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Topic: Jewish Intentional Communities

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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

by 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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Jewish Intentional Communities Tour of Israel: Day Seven (March 20, 2016)

Shir Yaakov Feit, Spiritual leader, Kol Hai: Hudson Valley Jewish Renewal in New Paltz, New Yor The Hakhel Tour opened my eyes, heart and mind to an Israel I’d never seen before. We heard an empowered and hopeful narrative about healing society by weaving community. The territory comes with it’s own language. Below are some new additions to my vocabulary. קְבוּצָה Kvutzah – group, collective גַּרְעִין Garin – seed, nucleus, core group of people הַמִּשְׁפָּחָה הַמֻּרְחֶבֶת Mishpacha Morkhevet – extended family שִׂיחָה Sicha – conversation תַּהֲלִיךְ Tahalik – process הַגְשָׁמָה Hagshamah – actualization, realization, manifestation or fulfillment; bringing the dream to life מְשִׂימָה Mesimah – mission, task, assignment (as opposed to jobs) חֲמָמָה Hamamah – incubator, greenhouse קְהִלָּתָנוּת Kehillatanut  – communitarianism, focusing on community and society, prioriting group goals over individual goals תְּנוּעָה T’nua – movement, often youth movement, often centralized עֲמֻתָּה Amutah – non-profit organization, association

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Jewish Intentional Communities Tour of Israel: Day Six (March 19, 2016)

by Eliahu Ebrahimi currently living in Tzfat and developing a vision for an eco-village in California Shabbat in Shuva I had the pleasure of spending a Shabbat in . After already having spent a week together, the Hakhel group had become a community in its own right. We were warmly absorbed into the community of Shuva, a moshav near Sderot, for a weekend. On Friday afternoon, I was invited to immerse myself in a mikvah in the middle of a field. I changed into my Shabbat clothes and was ready to transition into 25 hours of much-needed rest. Our group congregated on the back porch of one of the community member’s homes where we joined the Shuva-ites as they welcomed the Shabbat with song and dance. After nightfall, we made our way to an intimate indoor space where sat around a communal table sharing Torah insights, songs and stories for several hours while enjoying the delicious home-cooked meal. The following day, we all met at a community bris which was followed by an outdoor picnic outside of the synagogue. Parents, children, elderly, dogs, cats, peacocks — all coexisting in a chaotic harmony unlike anything I’ve seen. This was a normal […]

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Jewish Intentional Communities Tour of Israel: Day Five (March 18, 2016)

by Morriah Kaplan Member of GariNYC: Brooklyn, NY We started off the day early at the Waldorf-Hassidic school that the community ‘garin’ within Moshav Shuva built. Their pedagogy is inspired by teachings of the ancient commentator Rabbi Chiya, who insisted on teaching the Torah to his students in an experiential way. We spoke with the kindergarten teacher, who described how they teach the students to appreciate and honor individual differences, to have patience that success won’t come in a single day, and to connect with their world – including their religion – in an emotional and experiential way, rather thing simply using their intellect. Building this school was a huge accomplishment of the Shuva community, and it’s brought more young families to the area, particularly those who wish to teach their children Hassidic values along with a solid secular education.   We then traveled to Be’er Sheva to enjoy a delicious breakfast and conversation at Café Ringelblum, a coffee shop run by a community called Kehillat Kama which emerged a decade ago to revitalize the Daled neighborhood of Be’er Sheva. The café employs youth-at-risk, and has graduated over 60 youth with a high success rate of employment retention, educational attainment, […]

