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Topic: Hakhel Blog

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Hakhel Newsletter: April 2022

Dear Hakhel Communities, We wish you all, your families, and your communities, a Chag Pesach Sameach! Passover is the holiday of freedom. We tend to think of ourselves as free people living in free societies, at least most of us. And yet, global events which are totally beyond our control have direct and intimate impact on our lives: the Covid pandemic, the war in Ukraine, Climate Change and more. How are we to maintain our own freedom, and the freedom of those around us, with so many constraints imposed on us?  Well, building strong and resilient communities is obviously one step in the right direction. This Passover, we invite all of us in the Hakhel network to think: In what ways can we utilize our communities to narrow uncertainty and broaden autonomous choice? We wanted to share with you a text written by Nir Geva, Machon Kehilot – Hakhel Europe, which relates to the story of immigration, refugees, and the journey in the story of the Exodus, and tells it through the challenges of today’s world and the hope for better days. And you shall tell your son and your daughter… That sometimes people Take the wandering stick in their […]

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Hakhel Newsletter March 2022

Dear Hakhel Communities, I hope you and your community celebrated a very happy Purim! We are now in the lull between Purim and Pesach (always shorter than you think!), but that doesn’t mean there’s an end to the work to be done.  One thing that should be top of your to-do list is signing up for the Hakhel Israel Trip and Summit, taking place from May 9-15 in Israel. We may be fewer, due to the war in Europe, but we are strong as communities and as a network, and we are here to carve out the next phase of this work in person together even in hard times.  Please sign up and have your community members sign up. Registration ends on March 31. See below for more details. Our own efforts have been focused on supporting our communities in Ukraine at this terrible time – through sending Hakhel delegations and thousands of dollars of medical supplies and food. Read on below for more info about these efforts and how you can help. In this week’s parsha, Shemini, we see a lot of divine activity – a fire issues from G-d to consume offerings on the altar, G-d’s presence comes […]

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Support our Partners in Ukraine

Friends, “War is a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.”  – Thomas Mann We are heartbroken and outraged as Putin’s merciless war on Ukraine continues. We will not be silent, and we will do all we can to support our partners impacted on the ground. At Hazon and Hakhel, we have a three-part strategy in responding to this crisis: Local Leadership: Ukrainian leaders know their landscape and their needs. We are following the lead of Hakhel community leaders inside Ukraine and local rabbis working with refugees on the borders. Collaboration & Partnership: We are partnering with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the European Council of Jewish Communities, Reut, the Jewish Peoplehood Coalition, and more, coordinating our collective crisis response efforts. Global Response: We can all do something to help. The situation is rapidly evolving, both in terms of needs and solutions, all of which require resources and support. Sometimes our Ukrainian partners need volunteers, sometimes they need equipment, and throughout the process they need financial resources. Here are just a few examples of what this strategy looks like on the ground: Following up on our weekly meeting with our Ukrainian partners, we received the list of needs from the Lvov […]

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How We Can Help Our Partners in Ukraine

Friends, We have watched, horrified, as Putin’s Russia has invaded Ukraine, causing bloodshed, destruction, and hundreds of thousands of innocent people fleeing. What you may not know is that Hazon operates a global Jewish intentional community network called Hakhel that includes communities in Ukraine. For the past five years, the Hakhel network has engaged leaders and innovative communities doing great things in Ukraine, in all major cities: Kiev, Harkov, Lvov, Odessa, and Dnepro. They were there before this crisis and they will outlast it, doing amazing things in Jewish education, community building, culture and social activism. Friday morning, our Hakhel Director, Aharon Ariel Lavi, organized a call for the Hakhel network to hear directly from these Ukrainian Jewish leaders. You can watch the entire meeting here. If you read Hebrew, you might also like this piece on yNet, Israel’s largest news website, covering our efforts. If you would like to get involved and stay informed, please register here. These action items emerged from that call: Supporting Refugees: A delegation is going tomorrow to Kishinyev, Moldova, to support the local Rabbi in attending over 500 refugees, 200 of whom are children. We expect to receive more requests for delegations. Hakhel communities […]

