Maccabiah: U.S. Wins Five Basketball Medals

MaccabiUSA: Basketball Open Men's &emdash; BASOMBasketball Open Mens

— by Amir Shoam

The U.S. won five medals — four golds and one silver — in the Maccabiah basketball tournaments last week. The open men’s team won the gold after beating Argentina 87-76. Daniel Robin scored 25 points for the winners, and Philadelphia-born Bryan Cohen added 14. The win marked a great year for Head Coach and Former Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Brad Greenberg, who also won the Israeli championship this year with Maccabi Haifa, and will coach Hapoel Jerusalem in the coming season. “It was an outstanding tournament, and our U.S. open team was really special,” he said to the Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

It was an honor to coach some of the finest young men I have ever been around: hard working, unselfish, intelligent and emotionally mature. Lasting friendships were formed, and a love for Israel was enhanced. Next year in Jerusalem — for me it’s true!

More after the jump.

MaccabiUSA: Basketball Open Women's &emdash; BASOWBasketball Open Womens

In the open women’s tournament final, the U.S. defeated Israel 72-56. Jacqui Kalin finished with 22 points, including 6 three-pointers, 7 assists and 6 rebounds. Alyssa Baron contributed 16 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists. Next year, Kalin will play professionally in Israel with S.A. Ramat Hasharon. Head Coach Jamie Shadian said:

The Games as a whole were a once in a lifetime experience. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach players who are unbelievable people as well as talented athletes. Sharing such an emotional and inspirational month with this team will remain one of the most special experiences of my life.

The under-18 men’s team also beat Israel in the game for the gold medal, 78-62. The two standouts of the final game were Spencer Weisz (19 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists) and Anthony Firkser (19 points, 7 rebounds, 5 steals). Head Coach Jamie Chadwin said:

The trip was tremendous. Not only for the basketball competition but for the cultural, emotional connection we all felt. The young men on the Youth Team were special in the way the competed, learned, and represented their country.

The under-18 women’s team cruised to the gold medal, beating Canada 77-26 (!) in the final game. Tournament MVP Drew Edelman, who will play for the University of Southern California in the coming season, scored 30 points and added 14 rebounds. Shelby Zucker finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds. “I could not be more proud of the team,” said Head Coach Sherry Levin.

Our dominant performance was a product of their hard work, dedication and unselfish team work. On the court it, was amazing to see them come together and execute the game plan against Australia, Canada and Israel. Off the court, we all experienced the wonders of Israel along with the meaningful connections to our heritage, which made the Maccabiah Games a lifetime experience to remember.

MaccabiUSA: Basketball Juniors Boy's &emdash; BASJBasketball Juniors Boys

The under-16 boys team won the silver medal after losing to Israel in the final. The team was led in scoring throughout the tournament by Spencer Freedman, Corey Sherman and, specifically in the final game, Jacob Orender. Jordan Baum led a long list of assist providers. Sam Fieldman and Michael Hayon were the team’s top rebounders. Orender was also the team’s best defensive player.

“It was an awesome and surreal opportunity to participate in the 19th Maccabiah,” said Head Coach Barry Kleiman. “The opportunity for my wife and me to visit Israel for the first time while representing the USA as a coach was beyond a life’s dream.”

As a competitor, one can never be “happy” with a silver medal, but as a coach of many years and games, one learns that there is always a team at the end of a game with fewer points than the other, and in this case that was our team.

I commend the Israeli team for their fabulous effort and great sportsmanship; their win had nothing to do with luck. I commend our team for refusing to give in and continuing to compete until the final buzzer.

Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve never lost a game, I just ran out of time.” We simply ran out of time that day, and remain grateful for the opportunity we had to compete.

Occasional PJVoice Contributor Arrested At White House Protest

— by Rabbi Arthur Waskov

Along with 14 other religious folks, clergy and committed “laity,” I was arrested for standing at the White House with signs and songs, reciting the names of more than one hundred people who had been killed by one result of the climate crisis — Superstorm Sandy.

Among those arrested alongside me were Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, who teaches on social justice at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and is a member of The Shalom Center’s Board; Lynne Iser, a member of the Board of Isabella Freedman retreat center; and Freyda Black, a cantor, farmer, and member of P’nai Or Fellowship in Philadelphia.

More after the jump.
We were calling on the President to act swiftly to heal our Mother Earth from the climate crisis, from the plagues that modern Pharaohs — Big Oil, Big Coal, Unnatural Gas — have brought upon us.

As you see on the faces of two of us actually in the prison wagon after our arrests, the arrest itself — paradoxically — felt like a step into freedom, a continuation of, rather than a break from, both our joy in singing and our sorrow at the deaths we had recited. What is the Freedom of Passover? Freedom to grieve our wounds, Freedom to celebrate our covenant for action with YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh, the Holy One who is the interbreathing of all life.

