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Topic: Partners

The Binary of One | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Sofia Marbach – Wilderness Torah Parshat Re’eh I set before you today a blessing and a curse; The blessing, that you will heed the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn away from the way I command you this day, to follow other gods, which you did not know. — Deuteronomy 11:26-28 Yikes! The first lines of Re’eh present us with a terrifying binary: choose to follow closely each commandment or consider yourself cursed by God. If we opt out of the choosing, what does Judaism leave for us? The text goes on to list detailed instructions for violence against those who might persuade you to worship the gods of other peoples, and against the idols of those who tended your land before. This is the kind of violence that mirrors and reinforces patriarchal systems of dominance and oppression lived today and throughout history. So how do we grapple with guidelines for patriarchal violence in our holiest book — a violence that divides us into binary understandings of the world? How do we connect to tradition as “People of the […]

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Reflections on Kindness | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Brenden Jackson – Amir with Shalom Community Farm Houston Parshat Eikev In Parshat Eikev, Moses calls upon his people to reflect on their past in order to remember and obtain the future that was promised to them. As they prepare to enter the Promised Land, the lines blur between past transgressions, promises, sufferings and joys, made inseparable from the current joy at the edge of the holy land. As summer comes to a close here in Houston, so does summer camp programming, which means ending my mentor role with summer farmers and transitioning to fall programming. With the end of the summer chapter, I find myself guided by Moses’s reflections while I enter the reflection stage of this particular learning cycle. Here in Houston, we have several projects occurring and converging at one time: On the one hand, we have Shalom Community Farm – a Jewishly centered agriculture program aimed at connecting flora and Torah for community members. On the other hand, we are developing a Garden Kitchen program with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Houston, where I grow, harvest, and prepare produce with different community members. While in many ways these projects are totally separate, Amir has […]

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Choosing our History | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Henry Schmidt – Shalom Institute Parshat Devarim The Torah may be our past, but Devarim, the shared name both for this week’s Torah portion and for the fifth book of the Torah, is our history. What is the difference between past and history? Our past is simply a chronology of events, one after another, that bring us to the present. It is what one may observe if they traveled back in time and watched things unfold. History, on the other hand, adds important layers; history is the past we choose to tell and how we tell it. The establishment of history is an inherently political process. Whoever has the most access to public discourse or public thought typically gets to shape the narrative of the people. In the case of Devarim, this power rests solely with Moses. Though he shall not see the promised land and must cede this honor to his successor, Joshua, he still possesses the most powerful role of this period for the Jewish people: he gets to tell them their own story. After all, Devarim translates to “the words,” and these are “the words” of the Jewish people. We already know that the Jews eventually receive […]

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Fear and Donkeys | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Henry Schmidt – Shalom Institute Parshat Balak I thought Balak was a story about a donkey. That is to say, when I sat down to write this blog post, I expected to write about the talking donkey we’ll soon meet. Understandably, a talking donkey tends to get a lot of attention. However, this time I found the ending of the parsha (Torah portion), an ending I had always overlooked, to be what especially spoke to me. Let’s start with an overview. Balak, King of Moab, sees the growing people of Israel and how they have conquered all of Moab’s neighbors, leaving Moab directly next to the potential threat of this dynamite group of nomads who seem to be on a roll. Worried about the Israelite’s winning streak, he summons Balaam, a pagan sorcerer, to come and curse the Israelites. “‘There is a people come out of Egypt; it hides the Earth from view, and it is settled next to me. Come then, put a curse upon this people for me, since they are too numerous for me; perhaps I can thus defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless is blessed […]

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The 12 Spies: What Went Wrong? | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Mollie Sharfman – GatherDC  Parashat Shlach We put the twelve spies on trial on my Chumash/Bible class in my Jewish Day School when I was thirteen.  My friend Leah Estreicher and I were appointed lawyers for the defense team. We studied the text, and took walks from my house to Leah’s house to sharpen our arguments. In the real story, the spies are found guilty. But our argument was so strong that our teacher, Mrs. Tuchman, had to declare the spies not-guilty.  It was an important early victory for me, and I was eager to review the story that had such an impact on me: this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Shlach. At this juncture of the people of Israel’s journey, we find them in the wilderness, about to make their move into the Promised Land. They have been working hard on becoming a people, they have received the Torah, and have eased into a comfortable status quo in the wilderness (with something shaking them up every so often) as they inch towards entering the land of Canaan. This journey has not been easy for them. Many times they regress into wishing they were back in Egypt. G-d decides to appoint a […]

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Shemesh and Service Work: Igniting Holiness Through our JOFEE Work | JOFEE Fellowship Cohort 2 Reflections

