By Nigel Savage Wednesday, November 13, 2019 | 15th Cheshvan 5780 Dear All, I got an inexpensive Airbnb near the marina in Ashkelon, to decompress for a day after the Israel Ride and to catch up with some work and write this email. Right now I’m in the marina. Totally deserted. There were more than 200 missiles shot out of Gaza, yesterday and today, and everything in the south – schools, shops, businesses – is closed. I’m one of just two customers in the only café open here. It is quieter, far quieter, than Israel on Yom Kippur. It is strange to sit in an apartment, as I was doing a couple of hours ago; hear a siren go off; and then walk a few feet into the room which is a miklat, a sealed shelter, as one is instructed to do. Then a few seconds later you hear a boom go off, quite close by, presumably an Iron Dome intercepting the incoming missile. Before walking to the marina I was asking a friend in Kfar Saba what the custom was if you’re in the street when a siren goes off. She said, look, you have to duck and try to get cover, because you may […]
I get older and my Jewish journey evolves, but almost the only constant is a constantly deepening sense of how amazing the tradition is and how the pieces fit together. I say that because I felt, this year, that I understood – and felt – Sukkot better than I ever have before.
This is our last formal email before Rosh Hashanah. The year ends, the year begins. For Hazon, the year just ending is one of immense gratitude. One says that so lightly, as if it were obvious, but it is absolutely genuine.
Sadly I wasn’t at the New York Ride last weekend – because we didn’t do one this year. But I send love and gratitude to anyone who ever participated in the Ride, or led the Ride, or funded one of our riders.
Friday, August 23, 2019 | 22 Av 5779Dear All,It’s summertime. This email is full of gratitude and the inspiration to strive to do good in the world.Years ago I learned from Anna Hanau this line from one of her teachers – you know you’re on the right track when your solution to one problem solves a bunch of other ones.That’s true of our work in Michigan, epitomized by the Hazon Michigan Jewish Food Festival – and last weekend we held our fourth, the largest and most successful yet, with over 7,000 people. We’re helping to drive change. We’re helping Jewish organizations to become more sustainable, including the now 20 who are in our Hazon Seal of Sustainability program from the Detroit region. We’re strengthening local food systems. We’re playing a not insignificant role in helping to reconnect the suburbs and the city, and the Jewish community and the African American community, and we’re especially proud of the work we’ve done in supporting Oakland Avenue Urban Farm. And we’re doing all this with love and celebration and Jewish groundedness and openness. So: real gratitude. Huge thanks to our staff and funders, to all our partner organizations, to our volunteers and helpers, to all the purveyors and […]
Significant staff changes at Hazon… Thursday, August 8, 2019 | 6 Av 5779 Dear All, In the Torah, this is an end, and then a beginning. We’re starting to read the book of Devarim. It’s the last book of the Torah, and a pivot which leads in one direction to the post-Torah books, Nevi’im and Ketuvim (the Prophets and the Writings) and, in a different direction, back again to the Genesis stories. In the Jewish calendar, this is the end of the three weeks. On Saturday night Tisha b’avbegins, and we re-enact our own deaths; on Sunday afternoon we start to come back to life, and in due course it will be Tu b’av, the festival of love, and then Elul and the beginning of a whole new year. And at Hazon much change also. Our strategic plan marks the end of one era, and the start of the next. It represents the belated completion of the three-way merger between Hazon, Isabella Freedman, and Teva. Legally that merger took place on the 1st of January 2014. But it is only now, in a sense, that we are finally committing to weave together the different parts of this organization towards a single clear goal – changing the nature of organized Jewish life, […]
Thursday, July 25, 2019 | 21st Tammuz, 5779 Dear All, Well: it was a funny week. On Shabbat I discovered my bike had been nicked, overnight. This was my fourth or fifth stolen, over the years, in this otherwise law-abiding city. Then that evening it turned out that a (lowish) online auction bid of mine had been successful – I had just bought Philip Roth’s library table. It will be the new table in our study, and I shall pull up my chair and crack open my laptop and sit there and write some of these emails. What kind of weird karmic trade-off is that, to lose a bike and gain Philip Roth’s table? Will my emails come out differently in the future? Then Britain got a new Prime Minister. Shortly before the result was to be announced, the G!d I don’t believe in demonstrated a certain kind of humor when They had me walk past a Range Rover with the license plate “FLEE”… (But flee to where, exactly?) So I was reminded again that this is a period of transition, and things are changing, as they always change, in the world and in our lives, in small ways and […]