These are the Ten Plagues I recited, and below them, “Ten Healings” that accompanied the blessing of our Globe.

Ten Plagues

  1. Undrinkable water poisoned by fracking. (Sorrow!)
  2. Asthma: Lungs suffering from coal dust and gasoline fumes. (Sorrow!)
  3. Suffering and death for fish, birds, vegetation, and human beings from the oil upheaval in the Gulf of Mexico. (Sorrow!)
  4. Smashed mountains and dead coal-miners in the lovely hills of West Virginia. (Sorrow!)
  5. Unheard-of droughts in Africa, setting off hunger, starvation, civil wars and genocide. (Sorrow!)
  6. Drought in Russia, setting off peat-bog fires and scarcity of wheat. (Sorrow!)
  7. Summer-long intense heat wave in Europe, killing thousands of elders. (Sorrow!)
  8. Unheard-of floods in Pakistan, putting one-fifth of the country under water. (Sorrow!)
  9. Superstorm Sandy, killing hundreds in Haiti and America. (Sorrow!)
  10. Years of drought and fires in Australia. (Sorrow!)
  11. Parched corn fields and dead crops in the US corn-belt. (Sorrow!)

Ten Healings

  1. Creating organic farms in countrysides and cities. (L’chayyim, To life!)
  2. Wind-based energy: Purchasing home & company electric power from wind-based suppliers. (L’chayyim, To life!)
  3. Hybrid or electric cars. Families buy them; convince cities, government agencies, & businesses to switch their auto fleets. (L’chayyim, To life!)
  4. Use public transportation. (L’chayyim, To life!)
  5. Family & congregational education/ action to heal the Earth: At Bat/Bar Mitzvah time and teen-age baptisms/ confirmations, “turning hearts of children and parents to each other, lest the Earth be utterly destroyed” (Quote from last passage of Malachi, last of the classical Hebrew Prophets). (L’chayyim, To life!)
  6. Vigils, picketing, civil disobedience at sites of mountain destruction by coal companies. (L’chayyim, To life!)
  7. Prevent the Tar Sands Pipeline. (L’chayyim, To life!)
  8. End fracking: Insist on moratoriums or prohibitions. (L’chayyim, To life!)
  9. Divestment by colleges, pension funds, religious communities, etc from investment in fossil-fuel companies, shifting investment to renewable, sustainable energy. (L’chayyim, To life!)
  10. Carbon pricing: Insisting that Members of Congress put prices on carbon-fuel production and pay dividends from the incoming fees to American families. (L’chayyim, To life!)

Hazon and Isabella Freedman Announce Merger

New York City, NY / Falls Village, CT
Monday, December 3, 2012 / 19 Kislev 5773

The boards of Hazon and the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center are today announcing the anticipated merger of the two well-respected Jewish non-profits.  Both organizations are rooted in the New York area; have national impact; are known for providing transformative experiences; and in particular play a leading role in the Jewish Food Movement and Jewish environmental movement.

More after the jump.
Board chairs Richard Dale (of Hazon) and Mark Russo (of Isabella Freedman) said, in a joint statement,

we’re proud of the accomplishments of each of our organizations, and we hope and intend that the merger will enable the combined entity to grow more strongly, to expand and enrich its programming, and to have a more significant human and communal impact, than either could by itself.

David Weisberg, currently the Executive Director of Isabella Freedman, and the CEO of the new organization, said,

People love being at the Isabella Freedman campus, and many find a spiritual home-away-from-home here, but we also wanted to have a more direct relationship with people in New York City and across the country. Meanwhile Hazon has had a huge impact on people’s lives, has been at the forefront of re-connecting American Jews with the natural world, but has lacked its own physical base. The merger is intended to bring more people to the existing Freedman site, and to enable us together to have a greater impact across the country. We’re excited that the merged entity will have a wide range of programs, great staff and volunteers in California, Colorado and elsewhere, and the opportunity to grow strongly in the future.

Nigel Savage, the founder of Hazon, a longtime Isabella Freedman board member, and the President of the new organization, added,

The strong growth of Hazon in the last decade is testament not only to our incredible staff, board members, volunteers, participants and funders; it’s also a reflection of the remarkable growth of the wider Jewish Food Movement and Jewish environmental movement.  Both Hazon and Freedman have become known for launching new programs that bring Jewish tradition to life in incredible ways, and we see on a daily basis that our ideas resonate with growing numbers of people. In the next decade we need to take this work to scale, so that we and our partners not only renew and strengthen Jewish life, but also enable the American Jewish community to play a distinctive role in creating a more sustainable world for all. That’s what this merger aims to achieve.

