Topic: Spirituality

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. […]

Continue Reading

When It Rains It Pours | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Ryan Kaplan, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta Parshat Chukat “Moses made a copper serpent and mounted it on a standard; and when anyone was bitten by a serpent, they would look at the copper serpent and recover.” Numbers 21:9 As I write this post, I sit in my office in Atlanta with the threat of rain clouds to my left and blueberry waffles, coffee, and a coworker’s copy of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) to my right. Georgia’s summer has been very wet thus far, and the promise of the coming downpour outside my window sets a looming melancholic tone for this week’s cinematic Torah portion: Chukat (Numbers 19:1-22:1). Much happens in the chapters of Chukat. In the interest of brevity: The wandering Israelites are taught in “the ways of the red heifer” (that is to say, they’re told how to purify themselves after coming into contact with a human corpse); Miriam dies and water becomes scarce; Moses and Aaron fall out of G-d’s good graces after striking a rock in search of water instead of speaking to it; Aaron follows Miriam in death and a 30 day period of mourning begins (up from the normal 7 days of Shiva); a […]

Continue Reading
Now what? | photo: Lomography

How to Build a Community in Two Not-So-Easy Steps: A Lesson from Shelach | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Chelsea Stephens – Hazon – Teva Parshat Shelach When we pulled up, the gate was locked. We didn’t have anyone’s number. We didn’t really know if we were in the right spot. Luckily though — for me and the two co-workers (and best friends) I pulled up with — there were no Nephilim in the distance, or enemy armies in the hills. Still, as we arrived for our first day on the job as summer garden specialists at Camp Twelve Trails, I felt a bit like the twelve spies sent by Moses to scout the Land of Israel. Wait, like who? Ok – so to recap this week’s Torah portion (Shelach), Moses sends twelve scouts into Israel. Forty days later, they come back with two conflicting reports: The land is fertile and beautiful, BUT …  It’s inhabited by Nephalim — the bastard children of antediluvian human-angel mating. How exciting! (bet you don’t remember that story from Sunday school)  As I first looked out over the camps fields and untended gardens, I felt similar conflict. I was at once scared to be leaving my home for the summer, apprehensive about the work to be done, but excited at the potential, and enlivened by […]

Continue Reading

Calling the Congregation – D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Jacob Weiss – Hazon at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center Parashat Beha’alotcha “Make thee two trumpets of silver; of beaten work shalt thou make them; and they shall be unto thee for the calling of the congregation… And when they shall blow with them, all the congregation shall gather themselves unto thee at the door of the tent of meeting.” Bamidbar perek yud, pasuk bet (Numbers 10:2) I recently recalled to a friend— just after our festival of Shavuot — that I had now been in attendance at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center for all three of the Shalosh Regalim, which are the three main pilgrimage festivals. Shavuot, Passover, and Sukkot all took on very different energies at Isabella Freedman. There remained a constant, though: the spirit, joy, and sheer heart that was poured into those festivals by everyone who attended, and by everyone who worked so tirelessly to make those retreat and community gatherings manifest. An incredible sense of community occurs during Jewish holiday retreats at Isabella Freedman, where I am currently a JOFEE Fellow. After spending the seven weeks of the Omer preparing ourselves, the Jewish people traditionally celebrate the festival of Shavuot to commemorate the receiving of […]

Continue Reading

Walking Behind Kindess: Parashat Naso | D’Varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Jaclyn Kellner – Coastal Roots Farm; Encinitas, CA “I’d like to go to the fields and glean among the ears of grain behind someone who may show me kindness.” This statement, from Ruth to Naomi in the Book of Ruth, holds so many aspects of what a Jewish Community Farm can provide. This week’s parsha, Naso, spells out the different functions distinct groups and structures had while traveling in the desert. Naso begins by taking census of and detailing the specific duties assigned to each family line of Levites and ends by listing each tribe’s offering for the inauguration of the alter in the Mishkan. This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of co-organizing a Shavuot Festival at Coastal Roots Farm. Over 300 people attended, of all ages, both Jewish and non-Jewish. It was incredible to see an event have such strong Jewish content and influence while remaining a welcoming and accessible festival to all. The festival focused on exploring the story of Ruth and on Shavuot’s agricultural roots celebrating the start of the summer harvest. Participants danced to live klezmer music; learned how to make cheese and tend to their tomato plants; and painted, created, and wore exquisite flower crowns in celebration of the […]

Continue Reading

Old Stones, New Ripples – Reflections on the Close of JOFEE Fellowship Cohort 1 | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Yoshi Silverstein – JOFEE Fellowship Director May 18th, 2017 | 22nd Iyar 5777 | 37th day of the omer | gevurah she’b’yesod 16 Organizations. 17 Fellows. Over 500 programs. An estimated 37,000 participants in Jewish Outdoor, Food, Farming & Environmental Education (JOFEE) programs across the country. These are some of the incredible numbers emerging as we look back at our first JOFEE Fellowship cohort, who completed their closing seminar and siyum last week at our sister JOFEE organization, the Pearlstone Center outside Baltimore, MD. Behind those numbers are thousands of people encountering – many for the first time – the incredible power of a Jewish tradition steeped in deep cultural and spiritual connection with the earth, with place, with human communities and our surrounding ecosystems, with our food, and with each other.  A Jewish tradition that recognizes both the limits and abundance of the resources our home planet provides for us. A tradition that says this world is amazing – there is so much magnificence – and yet we have work to do – not to complete by ourselves, but neither to desist from doing our part. And wow did our JOFEE Fellows do their part! Here are a […]

