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Topic: Tzedek/Justice

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Purim is True

Friends, What is Purim? And Have We All Gone Mad? Purim is everywhere. A masquerade. A feast. A time of drinking and debauchery. Why? The unbridled joy of early spring? Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die? G!d…not mentioned once. G!d’s deafening absence in our first story of Exile. How do we survive in the Diaspora? Well…no one is coming to rescue us. We must keep faith in the darkness. And accept that empire persists. We reckon again with old, old hatreds. Amalek attacks. Grave danger, violence, evil surrounds us. Will salvation come? Purim is everywhere.   Before starting to read the megillah (Book of Esther/Purim story) to the kids at dinner last night, I first read the Torah verses connected with Purim: “Amalek came and battled Israel…G!d maintains a war against Amalek, from generation to generation” (Exodus 17:8 and 17:16). Our son, Shama (12 years old), asked “Where is Amalek now?” Well, one particular dictator comes to mind, but it’s more complicated than that. Yes, Purim is real. In every generation there are those who rise up to destroy us. War rages in Ukraine; people need help. Our Hakhel Co-Directors, Rabbi Aharon Ariel Lavi and Michal […]

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Support our Partners in Ukraine

Friends, “War is a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.”  – Thomas Mann We are heartbroken and outraged as Putin’s merciless war on Ukraine continues. We will not be silent, and we will do all we can to support our partners impacted on the ground. At Hazon and Hakhel, we have a three-part strategy in responding to this crisis: Local Leadership: Ukrainian leaders know their landscape and their needs. We are following the lead of Hakhel community leaders inside Ukraine and local rabbis working with refugees on the borders. Collaboration & Partnership: We are partnering with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the European Council of Jewish Communities, Reut, the Jewish Peoplehood Coalition, and more, coordinating our collective crisis response efforts. Global Response: We can all do something to help. The situation is rapidly evolving, both in terms of needs and solutions, all of which require resources and support. Sometimes our Ukrainian partners need volunteers, sometimes they need equipment, and throughout the process they need financial resources. Here are just a few examples of what this strategy looks like on the ground: Following up on our weekly meeting with our Ukrainian partners, we received the list of needs from the Lvov […]

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We Are One: Tu B’Shvat and MLK, Sustainability & Justice

Friends, We find ourselves immersed in another dark pandemic winter, a reality we could not have fathomed two years ago. And as the pandemic drags on, our social fabric continues to fray, while the climate crisis continues unabated. Then, into this moment comes the Texas synagogue hostage incident, thankfully unfolding without any hostage injuries or deaths, yet still traumatic for all involved, and for Jewish communities – and our allies – everywhere. It is difficult to avoid feeling overwhelmed and exhausted amidst times like these. Last night, we held an online event with hundreds of people from across the country, entitled We Are One: An Environmental Justice Tu B’Shvat Seder, honoring Tu B’Shvat– the New Year for the Trees – and Martin Luther King Jr Day, our American prophet of racial justice, civil rights, and nonviolent civil disobedience. During our seder, Janna Siller, Adamah Farm Director & Advocacy Coordinator, spoke of Tu B’Shvat as a deep accounting of our relationship with the Trees and with the Earth. MLK Day presents a similar obligation, to undertake a deep accounting of our society.  Such an accounting is called cheshbon hanefesh in Hebrew, an accounting of the soul. Tu B’Shvat demands a new year’s accounting […]

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COP26: Hope & Despair

Friends, I recently returned from COP26 – the United Nations Conference on Climate Change – and it was an unforgettable experience. The number of people, events, issues, spaces…it was truly one of the most complex, multifaceted, and profound events I’ve ever seen. Leaders and activists from across the globe, dozens of languages, a beautiful tapestry of faith communities  – negotiating, teaching, learning, and sharing – trying to turn the tide towards a sustainable future. Join us this Sunday, November 21st, 8pm ET, as we ask “Now What? A Post-COP26 Conversation with Elders.” Together we will take stock: what happened in Glasgow, where does that leave us, and where do we go from here? We will learn from our Elders  – Ruth Messinger and Rabbi Arthur Waskow  – and break out into small group discussions lead by an amazing cadre of Jewish environmental leaders. If ever there was a need for a movement-wide town hall, this is it. Please join us!  Throughout my journey, and since my return, I have been surprised to feel… hope. It started just before I left, when I saw this beautiful rainbow in the sky above Pearlstone: But hope is hard to come by these days. Leading […]

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Climate Action NOW with Hazon & Dayenu

Friends, Hazon works alongside many strong partners across the Jewish world and beyond, and moving forward we are honored to feature our allies as guest writers for our newsletter. To start off this partnership series, Rabbi Jennie Rosenn introduces Dayenu and the critically important role we can all play in fighting for strong climate action now!  Jakir Manela CEO, Hazon After more than 20 years working as a rabbi mobilizing the American Jewish community around issues of social, economic, and racial justice issues, I have come to understand the climate crisis as the existential crisis of our time. And at its core, it is a question of equity and justice – even as climate change affects everyone, historically marginalized communities bear the brunt of its impacts. We launched Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Action 18 months ago, to help build a multi-generational movement of American Jews confronting the climate crisis with spiritual audacity and bold political action. We mobilize Jewish support for climate solutions, build collective power, and raise up a spiritual, religious, and moral voice in the national and global climate movements. A growing grassroots network and diverse partner organizations are joining Dayenu campaigns to advance comprehensive climate policy, leverage communal power in key moments, press candidates and elected […]

