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Topic: Reflections

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Reb Isaiah at the March, and Rob Kutner on Daf Yomi…

Thursday, January 9, 2020 | 12th Tevet 5780 Dear All, First: we were so proud of Hazon’s rabbi-in-residence, Isaiah Rothstein, who had a lead role at the march against anti-semitism in NYC on Sunday. You can see links to that here and here. Secondly: part of the punchline of the Bari Weiss book on anti-semitism – with which I very strongly agreed indeed – is that it’s vital that we not somehow become “anti-anti-semites.” That’s not why I’m Jewish. I’m Jewish because I love the tradition and I think it wise; and – right now – I especially believe that we should be rallying the full resources of Jewish tradition and of the Jewish community to address the global climate crisis, which is the greatest crisis civilization has yet faced. And so one aspect of that is actually to deepen our own Jewish learning. That leads me to daf yomi… Daf Yomi – literally “a page a day” is a recentish (early twentieth century) tradition of learning the entire Talmud, by doing a page a day; and if you do that, and stick to it, you’ll learn the entire Talmud in about 7 1/2 years. I somehow assumed that this was only an ultra-orthodox practice. But way […]

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How to feel better in a sometimes thankless world

Wednesday, November 27, 2019 | 29th Cheshvan 5780 Dear Hazon, This year at our JOFEE Network Gathering we learned about Joanna Macy, and her concept of “active hope.” She’s an 80-something eco-philosopher, Christian I think by background; a world apart, on the face of it, from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who is English and Jewish and a generation younger. And yet what she teaches about active hope jibed for me with what Rabbi Sacks has taught about hope in Jewish tradition. Each of them, in different ways, argues that hope is a choice, not a feeling. Optimism is the presumption that things will be better. Hope is the determination, the leaning in, to help make things better. So: this has been a hard year in many ways. I have lived my adult life in three countries – the UK, Israel, and the US – and this year it has too frequently felt like a mad and bizarre competition amidst the three of them as to which could melt down the most: “Our Prime Minister is having to give up the four different ministries he holds (!) because he’s just been indicted for corruption (!!).” “You were lucky!! Of all things, the Financial Times (!) had an op-ed titled ‘Boris Johnson’s […]

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Sukkahfest Reflections

By Toby Shulruff My family and I live in Portland, Oregon – which is both geographically and symbolically out on the edges of American Jewish life. My husband and I work outside of Jewish community. Our neighborhood is a little oasis of diversity in the very white northwest –our neighbors are from all over the world, often recent immigrants from Africa, Latin America, and South Asia. I love raising my kids to know all our neighbors, and at the same time, it makes our connection to Jewish life all the more precious. Finding a Jewish community for our family took a long time. Though Portland might sound like the frontier, it actually has more than eight shuls, a Jewish museum, and even an Unshul! But for my family, we want the Torah learning of the Chasidim, with the social justice of Heschel, with a heavy dose of Earth-based mysticism, gender equality and pluralism, interfaith connection, and lots of kids, all in an atmosphere of profound joy and ecstatic music. We have a hard time finding a home even when we are at home. Coming to Sukkahfest at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, Connecticut is a return to […]

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What Sukkahfest Means to Me

By Rhonda Greif Upon entering Isabella Freedman you are greeted by a warm welcoming wooden sign “We are blessed by your arrival.” This just about sums up the overall feeling of good cheer that surrounds Sukkahfest from beginning to end and stays with you long after you have physically left the grounds. Sukkahfest is truly a unique experience. After having just returned from #5, I’m excited to share what Sukkahfest means to me and my family.  Five (5) focuses for Five (5) Sukkahfest celebrations: Sukkat Shalom. This is the focal point of the entire stay and is decorated simply but beautifully. From that first evening, you are enveloped by the soft lighting which invites you in and makes you feel right at home.  Farm-to-Table. Food at Isabella Freedman is incredible. A delicious variety of meat, chicken and fish (and vegetarian), tons of amazing vegetables, great soups plus seemingly endless bottles of both red and white wines and yummy challah (don’t forget the honey).  Fall Foliage. The natural beauty of the area enhances the Sukkahfest experience tenfold. One of my favorite activities is just walking on the road towards the Adama farm and the small quaint town nearby admiring the gorgeous […]

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Rosh HaShanah for Animals by Rabbi Aaron Philmus

Rosh Chodesh Elul, 5779 By Rabbi Aaron Philmus Temple Torat Yisrael, Rhode Island Sheep, goats, cows, camels and donkeys… Domesticated animals get almost as much air-time in the Torah as people do, yet we so rarely reflect on our relationship with them. We may have a soft spot for dogs and cats, but what about the animals that feed us and clothe us every day? What about the animals that give us parchment for Torah, wool for Tallit, and skin for tefillin? The Mishna tells us that along with Rosh Hashanah for the people and the trees, there is also a New Year for the tithing of animals on the 1st of Elul called Rosh HaShanah La-Behemah. Elul is also a time of cheshbon hanefesh (accounting of the soul), so when we hear the blast of the ram’s horn, let us attune ourselves to the cries of the animals who cannot advocate for their own welfare. As I type these words, my goats are crying out for me to take them on a walk in the woods. I can hear my chickens alarming, “buk buk buk buh-GAHK!” When I look out the window, there is a mob of crows dive-bombing […]