Continue Reading

This Passover, Take Action for the Climate – D’Varim Hamakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Rachel Aronson – JOFEE / Sustainability and Community Engagement Fellow, Hazon  Jews across the world this week commemorated leaving Egypt to become free people for the holiday of Passover. Friends and family sit around the table together for the seder, celebrating freedom with comfy pillows to recline on and lots of kosher wine. Unfortunately, Passover can also represent something else: the holiday of waste. Those who keep kosher for Pesach (Passover) deep-clean our kitchens before the holiday, rooting out bread, tortillas, muffins, crackers, and every other kind of chametz (leavened or yeasted products) that’s sitting around the house. And to ensure that everything is kosher, we switch out our regular sets of dishes with a special set of only-for-Passover dishes. But who wants to keep an extra set of dishes around the house? It takes up storage space. It’s inconvenient. Understandably, many of us – out of convenience, or out of necessity – use disposable plates, cutlery, cups, and more. Ironically, many of us end up celebrating this holiday of freedom and liberation with trash bags full of styrofoam. Thankfully, Passover is also a holiday that reminds us of our ability to make change — as individuals and as a society. Nowhere is […]

Continue Reading

Returning Home – D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Nicole Cruz, Peninsula JCC – Bay Area, CA Parshat Vayishlach Editor’s Note: Welcome to D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog! Most weeks throughout the year, you’ll be hearing from the JOFEE Fellows: reflections on their experiences, successful programs they’ve planned and implemented, gleanings from the field, and connections to the weekly Torah portion and what they’ve learned from their experiences with place in their host communities for the year. Views expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily represent Hazon. Be sure to check back weekly!  P.S. Interested in being or hosting a JOFEE Fellow? Applications for prospective fellows will continue to be reviewed as positions are available. JOFEE Fellows Nicole Cruz and Michael Farade complete the high ropes course during the Outward Bound portion of the JOFEE training in May 2016; Photo Josh Kleymeyer This week’s Torah portion, Vayishlach, centers on Jacob’s return to the Holy Land and his encounter with his estranged brother Esau who he has not seen in over 20 years. The night prior to their meeting, Jacob wrestles with a ‘man’ until day break. The next morning, battered from his nighttime confrontation, Jacob and Esau meet and peacefully part ways. While this Torah portion contains many important themes […]

Continue Reading

Prayer in Action: Upholding our Covenant for a Brighter Future – D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Daniella Aboody, Wilderness Torah – Berkeley, CA Parshat Chayyei Sarah Editor’s Note: Welcome to D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog! Most weeks throughout the year, you’ll be hearing from the JOFEE Fellows: reflections on their experiences, successful programs they’ve planned and implemented, gleanings from the field, and connections to the weekly Torah portion and what they’ve learned from their experiences with place in their host communities for the year. Views expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily represent Hazon. Be sure to check back weekly!  P.S. Interested in being or hosting a JOFEE Fellow? Applications for prospective fellows will continue to be reviewed as positions are available. The Torah portion for this week, Chayyei Sarah, begins with the death of our matriarch Sarah. We see Abraham mourn the loss of his beloved, and then immediately take action by purchasing her burial grounds—the cave of Machpela—and then sending his servant to go find a wife for their son, Isaac. Abraham says goodbye to her in an honorable way, and then makes moves to follow through on the covenant that God has made with him and Sarah—the promise of land and descendants. God makes this promise on several occasions, but only now, once Sarah has passed, […]

Continue Reading

What’s Mine is Yours, and What’s Yours is Yours – D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Michael Fraade, Jewish Community of Louisville – Louisville, KY Parshat Vayera Editor’s Note: Welcome to D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog! Most weeks throughout the year, you’ll be hearing from the JOFEE Fellows: reflections on their experiences, successful programs they’ve planned and implemented, gleanings from the field, and connections to the weekly Torah portion and what they’ve learned from their experiences with place in their host communities for the year. Views expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily represent Hazon. Be sure to check back weekly!  P.S. Interested in being or hosting a JOFEE Fellow? Applications for cohort two are now open for both prospective fellows and prospective host institutions and will continue to be reviewed as positions are available. Parashat Vayera opens with Abraham rushing to greet three guests who appear near his tent while he is sitting under a terebinth. “My lords,” he insists, “Let a little water be brought; bathe your feet and recline under the tree.  And let me fetch a morsel of bread that you may refresh yourselves.” He and Sarah prepare bread, milk, and a freshly slaughtered calf for their guests, who soon reveal themselves as angels and inform Abraham that Sarah will soon give birth […]

Continue Reading