relating line after line to by regrets over my poor stewardship of the environment, so I started […]

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Hakhel Blog: Leah Palmer

Several years ago, I was in shul on the morning of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and the Rabbi stood up to speak. They opened with: “What is the difference between the Jewish New Year on Rosh Hashanah, and the New Year’s Eve on the 31st of December?” This was apparently the opening to a Jewish joke, but I never caught the punchline because the question itself landed me deep in thought. On both occasions, we reflect on the year gone by, gather with friends or family, overindulge and promise that next year will be better. In my eyes, the crucial difference is that on the 31st of December, we promise ourselves to do better, to make better decisions, to think about others, whatever it might be. On Rosh Hashanah, we promise these things to someone who will hold us accountable. And I think that is a great thing. The days after Rosh Hashanah are Judaism’s response to the January ritual of taking out a gym membership only to never actually rock up. To buying all the gear for starting a new hobby, but never getting around to taking it out of the box. To buying a bespoke planner […]

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Hakhel Spotlight: Zooz, Melbourne

Zooz is a community in Melbourne, Australia which is run by for and young Jewish adults, aiming to provide these individuals with a framework for meaningful engagement with Judaism, Israel, and the wider community. Zooz members meet weekly on Wednesday nights to engage with their Jewish identity and connect with like-minded people. This is achieved through peer-run sessions and community leaders lending their time to teach, inspire, and encourage the next generation of young Jewish people. Zooz also has a shul where services are run every Friday night and on chagim. The Zooz shul is highly regarded in the community as a place of meaningful tefillah (prayer) and beautiful singing. Zooz Members are constantly involved in leadership within a range of Jewish schools in the community, helping out as madrichim on camps and as part of other programs. Zooz also hosts a range of communal events throughout the year, most notably their famous Tikkun Leil Shavuot, which brings hundreds of people together in community and is a place for learning. With a strong core leadership, good governance, and proud members Zooz is very excited for what the future holds. We plan to increase our reach in the community and hope […]

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Hakhel Blog: Aharon Ariel Lavi

by Aharon Ariel Lavi This week we start reading Sefer Bamidbar, also known as “The Book of Numbers.” A strange name for a book, is it not? It derives from the fact that the first portion of the book, as well as other parts later on, deal primarily with counting, classifying and organizing the People of Israel back in the Sinai desert. The text gives a pretty detailed account of the numbers of men in each tribe, and using some simple calculations we can estimate that anywhere between 4-6 million Hebrews lived in the world at the time. The funny thing is that after this general census it was actually forbidden to count the People of Israel again, so the exact number of Hebrews, and later Jews, will remain a mystery. However, Jews don’t always do as they’re told, right? About 500 years later, King David made another census and was severely punished for violating this law (Chronicles I, 21). If we use the same kind of calculation we will find that the nation has pretty much multiplied itself, to 8-9 million people. Do the math, and you will discover that under normal conditions the Jewish people should have been […]

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Hakhel Blog: Craig Oshkello

by Craig Oshkello The local farm supply store, a seventh generation family business, left a message for me on Shabbat. Probably not aware that it was the fourteenth day of the counting of the Omer, they let me know the barley has arrived. I am one of a growing number of Jews that are leading a lifestyle based on environmental stewardship and social justice. As a Jew in the diaspora this path had yielded deeper meaning in my spiritual growth and a stronger connection to/ longing for the land of Israel. It is now Motzei Shabbos (Saturday night) and there is a buzz on the farm. Although the north faces of the 4000 foot mountains on the horizon are still under 65” of snow, the first flowers are blooming here at 800 feet above sea level at our home in the valley. Colts foot, Trout Lily, Marsh Marigold, Trillium, Lady’s Slipper and Blood Root are all of the first to bloom. They are “ephemeral” species whose bloom and foliage will disappear in a month. First to flower among the trees, the White Poplar, has a distinctly hairy looking flower locally referred to as “Popple Fuzz”, is now joined in a […]

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Hakhel Spotlight: FED

FED is a community where people from diverse backgrounds, professions, and walks of life come together for open and honest dialogue; delicious, vegetable-forward food; and the creative energy and ideas of others in attendance. Each event provides motivational, entertaining content that exposes you to ideas, art, and stories that you may not have previously considered, including through FED talks (akin to TED talks in length and style), musicians, comedians, dancers, or other artistic performers. FED is a vision for an ideal Jewish community that is powered by the Jewish values of hospitality, openness, and dialogue, and explores and incorporates Jewish themes, holidays, and experiences. For instance, we recently held two Passover seders (pictured here) with a specially written haggadah, focusing on taking guests on a journey toward creativity and empowerment through incorporating storytelling, improv techniques – and amazing food, of course! This creativity with the tradition and how it can inspire reflection, help us find and realize a sense of purpose, and be our best selves is what Judaism (and FED) is all about. FED is based in New York City and has also hosted gatherings in Be’er Sheva, Paris, San Francisco, and Boston. This week, FED is traveling to […]