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Hakhel Newsletter February 2022

Dear Hakhel Communities, What makes the world holy, and how can we increase the holiness of the world together? In this week’s Torah portion, T’tzaveh, the Israelites learn about how to organize a community with Torah at the center, in a way that truly elevates the mundane to the holy. For instance, the brilliant priestly garments – with precious stones and metals donated by the community – and the rite of priestly consecration are described, as well as the garb of the High Priest, complete with Stones of Remembrance bearing the names of the 12 Tribes for his shoulders. It is clear from these instructions that we live in an interconnected ecosystem, where resources, people, and places can be given sacred meaning and influence one another through channels of mutual obligation and responsibility. In today’s context where we face environmental destruction and human suffering, how can we apply these lessons to repair our world and allow it to flourish? February 20 is the World Day of Social Justice (as referenced in the graphic above). We hope you find inspiration to take this opportunity for your community to engage in social justice projects locally or globally, or even simply to have […]

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Hakhel Newsletter January 2022

Dear Hakhel Communities, This week’s Torah portion, Beshalach, is the scene of many incredible miracles that have captured the imagination of countless generations: the splitting of the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape Egypt; the manna that rained down from Heaven to provide them with sustenance in the desert, with a double portion on Friday in preparation for Shabbat; the water that emanated from the stone. Through all of these miracles, we feel the immense, special love and protection of G-d. In your lifetime, have you experienced any acts that seemed divine? What about your community, in what ways has it received love and protection that allowed it to grow and flourish? This Sunday, we celebrate Tu B’Shvat, the birthday of the trees. This is a wonderful holiday to celebrate with your community, as it comes with a unique Seder that is an interactive, sensory experience through the eating of specific fruits and nuts and the drinking of wine. It also carries with it powerful messages from Kabbalah and about our connection to and stewardship of the Earth. Regardless of how you choose to mark the day personally, we hope you will join Hazon in a special virtual […]

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Hakhel Newsletter December 2021

Dear Hakhel Communities, What do you believe will come of you in the days and years to come? What about your loved ones and community? Why is this your vision? These are just some of the questions evoked in this week’s parsha, Vayechi, as our Forefathers Jacob and Joseph are confronted with the end of their lives, when such questions must be considered. We all want to come to the end of our lives with the sense that it has been lived with purpose. It seems fitting that the Book of Bereishit (Genesis) ends on this note. With the end of the first book of the Torah, as well as the recent conclusion of our celebration of Chanukah (see photos from communities around the world below!), it seems like a good time to take stock of where we are with ourselves and our communities and where we see them going in the coming months and years. If you’re stuck on an issue and looking for some inspiration, why not consult with your Hakhel subnetwork (see more about that below)? Don’t forget that you have a global network of peer communities that will give you energy and advice (and who you […]

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Hakhel Newsletter November 2021

Dear Hakhel Communities, This week, we will read in the Torah portion Vayeitzei about Jacob’s Ladder. As Jacob is running away from Esau, he stops to rest and has a powerful dream about a ladder, with angels ascending and descending. What did it mean? The ladder served as the infrastructure of a connection between Heaven and Earth. With a not insignificant exertion of effort, for instance through prayer – or perhaps even through community-building – it becomes possible both to ascend and reach Heaven, and also to descend to bring its teachings back to Earth.  In what ways do you feel that you, as a community leader, are acting as a kind of bridge between Earth and some aspect of Heaven – either the teachings of the Torah, Judaism, or some essence of the Divine?  Midrash Rabbah teaches that Jacob’s dream is actually a premonition of receiving Torah at Mount Sinai, as the gematria (numeric value) of the letters of the Hebrew word sulam (ladder) is the same as that of the word Sinai. In this sense, Jacob is a visionary whose dream predicts the founding of this wandering Jewish people as a nation at Sinai. What dreams or visions […]

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Hakhel Newsletter September 2021