We were pleased and proud to graduate the second cohort of JOFEE Fellows last month at our closing seminar at the brand-new Urban Adamah farm and community center in Berkeley, CA. With this cohort’s sixteen fellows, we have now graduated 33 fellows who collectively have impacted close to 60,000 participants nationwide. Cohort three will see twenty new fellows working in fifteen host organizations. Wow! Closing seminar was a wonderful experience in celebrating the cohort’s individual and collective accomplishments and learning about the tremendous work of our partners at Urban Adamah. In the words of one fellow: “I’m blown away by the ways in which this group of people who have only come together three times over the course of a year can support each other in such deep ways. It was a joy and an honor to witness each member of the cohort as they recalled their journey and told stories from the year, and I felt totally held by the group.” This was yet another very special and talented cohort. You can see some of their final presentations here and even catch up on the live Facebook stream here. In reflecting on this cohort, I’d like to share a […]

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“Down To Earth” Judaism | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Chayei Sarah Darya Watnick | Edlavitch DC JCC – Washington, DC  This week’s Torah portion is Chayei Sarah, literally “The Life of Sarah.” The title is a bit of a misnomer, as Sarah dies in the second verse. This portion instead focuses on Sarah’s legacy — specifically Abraham and Isaac, those most influenced by her incredible life. It’s a legacy all about family life and connection to tradition – a story that mirrors much of my work here at the DC JCC as a JOFEE Fellow. Here’s what happens in Chayei Sarah, in a nutshell: Sarah dies at age 127 and is buried in the Cave of Machpelah, in Hebron, which Abraham buys from Ephron the Hittite. Abraham then sends his servant Eliezer to find a wife for Isaac. In order to find the right woman, Eliezer devises the “camel test”:when he asks for water at the well, which woman will also offer to give his camels a drink. Rebecca passes the test and returns with Eliezer to Isaac and Abraham. Isaac and Rebecca get married. Then Abraham takes a new wife, Keturah, and has six more sons. Abraham dies at the age of 175 and is buried next to Sarah, […]

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Changing the Way Animals are Raised for Food

Hazon joins Bon Appetit, UC Berkeley, Airbnb and other organizations as a leader in animal welfare in food service supply chains. Hazon was invited to join Farm Forward’s Leadership Circle for the eggs we serve to the thousands of guests who visit our home each year in the Connecticut Berkshires—Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. Farm Forward announced the launch of the Leadership Circle, a new institutional purchasing program that leverages the buying power of businesses, universities, and civic and religious institutions to change the way animals are raised for food. The program increases the public’s understanding of higher-welfare farming, supports a network of farmers who are third-party certified, and meets the demand among American consumers for products bearing animal welfare certification labels with meaningful standards. Further, the Leadership Circle encourages institutions to adopt a “less meat, better meat” approach by sourcing higher-welfare meat, poultry, and eggs while incorporating more plant-based proteins to lower costs and improve public health, the environment, and animal welfare. Founding members of the Leadership Circle include Bon Appetit Management Company, Airbnb’s Portland office, Cal Dining at the University of California Berkeley, Dr. Bronner’s, and Hazon, the largest Jewish sustainability organization in North America. These institutions are leaders in ethical and sustainable […]

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Gender Identity, Oaths, and Inheritance in Matot-Masei | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Darya Watnick – Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center – Washington, DC Parshat Matot-Masei This week in the Torah we see a double portion: Matot-Masei. Combining Matot and Masei, the two chapters at the end of Numbers/Bamidbar, allows for the need to start the book of Devarim/Deuteronomy on the Shabbat before Tisha b’Av. Matot and Masei are both rather long portions but in the interest of brevity here’s a condensed summary: We start Parshat Matot (Numbers/Bamidbar 30:3-32:42) with a discussion of vows and oaths and the differences in fulfillment for a man and a woman. Moses and the sons of Israel start a war against Midian. It was a brutal war and many of the Midianites are killed (on Moses’ orders). Reuben and Gad want to stay where they are – rather than cross over to the land of Israel. Of course, Moses was furious that they wanted to tend to their herds instead of going with their brothers. Parshat Masei (Numbers/Bamidbar 33:1-36:13) starts with Reuben and Gad promising to help the other tribes settle in the Promised Land before settling themselves in the land across the Jordan River. Moses apportions the land to the tribes and sets up cities of refuge. […]

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When a Donkey Speaks Truth to Power | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Hannah Slipakoff, Jewish Farm School – Philadelphia, PA Parashat Balak In this week’s Parasha, Balak (Numbers 22:2- 25:9), we read a tale about the ways in which kindness and gratitude contribute to justice and G-dliness, and an allegory relating systemic patterns of oppression to land: King Balak of Moab, a ruler whose name means devastator, empty, or wasting, desperately attempts to curse the Israelites. He despises the Tribe of Jacob so deeply, that he attempts to hire Balaam to damn the Israelites for him: There is a people that came out of Egypt; it hides the earth from view, and it is settled next to me. Come then, put a curse upon this people for me, since they are too numerous for me; perhaps I can thus defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless is blessed indeed, and he whom you curse is cursed. ~Numbers 22:5-22:7 Balaam mounts a literal WISE ass (inciteful female donkey) and sets out on his wicked task. The Divine however, has a different plan. G-d sends an armed angel to disrupt Balaam’s path, and each time the donkey attempts to avoid danger, Balaam fiercely beats her. […]

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