Topic: JOFEE Fellowship

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Parashat Vayeira | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Brittany Feldman – Hazon – Detroit, Michigan This week’s Torah Portion, Vayeira, discusses circumcision, birth, destruction, disobedience, and devotion. With so many themes in one portion, I’m choosing to focus on one that stood out to me the most, disobedience. In this particular text, “Abraham pleads with G‑d to spare the wicked city of Sodom. Two of the three disguised angels arrive in the doomed city, where Abraham’s nephew Lot extends his hospitality to them and protects them from the evil intentions of a Sodomite mob. The two guests reveal that they have come to overturn the place, and to save Lot and his family. Lot’s wife turns into a pillar of salt when she disobeys the command not to look back at the burning city as they flee.” I found the last line of this text to be extremely powerful in many ways. For me, it brought up thoughts about destruction and violence- if something bad happens should we choose to just move on with our lives without looking back? Although Lot’s wife disobeyed G-d’s command can her decision be justified? I started thinking about why she would choose to disobey this command. Was it just out of […]

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Parashat Ha’Azinu | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Amanda Gluckich – Milk and Honey Farm – Boulder, CO In this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Ha’Azinu, we learn that the people of Israel, who have been wandering the desert for forty years after leaving Egypt, are about to enter the Holy Land that has been promised to them by God. Moses, who is not allowed to continue into the Holy Land due to previous transgressions, is preparing to sing a song to the people of Israel. The Torah portion, or parsha, is virtually entirely made up of song verses. Moses’s song speaks of the intergenerational tragedies and triumphs of the people of Israel, and even articulates the future to some degree. Moses sings of the people of Israel’s many struggles to accept one God, and of all of the things that God has done for them throughout the generations. Moses’s song brings everyone together and up to speed to explain why they are currently in the place they are in: about to be metaphorically born into the Land of Israel, promised to them by God. Moses begins: “Listen, O heavens, and I will speak! And let the earth hear the words of my mouth!” (Deut. 32:1). When reading […]

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Parashat Netzavim | D’varim HaMakom: Choosing to Dig In

by Margot Sands – Ekar Farm – Boulder, Co Parasha Netzavim This week’s Torah portion, Netzavim, offers us the warning of risks and rewards that could result from engaging in Judaism. See for yourself in a snapshot of this week’s Torah portion: Moses delivers a message from G-d about the consequences that may be endured as a result of committing to the Jewish faith. What will happen if we do all that has been commanded of us as Jews? We are given the world. Protection. A full, happy life. Fruits of the earth, of the trees, of the next generation. G-d even offers to plot revenge against our enemies. However, the dark consequence bestowed upon us comes from an angry, spiteful G-d. If we don’t choose the faithful life, then we are choosing death and will perish by the wrath of G-d. As I read this Torah portion’s translation, I was stunned by the dichotomy of choices. We can choose the path of a devout Jew, or we can choose to suffer dire consequences. The reward: a gloriously full life following the word of G-d; The risk: taking a misstep in devotion and enduring G-d’s wrath. This contrast of choices […]

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Shabbat at Burning Man

by Leora “Leo” Cockrell – Camp Tawonga – San Francisco, CA I arrived on playa for my first Burning Man at midnight on Sunday after eight hours of driving. I got out of my car and I was immediately aware that I had absolutely no bearings. Nothing about this landscape, these people, these structures, or flashing LED lights was familiar, and in a sense, I was no longer familiar to myself. After calibrating my body to the harsh environment and exploring for a few days, I decided to check out the Jewish Theme camp – Milk and Honey. On Thursday morning, Milk and Honey held Torah study and we explored the feelings of unfamiliarity in this particular landscape. We discussed how in Hebrew the word for “Desert” and “Wilderness” is synonymous and wondered if this was because the desert was the only wilderness known at the time of writing the Torah, or if the Desert holds a wildness unique unto itself. We discussed the story of Moses and his discovery of the burning bush in the desert – both how it took his initiation of awareness and curiosity in the bush for G-d to then reach out to him, and […]

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Parashat Pinchas | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Jaclyn Kellner – Coastal Roots Farm – Encinitas, CA Parashat Pinchas “Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel from twenty years old and upwards, following their fathers’ houses…” From here, this week’s parsha, Parshat Pinchas, continues to list out the data from this census for the next 46 verses. There is a concept in Torah study that there is not a single superfluous word. This is also far from the only census recounted in full in the Torah. I am sure I’m not alone when I say that I often skim over this sort of census data, eager to get to a story, a list of laws, or a description of what life was like in biblical times. Data collection and analysis is probably among the least sexy work that nonprofits do. So much time and care is put into designing surveys that many folks then don’t fill out, countless hours are spent entering data from sign in and waiver forms. I often stop during a farm-to-fork type trip to weigh and track the produce before we prepare a tasty snack. After all of this work, it’s the information from those one-sentence testimonies, the […]