The merged organization is also expected to include the Teva Learning Alliance, which began in association with Isabella Freedman in the 1990s, but which until now has formally been a program of Surprise Lake Camp. Jordan Dale, the Executive Director of Surprise Lake, and Nili Simhai, the Director of Teva, both expressed strong support for the merger:

We’re incredibly proud of Teva, and of the impact that a growing number of Tevaniks are having around the country. We’ve worked closely with Hazon and Isabella Freedman over the last decade, and we hope and believe that the merger will enable the work of Teva and of our partners to grow in the future.

The new group will be called Hazon, will be headquartered at Falls Village, CT and New York City, and will have offices in California and Colorado. The retreat center will continue to be known as Isabella Freedman, which will be one of several “sub-brands” that are intended to grow in the future, including:

  • Adamah (the award-winning Jewish farming program),
  • Elat Chayyim (spirituality-based retreats),
  • the Jew & the Carrot (the Jewish Food Movement blog),
  • the Jewish Greening Fellowship (leadership and organizational transformation),
  • Makom Hadash (supporting second-stage non-profits),
  • Shmita Project (a multi-organization partnership to renew awareness of the shmita cycle),
  • Siach (strengthening ties between American, European and Israeli environmental and social justice leaders) and
  • Teva (focusing on environmental education for children and educators).

The chair of the new organization will be Richard Shuster, an Isabella Freedman board member for many years (and a passionate cyclist and skier). He said,

I believe in both constituent organizations, I’m impressed by David and Nigel, and I think that the opportunity-to create something that can touch people’s lives, for years to come, in powerful ways — is well-worth the challenge.

Isabella Freedman is a long-standing network agency of UJA-Federation of New York, and for the past several years, UJA-Federation has also provided various programmatic grants to Hazon. John Ruskay, Executive Vice President & CEO of UJA-Federation said,

UJA-Federation’s tagline is ‘Good Together’ and we think that Hazon and Isabella Freedman coming together and sharing each other’s strengths will have a lasting impact on the renewal of Jewish life in New York, nationally, and with deepened connections to Israel. We’re proud to have supported each organization in the past, and look forward to seeing how together they will strengthen our Jewish future.

The merger has been similarly endorsed by significant leaders in the foundation world:

Felicia Herman, of New York’s Natan Fund, a longtime supporter of Hazon, said,

Funders who support innovative young organizations have been wrestling with ‘what’s next’ for these groups.  Bikkurim’s recent Abundant Harvest report articulated some of the key issues and urged us all to think of new approaches to those struggles.  In addition to its own important programmatic work, Hazon has also always worked to address systemic issues in both the Jewish environmental sector and the innovation ecosystem, and this merger is another example of that creativity.  We need multiple approaches to strengthening the Jewish people, but each of those approaches doesn’t need to be a standalone nonprofit.

Lisa Farber Miller of Denver’s Rose Community Foundation said,

We’re proud to be a significant stakeholder in Hazon’s work in Colorado, and/but we’ve seen in general how important it is for second-stage non-profits to develop sustainable business strategies. Hazon and Freedman should be commended for getting to this point. I very much hope that the new merged entity grows and thrives.”  Dana Raucher, the Executive Director of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation concurred: “Second-stage growth requires nimbleness on the part of funders and organizations.  We applaud Hazon and Isabella Freedman for thinking creatively about their sustainability.

Similar support came from leading figures in the field. Adam Berman, who at different times directed Teva and Isabella Freedman, founded Adamah, and was a board member of Hazon for seven years, is now the founder and director of Urban Adamah, in Berkeley, CA. He said,

My own experience mirrors, in a way, that of many of the younger Adamahniks and Tevaniks, or the people who’ve done Hazon rides or retreats at Freedman. We don’t want to separate or hive off our identities; on the contrary, we want to grow as Jews and as human beings, to learn, to celebrate, to find new ways to give back.  The growth and partnership of Urban Adamah, Wilderness Torah and Hazon in the Bay Area is a good example of how we can renew Jewish life in incredibly profound ways. I’m excited for this merger, and I send love and blessings to everyone in the Hazon and Isabella Freedman families.

Merger discussions between the two organizations have been in process since the beginning of the year, and the merger is now contingent only on final due diligence, formal board authorization and the receipt of any necessary regulatory approvals.

Staff from both organizations, who have worked closely together in the past, are already planning the detailed integration of the two organizations. Over the Labor Day weekend, Hazon’s New York Ride was back at Freedman for the first time in five years; and Hazon’s sold-out Food Conference, taking place at Freedman at the end of this week, will see the first public celebrations of the merger. As David Weisberg put it,

The two organizations are like friends who’ve known each other a long time and one day realize they should get married. We already know each other and have shared values. Now that our engagement is public, we’re excited to start to weave a new enlarged Hazon that honors our history and the people who brought us here, while envisioning and creating a dynamic and exciting future.

For more information, please visit the FAQ on their websites.