Topic: Holidays

“Down To Earth” Judaism | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Chayei Sarah Darya Watnick | Edlavitch DC JCC – Washington, DC  This week’s Torah portion is Chayei Sarah, literally “The Life of Sarah.” The title is a bit of a misnomer, as Sarah dies in the second verse. This portion instead focuses on Sarah’s legacy — specifically Abraham and Isaac, those most influenced by her incredible life. It’s a legacy all about family life and connection to tradition – a story that mirrors much of my work here at the DC JCC as a JOFEE Fellow. Here’s what happens in Chayei Sarah, in a nutshell: Sarah dies at age 127 and is buried in the Cave of Machpelah, in Hebron, which Abraham buys from Ephron the Hittite. Abraham then sends his servant Eliezer to find a wife for Isaac. In order to find the right woman, Eliezer devises the “camel test”:when he asks for water at the well, which woman will also offer to give his camels a drink. Rebecca passes the test and returns with Eliezer to Isaac and Abraham. Isaac and Rebecca get married. Then Abraham takes a new wife, Keturah, and has six more sons. Abraham dies at the age of 175 and is buried next to Sarah, […]

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Gender Identity, Oaths, and Inheritance in Matot-Masei | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Darya Watnick – Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center – Washington, DC Parshat Matot-Masei This week in the Torah we see a double portion: Matot-Masei. Combining Matot and Masei, the two chapters at the end of Numbers/Bamidbar, allows for the need to start the book of Devarim/Deuteronomy on the Shabbat before Tisha b’Av. Matot and Masei are both rather long portions but in the interest of brevity here’s a condensed summary: We start Parshat Matot (Numbers/Bamidbar 30:3-32:42) with a discussion of vows and oaths and the differences in fulfillment for a man and a woman. Moses and the sons of Israel start a war against Midian. It was a brutal war and many of the Midianites are killed (on Moses’ orders). Reuben and Gad want to stay where they are – rather than cross over to the land of Israel. Of course, Moses was furious that they wanted to tend to their herds instead of going with their brothers. Parshat Masei (Numbers/Bamidbar 33:1-36:13) starts with Reuben and Gad promising to help the other tribes settle in the Promised Land before settling themselves in the land across the Jordan River. Moses apportions the land to the tribes and sets up cities of refuge. […]

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When a Donkey Speaks Truth to Power | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Hannah Slipakoff, Jewish Farm School – Philadelphia, PA Parashat Balak In this week’s Parasha, Balak (Numbers 22:2- 25:9), we read a tale about the ways in which kindness and gratitude contribute to justice and G-dliness, and an allegory relating systemic patterns of oppression to land: King Balak of Moab, a ruler whose name means devastator, empty, or wasting, desperately attempts to curse the Israelites. He despises the Tribe of Jacob so deeply, that he attempts to hire Balaam to damn the Israelites for him: There is a people that came out of Egypt; it hides the earth from view, and it is settled next to me. Come then, put a curse upon this people for me, since they are too numerous for me; perhaps I can thus defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless is blessed indeed, and he whom you curse is cursed. ~Numbers 22:5-22:7 Balaam mounts a literal WISE ass (inciteful female donkey) and sets out on his wicked task. The Divine however, has a different plan. G-d sends an armed angel to disrupt Balaam’s path, and each time the donkey attempts to avoid danger, Balaam fiercely beats her. […]

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Calling the Congregation – D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Jacob Weiss – Hazon at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center Parashat Beha’alotcha “Make thee two trumpets of silver; of beaten work shalt thou make them; and they shall be unto thee for the calling of the congregation… And when they shall blow with them, all the congregation shall gather themselves unto thee at the door of the tent of meeting.” Bamidbar perek yud, pasuk bet (Numbers 10:2) I recently recalled to a friend— just after our festival of Shavuot — that I had now been in attendance at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center for all three of the Shalosh Regalim, which are the three main pilgrimage festivals. Shavuot, Passover, and Sukkot all took on very different energies at Isabella Freedman. There remained a constant, though: the spirit, joy, and sheer heart that was poured into those festivals by everyone who attended, and by everyone who worked so tirelessly to make those retreat and community gatherings manifest. An incredible sense of community occurs during Jewish holiday retreats at Isabella Freedman, where I am currently a JOFEE Fellow. After spending the seven weeks of the Omer preparing ourselves, the Jewish people traditionally celebrate the festival of Shavuot to commemorate the receiving of […]