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Jewish Intentional Community Tour of Israel: Day Four (March 17, 2016)

by Tamar Fendel currently living in Jerusalem, member of Berkeley Moshav in Berkeley, California This morning started out on a different note than the earlier days of the tour. Instead of having breakfast together at our hostel and then heading out to visit an intentional community, we woke in homes scattered throughout Jerusalem, after a lovely night of home stays in the Horesh community in Kiryat Yovel or with friends. We reunited at a lovely cafe, where we met with two staff members from the Ministry of the Diaspora of the State of Israel. This is one of Israel’s newest executive agencies, which is focused on supporting Jewish communities throughout the world. It is a bold new concept that Israel can have a role in developing Jewish life in the Diaspora, in conjunction with Jewish communities in the Diaspora supporting Israel financially and politically. We had an opportunity to learn about the ministry’s forward thinking global efforts and share about each of our projects. It would be wonderful to continue this collaboration between Hakhel and the Israeli government moving forward. Our next stop was in Lod, where we met with Garin Elyashiv, a community committed to acts of hesed. The […]

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Jewish Intentional Communities Tour of Israel: Day Three (March 16, 2016)

by Gulienne Rollins-Rishon Work at Home Mom & Pop: Brooklyn, NY Wow. I’ll start with wow. This trip has been incredible so far. I’m beyond exhausted but in the best possible way. Today we switched gears a little bit. We’ve been experiencing non-Orthodox Jewish intentional communities so far, some of them more Jewish because they’re Israeli and composed at least mostly of people who are of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, and some of people who are intentionally intricately weaving Jewish practice, spirituality, and identity into their communal lives. I’ve loved everything I’ve seen so far, but was wondering where I, as a person who values adherence to halakha as a part of my manifestation of my Jewish identity, could fit into a community so warm, trusting, and intentional. Maybe not me myself exactly, but someone like me at least. Where was this level of intentionality, trust, and ability to be authentically and fully onesself and discuss that self with what’s basically an extended warm, unconditionally loving and accepting family, in a space where if that self also wanted to keep kosher and be shomer Shabbat, it would be fully integrated with the community life? Today, I got some answers. We began […]

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Jewish Intentional Communities Tour of Israel: Day Two (March 15, 2016)

by Geulah Finman   In the summer of 2011, I found myself half-awake attempting to sleep while my mind drifted to the scene around me. Guitar strumming mingled with the sound of young passionate voices engaged in a dialogue. The social protest movement that gripped Tel Aviv and the rest of Israel felt hopeful but confusing and at the time directionless. What were we asking for? What did we really want? In the first two days of Hazon’s Jewish Intentional Communities tour, I met individuals who are living in Israeli society and responding with meticulous intent to these social, economic challenges that in fact plague our entire globe. “We as humans, we as Jews, are in a state of peril” says Muki Tzur, the famous Kibbutz historian. He presses on further, “Do not accept collectivism as a form of activism or individuality as a negative source of ego.” Being in community is not enough. How are we helping those beyond ourselves? In what ways can intentional community fill the gaps we no longer depend on our governments to solve? Today we met young people filled with a deep sense of conviction speaking of the past. Revolution needs to occur in […]

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Introduction to Intentional Communities in Israel: Day One (March 14, 2016)

by Rabbi Deborah K. Bravo, Founder and Spiritual Leader of Makom NY: A New Kind of Jewish Community Today was our first full day of learning about intentional communities at the Hazon Hakhel Israel Seminar 2016. We came together as a group of individuals of varying ages and backgrounds from across the Unites States and Israel, representing a variety of very different intentional communities at home. Not only did we spend the day getting to know one another and our communities, but we were also introduced to the framework of intentional communities in Israel. We began the day by visiting the Kinneret Courtyard, where we learned from Muki Tsur, a giant in the history and understanding of the Kibbutz movement. We had the opportunity to really understand and discuss the beginnings of the Kibbutz movement, which truly are the basis for intentional communities in Israel today. We then drove on to Kibbutz Degania Aleph, the first Kibbutz to be opened in 1910. Though the Kibbutz movement today is nothing like it was then, it planted the seeds and thoughts for what would be created nearly a century later. Our afternoon conversation began with a discussion about Makom, the umbrella organization […]

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Four Questions For Your Second Night Seder