Thursday, July 11, 2019 | 8th Tammuz, 5779 Dear All, In this week’s parsha, the children of Israel are in the wilderness of Tzin. A small smile arises as I read it because it’s not just a line in the Torah; it’s also a road sign we pass on the Israel Ride each year. (When I read it I think of the Ride and the place, and when I cycle past it and through it I think of the Torah. This is as it should be.) And in the Torah the children of Israel are complaining: “Why have you taken us out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place, not a place for seeds or fig trees or grapevines or pomegranate trees – and there’s no water to drink!” (On the Israel Ride very occasionally this becomes an accidental riff on the Torah – “I’m on vacation, and this is amazing – but how long to the next rest stop?!”) But this week I found myself thinking about this complaining in the wilderness as a larger metaphor for the world we live in today. We have indeed left slavery. We’re not defenseless against pogroms, as we were in the middle ages; […]
by Nigel Savage Thursday, June 27, 2019 | 24th Sivan, 5779 If you’re involved in leading a Jewish institution do please read this… Dear All, Hazon is moving offices today. This marks at least the temporary end of Makom Hadash, our shared office space, in its current form. As of Monday morning you can find us at 25 Broadway – working within the offices of our new landlords, JFNA, and alongside JCPA and possibly in due course one or two other organizations. We are looking forward to connecting with our new colleagues. But there’s no question that this is bittersweet. We’re leaving the offices of the Forward, and our now old “new space” that we have so happily shared with Lab/Shul, with Avodah, and, over the years, with a range of smaller groups, including Art Kibbutz, Eshel, Limmud NY, as well as NY-based staffers of groups such as Keshet, Moishe House, Moving Traditions, and Svara. So today is an appropriate moment to reflect on four different overlapping initiatives that Hazon has helped to create or that we sponsor, even as we ourselves transition both physically and strategically. In doing this I want to make some quite specific suggestions to people involved in leading Jewish institutions. […]
by Nigel Savage Thursday, June 13, 2019 | 10th Sivan 5779 Dear All, Do we strive to change the world through fear or through a positive vision? This is not a fake question, or the set-up for an obvious answer. I’m more confused by this question, at the moment, than at any time in my life. I used to feel that the answer was “through a positive vision.” The word hazon is Hebrew for vision, and our name symbolized this view. Yes, we needed to tackle complex and depressing issues; but we would do this by inspiring people, and by sharing a positive vision for change. And now I’m not so sure. Most people most of the day simply get on with our lives. This is the nature of being human. It’s rare that there is an acute incident – a heart attack, a traffic accident, a major fire, an act of terrorism in our own community – that really cuts through normal daily life. Other than that we toggle between obligations and celebrations, work and play, family and friends and work and study. But the climate challenge that faces the world right now is absolutely real, and it is worsening. A report from […]
Thursday, May 30, 2019 | 40th day of the omer; hod she’b’yesod Dear All, I’ve been in Israel this last week – a week in which the European elections saw continued strength from populist parties – and the Greens–, in which a British prime minister resigned, and in which an Israeli prime minister called an unprecedented second general election, essentially ten minutes after the last one. These are not normal times, as we know. I come away with just two thoughts from all this. First: that line about you can make an omelet from an egg, but you can’t make an egg from an omelet. Actions have consequences. A referendum (ill-thought out in advance, to put it mildly) produces a result which is close to unactionable; that in turn paralyzes a political system and enrages people on opposite sides. It’s not impossible to imagine Boris Johnson as PM; Britain crashing out of Europe; Scotland and Northern Ireland each then demanding their own referenda to rejoin the EU, and the United Kingdom then literally dissolving. And maybe this would be a fine thing; we don’t know. But when we read the history of the Russian Revolution, or the rise of Hitler and Mussolini and […]