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Does Jewish tradition support my politics? (3 of 7)

Thursday, July 29, 2021 | 20 Av 5781   Dear All, There was the first time I went on this thing called Facebook. It asked my religion, so I wrote “Manchester United.” It asked my politics, so I wrote “Jewish.” We can talk some other time about commitment to Manchester United as an ancient familial tribal religion.  But in this email, I want to reflect a little about Jewish tradition and politics. Is Jewish tradition conservative? Well, yes. It’s a slow-moving tradition, it’s generally against change, its strong instinct is: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Is Jewish tradition moderate? Yes, strongly it is. It’s a very on the one hand / on the other hand tradition, almost definitionally so. Well then, is it liberal? Yes, of course it is, in a few senses of the word. It’s strongly open to new ideas. And Jewish thinking has been deeply interwoven with the evolution of civil liberties, democracy, the rights of the individual, and free enterprise.  Is it radical? Yes, strongly so. The notion that every human being is made in the image of (this unimaginably powerful) G!d –  is in and of itself, in a fundamentally unequal world, incredibly […]

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Getting down to bedrock

Tuesday, May 25, 2021 | 14 Sivan 5781   Dear All, Many of the arguments that divide contemporary Jewish life come down to different readings of what it means to be Jewish. I want to offer some of my own thoughts on this. Before I do, let me preface these remarks with the reminder that Hazon, institutionally, doesn’t take “positions” on things. You can support Hazon, or work for Hazon, or attend any of our programs, whether you agree with what I write here, or disagree, or for that matter are baffled by what I write. In these emails I am thinking through some of the things that animate my own work, and sometimes providing context for things we do or don’t do, but you’re entirely free to disagree with anything I write. I strive to respond politely and thoughtfully to every person who replies to one of these emails, and I know from that experience that the range of views on a list as long as Hazon’s is considerable. Which is as it should be. And so to our current struggles. It may be that to be Jewish is to (a) strive never to distinguish between one human being […]

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Food Rescue Hero: Darraugh Collins

After the completion of ten weeks of exposure, enlightenment, and heavy back breaking work, Tania and I find ourselves longing for our internship to continue on into 2021. By working with Hazon and other partner organizations and leaders in the community, we have become a part of a community of compassion — centering the needs of hundreds above their own. In this work across the city of Detroit, we’ve met individuals who consistently leave us in awe with their unwavering dedication to food rescue. This week we want to highlight the gift of Darraugh Collins. Despite only residing in Detroit for several years, she has made an enormous impact on the community. Darraugh was not always a leader in the work of food rescue; after attending a banquet at her fiance’s hotel in St. Louis, she noticed the immense amount of leftover food. She was shocked that it was all going to be thrown away. This made her wonder: How many people had she passed on the street who could have benefitted from this food? How many hotels and businesses in the area also disposed of surplus food? It soon became clear to Darraugh what the next step must be: […]

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Hazon Detroit: Tragic Hope & Meaningful Action

by Rebecca Levy   Dear Friends, Since the summer, we have had the incredible fortune of having six wonderful interns supporting and enriching our work. Much gratitude to Repair the World Serve the Moment, the Applebaum Internship Program, JOIN, and the Hornstein Program For Jewish Professional Leadership at Brandeis University. One of these interns, Rebecca Levy, has written the piece below and we are thrilled to be able to share her words with you. In loving community, Wren, Rabbi Nate, Marla, and Hannah   When sitting in shul, my favorite part of most sermons is the speaker’s call to action, which typically comes towards the end. Yes, it is important to learn and the lessons that we draw from the Torah and from life are beneficial, but as one of my English-teachers always said, “so what – who cares?” – English-teacher code for “why is this important and what can we take away from it?” Especially in days like these, when the feeling of loss and uncertainty can be overwhelming, I like to know what I can do moving forward. Do not get me wrong, I love to learn and learning is necessary if you want to act meaningfully, but […]

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Join Hazon in Getting Out The Vote!