I’m writing in Israel, following a rather remarkable tour of “kehillot mesimatiot” – a newish phrase that literally means something like “mission-driven communities” and which maps, more or less, to the English “Intentional Communities.” It includes a variety of experiments in urban communal living and social change: some of them sharing all their money and some not; some living together and some not. But all of them living in participatory and democratic communities, with an explicit commitment to making the world around them better. We met diaspora 20-somethings who’ve made aliyah and are living in urban kvutzot – groups – in Haifa. We went to Beit Jann to see a Druze community doing remarkable leadership work with teens. We stayed with garinim toraniim, religious groups, in Akko, Bet Shemesh and Lod. In Afula we met the founders and leaders of Tarbut – an artist’s kibbutz of approaching 100 people, who have spawned a youth movement, and developed a queer nightclub scene in the town. In Nazareth Illit we were with Kibbutz Mishol, the largest of the modern urban kibbutzim, co-founded by James Grant-Rosenhead. In Akko we helped the garin there pack pre-pesach food boxes for local people – both Jewish […]

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Hakhel Seminar: Day Seven

by Liz Savage What an incredible week; we’ve met such an amazing and diverse collection of people and institutions all around the country, all with their individual takes and structures about and around intentional communities. I don’t know quite what my expectation was going into this trip- maybe just touring around the dusty remnants of a bygone era- but the reality far surpassed all of what I imagined. The tour began in the wake of the election results here. For the 30% who voted for Netanyahu it was a great result. But the mood for some, myself included, was depressed. There was a real sense of gloominess in Tel Aviv, a place that overwhelmingly voted for fresh ideas and perspective. Israel has so very much to offer the world; its grit, its heart, its innovation, its beauty, and the notion that this election would further distance and divide the Jewish community in America was gut wrenching. And so with somewhat of a heavy heart, the tour began. First we went to the north, to learn about the beginnings of kibbutzim movement at Chatzer Kinneret and Degania. There, overlooking the glimmering Kinneret, we heard some history- Kibbutz 101, as it were-which […]

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Hakhel Seminar: Day Six

by Gavriel Meir-Levi As an Israeli who served in the IDF with Druze soldiers, it was a great privilege to visit the village of Beit Ja’n. Our guide and interlocutor was a young woman named Maya, herself a success story of the Druze community organization Ofakim L’Atid. Ofakim L’Atid means future horizons, and has branches in 8 out of Israel’s 18 Druze villages, with 2-3 more villages likely joining in the near future (note: this does not include the Druze populations of Ramat HaGolan which are in a separate category). Their activities include bike rides, distributing food to the needy, classes in nutrition and youth lounges for thousands of participants throughout Israel. Unlike any of the other communities we visited, the Druze Ofakim L’Atid community is run ENTIRELY ON A VOLUNTEER BASIS. No one is paid for their work, in fact often the organizers proudly pay out of their own pocket to help make sure a program is successful. The initial core group was made up of Druze IDF officers, but has since grown to over 100 male and female community leaders of various ages. Maya, our guide, participated in the youth programs as a teenager and then joined the […]

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Hakhel Seminar: Day Five

by Hart Levine of the Beis Community in Washington Heights, New York After a brief morning visit to Jerusalem, we visited two urban kibbutzim in Gilo and Lod. Bet Yisrael is a more or less pluralistic urban kibbutz in Gilo. Kibbutznikim in Bet Yisrael are all interested in leading a spiritual, Jewish life, but not necessarily in a formally observant community. Members work for the most part outside of the community. Some 9 core families pool wages. Many others live in the community, participate in some of the social action projects and learning with the bet Yisrael kvutza. About half the families are drawn from the mechina (service learning) year prior to army service. Bet Yisrael’s key social projects revolve around the education of youth with preschools as a primary focus uniting members from Bet Yisrael with other residents in Gilo. Bet Yisrael’s community version of Jewish practice was unique among the groups we visited, and spoke to many of us in the HAKHEL network. At its core, the et Yisrael community searched for the essence of Judaism to unify the secular seekers among them with the religiously observant members. Their solution was to emphasize Hillel’s Torah on one foot—clearly […]

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