Thursday, May 16, 2019 | 26th day of the omer; hod she’b’netzach by Nigel Savage Dear All, This is indeed a global environmental crisis – indeed, a series of crises. “Climate change” is not only a thing in itself; it is also shorthand for multiple different ways that (a) our daily behaviors are literally unsustainable; (b) we’re already seeing profound negative consequences; and (c) things are on track to get worse before or if they have any chance of getting better. And Jewish tradition compels us to respond. How we do that goes to deep questions that we’re thinking about, and that will influence our work these next coming years. What’s the relationship between education, action, and advocacy? How can any one person or institution make any measurable difference? Do we effect change through a positive vision or fears of a dyspeptic future – or maybe both? Hazon recently completed a strategic planning process that has refined our focus on the ways in which food and climate change and Jewish life intersect. We’re doing this because it builds on our work thus far, and is intended to focus and amplify it, quite considerably. All of this work crystallizes around a […]
By Nigel Savage Thursday, May 2, 2019 | 12th day of the omer; hod she’b’gevurah Dear All, Today is Yom Hashoah, and the attack in Poway of course remains on my mind. Like many of us, I was inspired by the words and deeds of Rabbi Goldstein, and by the courage of the people in the shul. I feel, as others do, the need to respond to anti-semitism, both on the right and on the left. The world is changing, and it needs us to act, both proactively (challenging bigotry and banning guns) and defensively (increasing security in Jewish institutions). But I want to add this, and strongly: we must not obsess about anti-semitism. History doesn’t repeat, and it doesn’t repeat mechanistically. The very fiber of Hazon and of all that we do is built around the notion of vision, positive vision, and of the need not simply to be against things – anti-semitism, or attacks on Israel, or for that matter bigotry or racism of any sort – but instead to offer a strong and powerful positive vision of the nature of Jewishness in the 21st century. This applies even to the big ticket items that are Hazon’s raison […]
Wednesday, April 17, 2019 | 12th Nissan, 5779 The deepest question which underpins all of Hazon’s work is simply this: We are messing up the world. What should we do about that? It’s not hard to sketch out some of the main problems the world faces (burning too much carbon; consuming too many resources; destroying wild places; consuming the capital of future generations). It’s not much harder to sketch out, at least in the broadest of terms, what we ought to be doing in response (tax carbon; consume far less; end industrial meat production; preserve wild places). But between these two brief sentences lies the infinite complexity of 7.5 billion people. We don’t agree on anything. We’re in favor of other people limiting themselves, or being limited, but we ourselves – not so much. If you have ever tried to change anything, however small, in any community – a condo, a place of work, a school, a shul, a Hillel – you will understand that reaching significant change for the whole planet is impossibly hard to imagine. And yet… change we must. There is that old line: if you don’t change the way you’re headed, pretty soon you’ll get there. […]
Let me begin at the end. Tonight – start to clear things out. Start to clear out your attic, your basement, your garage. The pantry in your kitchen, and any opened bottle or jar in the fridge or the cupboard that’s been open for a few months or more and which you never use. Clear out old clothes, and books, and give them to Goodwill or chuck them out. Then, when you’ve gotten started on all that – start journaling. Now the question is – what is the mental gunk I need to get rid of? What stops me being free? What stops me being who I truly am? What am I needlessly afraid of? What are the things I waste my time on? (I’m talking to you, iPhone, and you, Facebook.) The reason for this is that it’s Purim today, and we so don’t really understand Purim. For sure Purim is not a kids’ holiday, even though we clean it up to be one. It’s a bacchanal, a pre-modern Mardi Gras, full of excess and debauchery and booze and sex. And there’s a reason for this, a hidden order. Today is the start of an 11-week journey that ends at Shavuot. The fulcrum of these 11 weeks […]