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Old Stones, New Ripples – Reflections on the Close of JOFEE Fellowship Cohort 1 | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Yoshi Silverstein – JOFEE Fellowship Director May 18th, 2017 | 22nd Iyar 5777 | 37th day of the omer | gevurah she’b’yesod 16 Organizations. 17 Fellows. Over 500 programs. An estimated 37,000 participants in Jewish Outdoor, Food, Farming & Environmental Education (JOFEE) programs across the country. These are some of the incredible numbers emerging as we look back at our first JOFEE Fellowship cohort, who completed their closing seminar and siyum last week at our sister JOFEE organization, the Pearlstone Center outside Baltimore, MD. Behind those numbers are thousands of people encountering – many for the first time – the incredible power of a Jewish tradition steeped in deep cultural and spiritual connection with the earth, with place, with human communities and our surrounding ecosystems, with our food, and with each other.  A Jewish tradition that recognizes both the limits and abundance of the resources our home planet provides for us. A tradition that says this world is amazing – there is so much magnificence – and yet we have work to do – not to complete by ourselves, but neither to desist from doing our part. And wow did our JOFEE Fellows do their part! Here are a […]

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

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. Nowhere is […]

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Yom hafuch / eating treif…

From Nigel Savage Dear All, “Hafuch” means something like “upside down.” If you order a “café hafuch” in Israel you’ll get the Israeli version of a cappuccino. One of my favorite phrases, from the same root, is “mamash l’hefech” “exactly the opposite.” So what’s “yom hafuch?” Well, it’s the name given to a well-known Jewish holiday by a friend of mine (who shall be nameless, but he is Canadian, and an academic, and in Toronto) a dozen years ago. It was the night of Purim, and this was in the days of JDub, z”l. It was some while after 1am, and many things had been ingested. We were both more than a little the worse for wear. This was the conversation: –    Where did you hear the megillah? –    I went to a late megillah reading –    How come? –    Well, first I went for my treif dinner –    ? –    [beat] –    How treif? –    Well, I had a crab salad to start with, and then pork, and then I had… –    ???!!! –    [beat] –    Just remind me: how observant are you? (thinking I roughly knew the answer to this) –    Well, I’m shomer Shabbat, I keep kosher, […]

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Here’s what you can do this Tu b’Shvat

From Nigel Savage Dear All, Tu b’Shvat, the Jewish celebration of trees, is observed this Friday night (February 10th) and Saturday (February 11th). This holiday offers us a midwinter moment to take stock of our relationship with Jewish tradition, the natural world, and one another – a process we need this year more than ever. When the Torah describes Jewish tradition as the “tree of life” it is saying not merely that trees in themselves are important but that they are a profound metaphor for the goodness of human civilization on this planet. Our Torah is a “tree of life” because, just as trees grow and flourish and nourish us, so too we hope that Jewish tradition and the Jewish people will grow and flourish and nourish the world. And this is a year in which we all need to step up so that these are not merely words. At Hazon, we’re striving to make a difference. We’re rolling out our Hazon Seal of Sustainability. We’re striving to reduce our own footprint. We’re providing resources to rabbis around the country. We’re partnering with a wide range of our fellow JOFEE organizations. And we’re working with 350.org and a wide range of […]

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What’s Mine is Yours, and What’s Yours is Yours – D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Michael Fraade, Jewish Community of Louisville – Louisville, KY Parshat Vayera 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 cohort two are now open for both prospective fellows and prospective host institutions and will continue to be reviewed as positions are available. Parashat Vayera opens with Abraham rushing to greet three guests who appear near his tent while he is sitting under a terebinth. “My lords,” he insists, “Let a little water be brought; bathe your feet and recline under the tree.  And let me fetch a morsel of bread that you may refresh yourselves.” He and Sarah prepare bread, milk, and a freshly slaughtered calf for their guests, who soon reveal themselves as angels and inform Abraham that Sarah will soon give birth […]

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Grappling with the Ark of Responsibility – D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Bailey Lininger, Tamarack Camps – Bloomfield Hills, MI Parashat Noach 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 cohort two are now open for both prospective fellows and prospective host institutions and will continue to be reviewed as positions are available. Some days, my job makes me feel like Noah, stocking his Ark full of animals before the flood, the weight of the world’s responsibility on my shoulders. Let me explain: At Tamarack Camps, where I’m placed as a JOFEE fellow, I have the good fortune of being the supervisor of Tamarack’s brand new nature center: The Teva Center. Just finished in June 2016, we’ve slowly but surely been filling with new animal residents ever since. Our goal is a nature center filled with […]

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