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Parshat Behar | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Emily Blustein – Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta – Atlanta, GA Rest for the land, rest for the people, all will be provided. This week we are reading Behar which tells us about shmitah and jubilee. Shmitah is during every seventh year, you shall not work the land, and Jubilee which is the 49th year where shmitah is practiced along with setting all slaves free and all land goes back to its original owners. G-d reassures the people that they have nothing to worry about during shmitah as the 6th year of growing will produce more than enough until the 8th years yield is ready. That’s putting a lot of faith in powers other than your own hard work. What did the farmers do during the 7th year? Did they enjoy or lament it? As I have been dabbling in farming, the thought of not being able to grow food for myself and others for a whole year is a bit unsettling. Truly, if everyone practiced this, what would be there to eat? Or were we all on different shmitah schedules? Maybe my neighbor is only in their 5th year when I’m in my 7th and we alternate sharing… […]

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Changing the world, one (JOFEE) Fellow at a time…

From Nigel Savage May 18th, 2017 | 22nd Iyar 5777 | 37th day of the omer | gevurah she’b’yesod Changing the world, one (JOFEE) Fellow at a time… Dear All, 16 partner organizations. 17 JOFEE Fellows. Over 500 discrete programs. And an estimated 37,000 participants in Jewish Outdoor, Food, Farming & Environmental Education (JOFEE) programs across the country. These are some of the numbers emerging as we look back at our first JOFEE Fellowship cohort. Their closing seminar and siyum was held last week at the Pearlstone Center outside Baltimore, MD. The JOFEE Fellowship grew from Seeds of Opportunity, the research that substantiated the extraordinary growth of this field over the last 15 years. One of the things that became clear is that we needed to create pathways into professional leadership in this world. The JOFEE Fellowship program, backed by the Jim Joseph Foundation, was one of the outcomes of the research. Behind the program data from our first year are many thousands of people encountering – some of them for the first time – the incredible power of Jewish tradition, when you connect it with the earth, with human communities and our surrounding ecosystems, with our food, and with […]

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Learning Limits: Parashat Emor | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Leora Cockrell – Camp Tawonga – San Francisco, CA This week’s Parsha, Emor, discusses priests, purity, prioritization and perfection. The specifics of which are either largely outdated (I haven’t recently checked to make sure my livestock’s legs match before sacrificing them, have you?) or offensive (judging people’s worthiness based on their bodies). But as a fellow F ellow taught me, sometimes you can read the Torah like an arrow…where is the message trying to take us given the context of the world it was written in? As the Jews wandered the desert, wrestling with their new identities as free people, they could have felt caught between the “world was their oyster” sensation and “too many choices are overwhelming” paralysis. Learning to live a different rhythm of life traveling in the desert, getting along with your fellow travelers (some of whom had just been your enslavers), and finding what was more meaningful to them than the comforts of what was known was a big task. And understandably, a few rules, regulations, and rituals could have done a lot to smooth over tensions and build a collective sense of purpose. I have made a journey to the unknown wilds myself, recently. After spending […]

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Parsahat Acharei Mot | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Becca Heisler, Wilderness Torah – Berkeley, CA Parshat Acharei Mot, in the book of Vayikrah (Leviticus), brings a follow-up to the deaths of Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, who were consumed by fire before G-d for offering an unholy sacrifice. As a result of this misdeed, Aaron is tasked with atonement: first, he is commanded to make special sacrifices. Then, he bequeaths all of the transgressions of the Israelites upon a goat (the “scapegoat ”) and sends it into the desert. These rituals are the origins of our modern Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. My reactions to Acharei Mot were scattered: fascination, apathy, confusion, sadness, curiosity, anger. Underlying all of those reactions was a question: what brings us back every year to study the commandments, laws, and rituals of Vayikrah that no longer govern our daily lives? We read this parshah during the fourth week of counting The Omer .  Each week of the Omer corresponds to one of the lower seven sephirot (attributes or emanations of G-d), and this week is the week of netzach (Endurance). Each day is an exploration of the relationship between netzach and another sephirah – First is chesed (love), next gevurah (boundedness), then […]

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Parashat Tazria-Metzora | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Margot Sands, Ekar Farm – Denver, CO This week’s Torah portion, Tazria-Metzora, continues to outline specific laws of purification for newborns, mothers, and sufferers of leprosy such as circumcision, immersing in the mikvah, and solitary confinement. Leprosy? Why is this disease addressed alongside the beautiful cycle of life? These different states of being appear together as forms of distractions that prevent us from fully engaging in spirituality. Newborns might be physically distracted from their new existence in the world; new mothers are distracted by on-going pains and stresses of labor and taking care of infants; leprosy is also a physical distraction as an irritating skin ailment. The laws instructed in this text aren’t necessarily targeting these groups of people as dirty, unclean, unwanted, but rather as folks who have barriers to accessing the divine. While we read this parsha throughout the week, we are also tasked with “Counting the Omer,” an active 49-period of time between Passover and Shavuot. An omer is a measurement of barley that was offered to the Temple in Jerusalem in biblical times everyday until Shavuot as a reenactment of the Jewish people wandering in the desert after being liberated from Egypt. In present times, we […]

