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Topic: Jewish Intentional Communities

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Hakhel Blog: 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 the size of the […]

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Hakhel Blog: 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 subtle symphony of […]

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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

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, […]

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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 Spotlight: FED, Harlem

FED – an intentional community based in Harlem, NYC – feeds you with delicious food, inspirational art and ideas, and the creative energy of others you find here. For the first time, this year FED will be offering services and meals for the Jewish High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. There is a universal need for spiritual experiences, for a sense of community and belonging. FED offers a platform for creativity and dialogue where those from a variety of backgrounds feel welcome and included. It so happens that 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 to me what Judaism – and FED – is all about. For Rosh Hashanah on September 9-11, Hadar Cohen will lead us in interactive services incorporating sound and movement, and two delicious dinners will mark the start of the Jewish New Year. For Yom Kippur, we are hosting a service on September 18 at 7pm called Kol Nidre, perhaps the most dramatic, significant and powerful service in the Jewish calendar, which launches the Day of Atonement. In a participatory music theatre take on the Jewish ritual, […]

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Hakhel Spotlight: Sadeh, UK

This past July at Sadeh, we organised our first summer camp.  Rooted in Jewish values Sadeh cultivates community, grows food, and sows the seeds of change.  Sadeh, which means field, is the first UK Jewish farm and environmental community of our generation. Our summer camp was a week long day camp for children ages 5 – 10 and we had a great mix of children from our Jewish community and our local community. This was one of the first events both specifically for children and to encourage local people to come to our site. It was a massive success and we are already planning next year’s event! Three practical tips we learnt from this event that I want to share: – We definitely needed all 4 staff for 15 – 20 children. – Don’t be afraid of doing morning Jewish songs with non – Jewish participants. Everyone loved it! – We planned every second of the week but a lot of the time at least some of the children just wanted to play on the obstacle course or colour in by themselves which we let them do. Free play is so amazing and otherwise they might as well be in […]

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Hakhel Spotlight: Shana Tova from Hakhel!

Dear friends, Shana tova, Happy New Year! Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot are upon us again. It is the month of the year the Jews all over the world most look to their communities for meaning, connection and personal acceptance. Much has been written about the Jewish Holidays being like an ascending spiral: although the Holidays repeat year after year, those celebrating them ascend rather than return around the circle as they find deeper and more personal connections to the festivals each time they come by. The same can be said of many of the communities which have grown through Hakhel – as the only Jewish Intentional Communities incubator. We map out growth of communities which may run the same programming year after year- communal prayers, Rosh Hashanah dinner, a picnic at sukkot, but it is a great honour to see that through those activities, communities deeper their internal connections to each other, find more meaning in their interpersonal relationships, and give of just a bit more of themselves into the collective spirit with every year that goes by. Benedict Allen, the jungle explorer famed for crossing the Amazon basin by foot, describes his philosophy saying, “exploration isn’t about […]

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Hakhel Spotlight: Frum Farm, Colorado

Experience a real Old West wilderness adventure for Sukkot, in the beautiful Rocky Mountains! Rustic but comfortable accommodations, delicious Glatt kosher food, stunning views and fun activities, on a Colorado family homestead! Come relax and re”jew”vinate in a more simple way of life. Bring your family, or perhaps find your shidduch! For complete details, email us at shaare_shamaim@yahoo.com. Facebook page   Frum Farm is a Hakhel community. Learn more about Hakhel – the first-of-its-kind Jewish Intentional Communities Incubator

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Hakhel Spotlight: Living Tree Alliance, Vermont

It’s August in Vermont’s Mad River Valley. Youth scatter themselves across the covered bridge of Waitsfield and fly into the river below. A family floats by in their tube and a band plays by the river’s edge. Our fields are growing high with corn, squash, and beans. The edges of the meadow and the perennial beds sprout color as they ripen with blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and thimbleberries. We gather on the porch of the Oshkello’s net-zero house to plan for our regional Sukkot festival while the owls come out at dusk. On the table, there is basil to be made into pesto and broccoli to be frozen for the winter. The sheep and chickens raise their voice in blessing for this beautiful summer day. We recite the Shehecheyanu prayer as we eat the first cucumbers of the season. Welcome to life at Living Tree Alliance! Our land consists of 93 acres of farmland, meadows, forest, trails, a working maple sugarbush, and private swimming beaches along the Mad River. The property adjoins the running and skiing trails of the local high school which includes an amazing forest frisbee golf course. We steward this land with a vision of community and hope […]

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Urban Kibbutz – San Francisco

By Sara Linden, Hakhel Fellow of Urban Kibbutz-San Francisco and Associate Director of Admissions at Jewish Community High School of the Bay June 26, 2018 DIY Kibbutz – Diaspora edition Is this what if felt like to emigrate to Israel in the 1940s? Ready to build community with like-minded strangers who speak different languages, arriving at a new destination, and probably a little discombobulated from a well-worn journey (trains, planes, automobile style). Fast forward, June 2018, we are a pluralistic bunch of Jewish community inspired zealots arriving from 10 different countries to our weekend sanctuary, Camp Pearlstone Retreat Center, for Hazon’s 5th Annual Jewish Intentional Community Conference all doing our best to communicate in one language “Hebr-ish” (English with a side of Hebrew-based fervor). About 150 participants in total are here. Of the group, half of us are representing two new cohorts: The Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs in partnership with Hazon is sponsoring the Hakel JIC (Jewish Intentional Communities Incubator) program, an initiative convening leaders from newly forming intentional communities across the Diaspora, and Makom is the umbrella organization connecting the leaders of the Kibbutz 2.0 Movement, known as mission-driven intentional communities in Israel. Since I’m in the Hakhel […]

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Why Do We Wander? | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Eliezer Weinbach – Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, Hazon  Parshat Maasei Earlier this year, Isabella Freedman hosted a Moishe House retreat called “Wandering Jews.” Led by New York Times contributor Eli Reiter, twelve people in their twenties and thirties got together to discuss their experiences and wisdom regarding travel as a Jewish person. They discussed things like kashruth and shabbat observance while abroad. The question is: Why bother? When the Torah lists all the stages of the journey through the desert, as per the text from Numbers above, it really does discuss each part. All forty-two stages, in fact! The question is: Why bother? God commands that when the Jews do finally enter the land, they are to travel three times a year to Jerusalem. Wasn’t the journey to the land long enough?! Why bother?! Travel is hard. Sitting at home is easy. Hiking is hard. Watching Netflix is easy. Adventures change you. Inaction keeps you the same. Wandering is change. On a very basic level, you are moving from one place to another. But it’s so much more than that. I could quote Emerson on “roads less traveled” or Kerouac on basically anything, or any of the myriad formulations regarding […]

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Sustaining Together: How and why communities are the building blocks of sustainable living

By Aharon Ariel Lavi Somewhere in the early 90’s, when I was in 5th grade, I remember watching a TV show describing what might be the consequences of what was then known as Global Warming and the Ozone Layer Hole. Don’t test me on the details, it was a long time ago, but I do remember the sense of upcoming catastrophe that completely freaked me out and sent me to bed lying ill for three days. On the fourth day, I decided I had to do something about it, so I ran for my school’s “pupils council” and became chair, joined a youth movement, and ended up working mostly on developing intentional communities in Israel. What’s the connection? Well, I ask myself the same question from time to time, wondering if communities are really what we need as the climate system is going off track. True, the dark forecasts of 25 years ago did not come to pass – at least not yet – but experiencing our 5th year of drought in a row here in the Negev (Israel’s Southern desert) does sound like an alarm call to me. Something is changing: we are about to reach 8 billion people […]

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