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Hakhel Spotlight: Israeli Community Barcelona

The Israeli Community Barcelona was established in October 2016 by a group of local Israelis who sought to join together in order to create a framework for social activities. The activities take place in Hebrew and revolve around Jewish holidays and Israeli culture. The opening event was a Hanukkah party, which brought together 120 Israelis to a celebration of light and joy. Later, events for adults were also held and most of the holidays were celebrated in a traditional but non-religious manner, with the participation and assistance of the entire community. In September 2017, the community education center was established – an Israeli cultural home for children ages 2-8. The children meet twice a month and learn about the holidays, Israeli songs and stories, movement, music, acting, and more. What connects all activity is the Hebrew language and Israeli culture. The children play in Hebrew and enrich their vocabulary, taste Israeli culture and are curious to continue exploring beyond the activity. At the same time, the holiday traditions continued to grow, bringing local Israelis closer to an exciting and colorful cultural celebration. In addition, a group was established to support women in the first month after birth, by bringing home-cooked […]

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Hakhel Israel Trip – Communities of Israel

Reflections from Hakhel’s Israel Tour by Sephirah Stacey Oshkello At the beginning of November, members of Living Tree Alliance traveled to Israel with 20 other leaders of Jewish intentional communities in North America as part of Hazon’s Hakhel Jewish Intentional Communities Incubator Program. In the seven glorious days of our seminar we visited about 11 mission-driven communities and 6 projects, across Israel (map here) to learn from their successes and challenges. Through this journey, it has become evident that Living Tree Alliance is part of a growing movement of Jewish organizations around the world that are inspired to Redefine Community, Rejuvenate Land, and Revitalize Culture. This movement is about re-connecting people to the ancient teachings and traditions of Judaism that allows for a more meaningful life embedded in community filled with a deepening of relationships, creative expression, and connection. This movement provides innovative antidotes to modern society’s isolated individualism. With your incredible support through the years, and the collaboration of many local and international organizations, Living Tree Alliance has grown from a concept in 2010 to serving as a leader in this movement at home and abroad. Building meaningful, intentional Jewish community, connected to the land, inspired me to pilgrimage […]

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Hakhel Spotlight: Hashomer Hatzair USA

Hello from Hashomer Hatzair USA! We are a socialist zionist youth movement that has a sleepaway camp in the summer and year-round activities for our kenim (branches). We are excited to be here as first time members in the Hakhel community! We use experiential and collaborative education as a tool to further social justice and peace. Over the past year or so, we have begun a process for building a life movement for our bogrim (movement members that are college-aged and older). People have started thinking about what it would really look like to live their lives communally and actualize their ideals. As a result we have organized and run a handful of seminars around the topics of economics and allyship, and have built a framework to continue the learning process. This new chapter of our movement holds strong roots and is making steady progress. We are looking forward to having a special seminar in Israel to help us learn from communities successful in hagshama (self-realization), and to learn more about our relationship to Israel-Palestine. Additionally, a hub of bogrimot will be starting to live communally next year, and will host cultural gatherings and learning events. It is exciting to […]

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Hakhel Spotlight: Kehila Ivrit Amsterdam

Kehila was established by Israelis living in the Netherlands who teamed up to create a joint framework for cultural, social, and educational activities in the Hebrew language. Kehila is based on its members’ active participation and involvement in the spirit of pluralism and cooperation. Indeed, in the context of intentional communities, this is very obvious to expect people to give a hand and carry out all community needs and ventures, but, still this community is revolutionary for many of the members. Fans of community life see the power of devotion so clearly. Volunteering, co-creating is so basic. And yet, there are so many people out there who fear this level of intimacy, who rarely dare to step in a social circle. It is mainly fear which holds people back from attaching, not ideology. And there you go, a group of Israeli parents who can’t stand aloneness any more and feel the need of warmth and tribal power as part of their parenthood. They live the ultimate urban life Amsterdam has to offer, they are not used to being part of anything. For many of them, this step was confronting and scary. Once you feel how much love and warmth melt […]