What’s Inside: Sharing Resources | In the Spotlight Shalom,  About 4 months ago Israel announced it had “overcame Covid”, opened everything and life returned to normal, to how it used to be before 2020.  A few other countries were about to initiate similar declarations until reality fought back. With rapidly growing numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths worldwide, it seems like we are doomed to relive 2020 again.  I feel like the optimistic announcement only made it worse. I mean, we sort of learned to live alongside Covid restrictions, and the hope that it’s now over made the backlash even more painful.  But then I thought about the Hebrew cycle. Every year anew, in the month of Elul, we hope and pray and congratulate each other for Shana Tova, hoping for a better year than this one. Not all years are necessarily better, some are worse. However, the mere idea that life is not an endless cycle that repeats itself, but rather that there is progress towards a better future, is profoundly an original Jewish (or actually Hebrew/Biblical) idea.  Along the way, there will be backlashes and pitfalls, but looking ahead and remaining hopeful is not good only for our […]

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Hakhel Newsletter July 2021

What’s Inside: Sharing Resources | Upcoming Events and Opportunities | In the Spotlight Have you felt like you needed to take some time off? Have you ever wondered where Academia got the idea of a Sabbatical Year from? In 6 weeks we will be welcoming the 279th Shmita year, since the destruction of the second temple (in 70 CE), which is all about that. Shmita is one of the most inspiring and radical ideas in Jewish tradition, and this week we have just concluded our three parts “Shmita 101 Course,” as part of Hakhel’s Summer Learning for 2021. In the first session we learned about the 7 parts of Shmita, the key ideas behind it and its evolution through history. In the second session we delved deeper into two of those 7 parts, namely the Shabbat of the Land and debt relief. In the third session we held more of a conversation about the philosophy of living through, and evolving through, crises. Shmita actually educates us that cirses are a part of life and that it might be wiser to build into our some moderate, pre-planned and timed crises. They might actually help us alleviate the negative impacts of unplanned […]

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Hakhel Spotlight: D I S T A N C E – A 9th Street Project

WHO? 9th Street is a community of Jewish multidisciplinary artists and creatives based in Johannesburg. Recently and together with seed money from Hakhel and a grant from the South African Cities Network, we embarked on a project to bridge the distances between people of difference. The project, entitled D I S T A N C E, asked four 9th Street artists to invite other artists who were different to them, be it in gender, race, age, sexual orientation, place of origin and/or religion. The artists then all gathered on Heritage Day here to create performative work in a public park. WHY? 26 years after apartheid ended, inequalities left over from this old regime abound. The poor black majority are still mainly poor while the white minority are still disproportionately wealthy. D I S T A N C E attempted to address these inequalities. Also, as young Jewish artists in Johannesburg, we have come to realise that our Jewish community is not integrated into wider South African society. D I S T A N C E aimed to question our white privilege, our Jewish silo and attempted to insert us as Jews into wider society. WHERE? We chose to work in […]

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Vayakhel-Pekudei: Preparing for Pesach during COVID-19

by Leah Palmer, Hakhel Administrative Director I generally start cleaning for Pesach around January time, much to the displeasure of those living with me. The cleaning takes the form of taking everything out of the cupboard, cleaning up any dust and crumbs, then putting everything back at right angles to each other. Frankly, I’m not that fussed if it’s accessible or not, just so long as it is tidy. I know that schmutz is not Chametz (leavened products prohibited at Pesach), but the cleaning is a ritual that I really enjoy. It’s a time of year where people ask me a lot “Where did you put the…” and I normally don’t know, because I’m not really paying attention to what I’m putting back in the cupboards, but more the fact that there won’t be any crumbs leftover.  And like pretty much everything in all of our lives right now, that’s changed this year. With childcare canceled, I’ve become a full-time homeschooling Mom for two hyperactive toddlers and I’m constantly looking for things to do with them. So as I’m cleaning, I’m going through every shelf, thinking about what can be repurposed to make a toy, what can be the focus […]

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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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