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Parashat Sh’mini | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Ren Feldman, Eden Village Camp – Putnam Valley, NY Last week many of us made a trek to our family’s, friend’s or parent’s home. Exiled from our ‘normal’ lives, we may have felt like slaves to the lurking particles of chametz, doing their best to afflict our Pesadic kashrut, to the pyramids of dirty dishes that plagued the sink, to our seders, where we sat for hours, the outside world shrouded in darkness. As much as we may love our families and friends, we may have felt exceptionally free as we left the houses we grew up in, the livelihood in which we find comfort, and wandered to our potentially uncertain, independent lives. Over here on Dennytown Rd, our very own Eden Village Farm-Educator Apprentices are definitely wandering into uncertainty. Four farmers who have never been to Eden Village, potentially never ‘slaved away’ under the sweltering sun before- acres of shadeless beds surrounding- have just arrived to spend 40 squirrel years (6 months) doing just that! After some faith and sweat, their manna will grow up from the earth, as it did many years ago when I was a farm apprentice. And that, dear reader, brings us to the […]

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Parashat Tzav | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Rose Chernoff, Abundance Farm – Northampton, MA In this week’s parsha, Tzav, we learn about the rules for how a priest/priestess is to keep the sacrificial fire burning. The instructions are to keep the fire burning all day and all night, and to remove all of the ash in the morning. The fire is to be used for offerings- meat and meal- that is cooked in specific ways…. Sounds old school, I know. ….Enter JOFEE!!!! One of the opportunities that arises on a Jewish Farm is the opportunity to make the words of the torah come to life, or at least seem somewhat more relatable. We can read about fire, and we can also build a fire! We can experience what a fire looks like and feels like, how to start it and tend it and remove the ashes. We can cook with a fire and give gratitude. Experiential lessons give images to the text, and invite participants to enter into a new relationship with this ancient story. In this vein, we at Abundance Farm crafted a “Make Your Own Matzah” and “Grow Your Own Maror” event last weekend. We created two activities (a Matzah station that I will […]

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Parashat Pikudei | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Tzachi Flatt, Oshman JCC, Palo Alto, CA Parashat Pikudei tells the story of the construction of the Mishkan, built by the Israelite community under supervision of the Levites. While wandering in the desert, it became a source of comfort and communication for the people of Israel to create a central meeting place where they could connect to G-d. This was constructed to be their divine headquarters. Externally, they were surrounded by the wide expanse of the desert. Internally, they did not know where they were going. G-d saw them in this state, and commanded them to create this space for their own well-being. Parashat Pikudei goes into exhaustive detail about all the pieces of the Mishkan, such a significant undertaking can only be accomplished with the entire community working together cohesively. In thinking about the underlying message of this parasha, at least two key points rose to the surface. Everyone’s contribution to the common goal is not only expected, but is essential to its success. “Do not separate yourself from the community” – Pirkei Avot. We each carry a unique skill set that adds its own value and meaning to the greater good. When we work together towards a […]

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Parashat Ki Tisa – The Mitzvah of Tzedaka | D’varim Ha’Makom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Nicole Cruz; Peninsula JCC – San Francisco, CA This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tisa, tells the story of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments from G-d (not once but twice) at Mount Sinai. The first set of Ten Commandments is broken when Moses destroys them in frustration when he witnesses the Egyptians worshiping a god they created because they were impatient waiting for his return from Mount Sinai. Eventually, Moses returns to Mount Sinai and G-d scribes the same words on a new set of stones. After speaking with G-d, when Moses descends Mount Sinai the second time his face is radiating. While this Torah portion contains many significant moments, the part that most resonated with me wast he conversation between G-d and Moses before he leaves Mount Sinai the first time: “Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. This shall be a perpetual covenant, a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever…” In this well-known quote, we come to understand that we rest on Shabbat because G-d commands it. Reading this Torah portion reminded me of the other Mitzvot that we adhere to. While […]

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Parashat Terumah and Passover in the Desert | D’varim Ha’Makom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Daniella Aboody – Wilderness Torah, Berkeley California Parsha Terumah and Passover in the Desert: The Holy Gift of Service This week’s Torah portion is Terumah, which translates to “offering”, “gift”, or “contribution”. In this parsha, God instructs Moses to build the Mishkan (tabernacle), or the holy sanctuary, and the entire parsha of Terumah is a very detailed and specific set of instructions for how Moses and the Israelites are to make and furnish G-d’s dwelling place. It is written: “Dedicate to G-d a contribution. Collect my offering from every person whose heart inspires him/her to generosity: gold, silver, and copper; blue, purple and crimson wool; linen and goat hair; arm skins dyed red, tachash skins, and acacia wood; oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the incense; precious gems…You shall place in the ark the testimony which I will give to you…I will meet you there and speak from between the angels. There, I will tell you what to command the Children of Israel.” I find this parsha very intriguing – why are these instructions so particular? Is this all really necessary? For these nomadic people of the desert, such highly elaborate and specific requirements for the Mishkan are not […]

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