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Hakhel Israel trip – Day 1

By Gil Landau, Kfar B’ir, Washington DC Monday, November 5, 2018 Monday morning, we stood on a mountaintop overlooking the Kineret and the place where the earliest Kibbutzim were established. After hearing our guide James tell his moving personal story of coming to Israel and building an intentional community, we discussed each group’s goals, dreams for the future, and three questions we needed to answer during this trip to move our communities forward. Our community, KfarDC, an urban co-housing community to be built in downtown DC, discussed our goal of reducing loneliness caused by modern society, our dreams of creating a model for Jewish co-housing in America, and the need to learn about how to recruit serious volunteer and financing housing in a high-cost urban environment. We then went down the mountain and heard from Muki Tzur, a pioneer of the kibbutz movement. Muki explained that the core principle for building just communities is to balance freedom and equality. All theory aside, Muki stressed that we need to stop discussing and start building. This was a lesson that was reinforced when we visited the Hadar neighborhood of Haifa and the young intentional communities there. We met with Shai Felbnik, who […]

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Hakhel Israel trip – Day 2

by Elie Benhiyoun Divorced with three kids and nowhere to go, Sara made the trek north to Afula. When she arrived, the first thing she did was get on a bike, find whatever odds and ends she could get her hands on and sell them at the shuk, the local market. She did this every day for a few years until she was finally able to have a stall of her own. Today, 35 years later, this impossibly slight woman with an indomitable spirit told us her story, some of us with tears in our eyes. The Afula Market, or “shuk” in Hebrew, was the heartbeat of this small northern town only a few decades ago. It was utterly vanquished by the neighboring department stores and has since become a hive of underworld activity. Thankfully, Sivan, an Afula local artist, didn’t see it that way. These dilapidated walls were the ideal canvas for art and the opportunity to empower creative teenagers in Afula. It now boasts a dazzling display of murals, making the shuk burst with life. We had the privilege to speak with Sivan and her friends Gili and Mor on our first stop after a hearty Israeli breakfast […]

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Hakhel Spotlight: The Kehilla in South Korea

Hakehillah is a Jewish cultural community focused on welcoming and including all who wish to celebrate Jewish tradition, religion, and culture. There aren’t many Jews in South Korea, and we want to make everyone feel like they have a family here, whether they’re a “good Jew” or “bad Jew.” We’re family. Using photos of Korea taken by our members from throughout the year, we’ve produced a calendar which includes both Korean and Jewish holidays from September 2018 to October 2019, or in other words the Jewish year 5779. If you would be interested in supporting our community in a small way, the calendar can be ordered here. The suggested donation is $35, and it can be shipped to most countries. The calendars were designed by Sarah Gavin of www.coffeecatskimchi.com who is also a core Kehilla member.   Hakehillah is a Hakhel community. Learn more about Hakhel – the first-of-its-kind Jewish Intentional Communities Incubator

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Hakhel Spotlight: Urban Moshav Boston

by Jonas Parker On our Hakhel tour of intentional communities last month, our small group bonded quickly. With representatives from Baltimore, Boston, New York, Philadelphia – as well as Mexico, Ukraine, and Russia – we easily bridged our linguistic and cultural differences (everyone speaks some English and everyone enjoys good food). At Degania, the first kibbutz, founded in 1909, we had the opportunity to speak with Muki Tzur, one of the foremost leaders and historians of the kibbutz movement. Now in his 80s, Muki spoke with a deeply grounded knowledge and wisdom about what it means for Degania to now be entering its 6th generation. He also explained how the “poison of nostalgia” freezes the past into a false ideal, and he drew the distinction between testament and heritage: testament is an approach to the past that says “this is the way things were and must be, therefore I will tell you what to do”, while heritage says “I trust you to look at our shared past, and decide what to keep and adapt for your future.” The gifts history has to offer are insights into how people of the past thought about the future; across time, people are always […]

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Hakhel Spotlight: November Newsletter Message

Dear friends, “There were shots in a synagogue in Pittsburgh,” my hosts in New York informed me last Saturday night when I returned from a wonderful Shabbat with UWS Jews, a community of young Jews in New York, who are part of the 2018 cohort of Hakhel. “There are 11 dead, an anti-Semitic murderer.” In the second before the shock hit me, I still had time to think about the blessing of Shabbat that cuts us off from the world for a moment and enables us to gather as a community, and even to postpone such bitter news for a few more hours. On Monday, I was supposed to continue to Canada for meetings with other communities, but I quickly concluded that it would not make sense to continue with the schedule as if nothing had happened: I canceled the meetings, organized what I needed and arrived in Pittsburgh after a six hours drive from New York. “You may have gotten used to such things in Israel,” Dafna told me, “but you just live in a constant sense of anxiety.” I met Dafna after I arrived at Pittsburgh’s JCC. All attempts to contact acquaintances and colleagues in Pittsburgh in advance […]

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