By Becky O’Brien and Janna Siller   “The opposite of good is not evil; the opposite of good is indifference. In a free society where terrible wrongs exist, some are guilty, but all are responsible.” These words are from the same sage, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel Z”L, who taught us to wake up in the morning and feel the radical amazement of being alive, to seek happiness through wonder. It is hard to know which is more elusive: wonder or a means for taking action against terrible wrongs this high holiday season. If we peek around the thick weeds that obscure, both are available to us, even now. Perhaps we can even combine the two, as Heschel described when he spoke of his march from Selma to Montgomery with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “It felt like my legs were praying.” So, what can you do?  VOTE! Go to the National Association of Secretaries of State’s “Can I Vote?” page, or do an internet search for “[your county] voter registration,” to ensure that your voter status is what you think it is and what you want it to be. Update if needed.  Ballot and election options and details vary across […]

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Food, then and now

Thursday, August 6, 2020 | 16 Av 5780 Dear All, This week’s sidra, Eikev, is the week that introduced into English (via the King James version)  “man does not live by bread alone” and “a land flowing with milk and honey.”  It’s the week that lists the seven species – shivat haminim – that are indigenous to the land of Israel, which Bill Slott points out to me every few years as we ride from Jerusalem to Ashkelon on the first day of the Arava Institute Hazon Israel Ride. And it includes the second paragraph of the shm’a, linking our behavior to the climate of the world. Food is a recurring motif. Perhaps that was why Ruby Rivlin, President of Israel, chose this week to spend the day helping Leket pack food for people in need. As Joe Gitler subsequently wrote, President Rivlin wasn’t just doing a photo-op. He’s seriously engaged by the topic and thinking hard – and striving to put the weight of his office – behind new ways to help get food to people who are food insecure. But you don’t have to be President of Israel to make a difference. “Pivot” and “swivel” are words-of-this-year, and they encapsulate […]

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Out of the Crash

Dear Friends, R’ Benay Lappe, who runs SVARA queer yeshiva in Chicago, teaches what she calls her “crash theory.” Every person and every group has a narrative that defines us and our beliefs, she says. This is called a “master story.” At some point, however, ultimately and inevitably, every master story will one day come crumbling down. On a personal level, this might be a job loss, a divorce, or a tragedy of some sort. On a Jewish communal level, the prototypical “crash moment” was the destruction of the Second Temple, which we will mourn as a community nine days from tonight, on Tisha B’Av. You see, when the Second Temple crashed in 70 CE, the Israelites’ entire way of life crashed with it. For our ancient ancestors, the Temple was their center of peoplehood and practice. It was where they made pilgrimage three times a year, where they spiritually and physically oriented, and where God’s presence – they believed – dwelt most close and most high. When the Temple was destroyed, their entire system was in shambles and the future of Israelite religion was unclear at best. So what does one do when their master story is in peril? […]

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Testimony: Proposed Revised Supplemental Finding for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and Results of the Residual Risk and Technology Review

On March 18, 2019, Dr. Mirele B. Goldsmith testified at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on behalf of the Jewish Climate Action Network for stronger mercury standards. Below are her remarks. My name is Dr. Mirele B. Goldsmith. I am a member of Congregation Adat Shalom in Bethesda, MD, a leader of Jewish Climate Action Network, and an environmental psychologist. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify. In this time of deep division in our country, I’m proud to be here with a group of 20 leaders of different faiths who will testify today.   We have our differences, but when it comes to the mercury rule we all agree that it would be immoral to weaken the current life-saving standards. The current leadership of the EPA claims that the cost of this rule is not worth the benefits. What are those benefits? According to the EPA itself, the current mercury pollution standards avoid up to 11,000 premature deaths, along with heart attacks, asthma attacks and brain damage to infants and children exposed to mercury in the womb. In one of the most famous lines in the Talmud our ancient rabbis also discuss cost-benefit analysis, but their conclusion is […]

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Listen Ya’ll! | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Alex Voynow, Jewish Farm School  Parshat Haazinu [NOTE: Applications for the next JOFEE Fellowship cohort are open now through October 5! Apply today!] In Ha’azinu, Moses sees the Israelites for who they are: humans, scarred by 40 years of impatient wandering and in no mood to listen obediently. Moses is 120 years old and holds so much wisdom; this is the last day before his death, and he has some things to say. He has the story of his life to tell, which in his epic personal union with the Israelite people is also the story of God. He needs them to understand, like the tender, concerned patriarch that he is, how to live in God’s favor so they can blossom into the promised land and not mess up this covenant (fast-forward: oops).   What he has to say is so important that he does something that really resonates with me. Moses speaks language that heaven and earth themselves will understand, and in a language that will more likely move the people: in song. He launches into a 48-verse poem doing his damnedest to sum up his life’s spiritual learnings. I’m not going to get into it because it’s densely […]

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Indigenous Rights and Reconciliation | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Jared Kaminsky, Shoresh Parshat Shoftim The parsha of the week is Shoftim, which means Judges. As Moses nears the end of his life, he wants to ensure there is a system of governance in society. Shoftim gives detailed ordinances on many topics of law, including appointing judges, laws that kings should follow, creating cities of refuge when crimes are committed, and the rules of war. For example, the parsha states that appointed judges are forbidden from taking bribes and there must be two credible witnesses for a conviction. Another ordinance demands that kings must not have too many horses and must always carry around two Torah scrolls to remind them that G-D is above them. The Torah even provides a city of refuge for those who accidentally murdered someone to live in safety! While many of these laws do not apply to modern society, there are some important insights into preventing corruption and treatment of humankind that we can still learn from. Moses recognized that every generation has the obligation to critically examine and apply the laws of the Torah. As Jews we should examine the laws that govern the places we live and work to protect the rights of […]

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