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Inner and Outer Climate Change by Rabbi Robin Damsky

Earth Etudes 2019 Rosh Chodesh Elul, 5779 By Rabbi Robin Damsky inthegardens.org Durham, NC It’s been a year of change. Not just a move, but a move to a new climate zone and a very new culture. I moved from outside Chicago to Durham, NC – the South. The trees here are glorious – pines everywhere, wisteria in April blooming in the wild, crepe myrtle in vivid fuchsia and pale pastels just now. It’s hot. Average days are in the 90s and one can almost swim in the humidity. A long growing season brought daffodils in February, while I just set my second planting of pole beans. I’ve been graced by many a critter – my welcome basket was in the form of a 10-inch turtle on my front steps. I see many toads, frogs, and praying mantises. The hawk that sits in my front tree visits regularly; as do so many species of birds that I hear and see living within the forest in my backyard. In a Dorothy moment, I would say to Toto: “We are definitely not in Kansas (Chicago) anymore.” Being in this location with so much nature around me is a balm down deep. Yet […]

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Getting in Sync with the Treasure of Elul by Rabbi Ora Weiss

Rosh Chodesh Elul, 5779 By Rabbi Ora Weiss Restorative Judaism Boston, MA One of the great gifts of Judaism is its exquisite ability to teach us to tune in and use the energy of each month. The energy of Elul offers us unique support. But, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page when we speak of energy – so, a short explanation: Everything – and I mean everything – is energy. Just in different forms, and different frequencies. When I say frequency, it is that everything is vibrating at different rates. The different forms of energy include matter – such as the earth (remember E=mc2? – matter is just densed-down energy), light, humans and thoughts. Time itself is not homogeneous, but rather flows with different qualities of energy, different frequencies, at different times. Judaism recognizes that each month has different energies and qualities. The Bnei Yissaschar notes that chodesh – month – can be understood as chidush – renewal, (or, even entirely new!) That is, something new comes into being with each month, different flows of energy from God given to us to affect change and growth. Elul has a very special energy: it gifts us with a […]

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Eikev and the Seven Species | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Sarah Rockford, JOFEE Fellow Cohort 4, Maine Jewish Food Network at Colby College Center for Small Town Jewish Life – Waterville, ME Parshat Eikev Fourteen years ago I read from parshat Eikev as a bat mitzvah. As I stood on the bimah and chanted my way through the aliyot, I reflected briefly that the eleventh-hour cramming I’d done over the past hours seemed to be paying off, but reading the final aliyah my concentration waivered, and I lost my place in the scroll. I continued to chant the Hebrew words I’d memorized while theatrically moving the lost yad along the rows of letters on the parchment. When I ran out of words in my head I stopped chanting and shot a desperate look at the rabbi—hoping he would reorient me so I could finish the portion. Our eyes met, he smiled, and congratulated me. I’d finished the aliyah from memory without realizing, and no one was the wiser for my mistake. Relieved and full of adrenaline I started to cry as the congregation began to sing Siman Tov U’Mazal Tov. I believe everyone thought I was having a profound spiritual moment, but these were tears of relief. I was just happy the […]

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Summer and wilderness and complaining

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; […]

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Summer Feature – Teva Educators: “Where are they now?”

As we begin approaching Teva’s 25th Anniversary, we will be spending the summer months featuring former Teva Educators who were once Teva students. They are from different Teva seasons and have different stories, experiences and memories. Enjoy the walk down memory lane with us! Neshama Sonnenschein came to Teva as a student with Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan in the 4th grade. She returned as a Teva educator for the Fall 2017 and 2018 seasons and is currently the Teva Education Coordinator. Neshama, left, as the worm during Resource Revolution What do you remember about Teva as a student? Which moments/memories/stories stand out? I have a few memories that stand out to me from being a Teva Kid. The first is that I took a packet of butter one morning and realized that I didn’t like it, so I went to an educator and asked what to do with it. They patiently, and without judgement answered that the butter can be scraped off from the packaging and put into the psolet bucket and the packing could go in the trash. I remember thinking that my question and action had value, even if I was adding to our psolet for that meal. The […]

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Harvesting and Baking our Heritage | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Hannah Fine – Hazon Detroit Parshat Shelach In parshat Shelach, Moses sent twelve spies to scout out the land of Canaan and report back to the Israelites. All of the spies returned with the same objective report. It was a land of milk and honey brimming with fruit and sustenance. There were grapes, and figs, and pomegranates which they even brought back to show Moses and the Israelites. The spies also reported that the inhabitants of the land were mighty and intimidating. While all twelve spies saw the same land and shared the same observations, they were split between two opposing conclusions. Ten of the spies were convinced that the formidability of the inhabitants meant certain demise for the Israelites. Doom was a foregone conclusion so it was not even worth trying. The other two spies, Caleb and Joshua, had a different interpretation. They were confident that, despite the strength of the peoples and societies in Canaan, the Israelites could overcome it. Caleb and Joshua contended that the greatness of the Promised Land was worth the challenge.  At Hazon Detroit, we are working to overcome a formidable structure that exists in our land: the lopsided nature Michigan’s grain industry. […]

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New Jewish spaces, community, and the power of colocation

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. […]

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