Reflections on New York Terror Attack, Israel Bike Ride and Beyond

The comments below were expressed in a letter by Nigel Savage, president and CEO of Hazon, an organization dedicated to building a more sustainable world within the Jewish community and beyond.

I rode into work, as I do many days of the year, on a beautiful bike path on a beautiful day. My organization, Hazon, worked quite hard for several years to increase the number of protected bike lanes in New York City. We’re proud of that work, and I sometimes say to people, “and the statistics show that protected bike lanes reduce fatalities and injuries, both for bike riders and pedestrians ….”

But of course those statistics didn’t allow for a day like Tuesday. A few hours after I rode in, a crazy guy — but not randomly crazy, a guy with ideological method to his murderousness — mowed down a bunch of people who happened to be on the bike path at that moment. As we know, eight of them never got up. I rode home an hour later, past the police and the barricades and the camera crews. And past two little kids — wee high, 3 feet tall if that — in cute white Star Wars stormtrooper outfits. “May the force be with all of us,” I thought. [Read more…]

Kosher Locusts and More at Hazon’s Philadelphia Food Festival


Locust: the only kosher insect.

— by Ronit Treatman

Congregation Rodeph Shalom, which boasts one of the most beautiful synagogues in Philadelphia, will be the site of Hazon’s first food festival in Philadelphia on October 20.

Titled “Liberty, Food & Justice For All,” its goal is to bring hundreds of people across the Jewish community together around issues of food, sustainability and Jewish life, as well as to celebrate Philadelphia’s unique Jewish culture. I invite you to join me for my presentation about locusts, the only type of kosher insect. The more intrepid among you will have the opportunity to taste roasted, spiced locusts.

More after the jump.
Hazon is promoting this event for the community to create connection between our food choices and sustainability on one hand and Jewish identity on another.  The star of this first festival will naturally be the local Philadelphia sustainable food scene, which will be showcased through workshops, tastings, and how-to demonstrations led by Philadelphia based Jewish chefs, foodies, and activists. Participants will be taking part in interactive discussions covering food justice, green living, and Jewish food culture. Pickle making, beekeeping, and sustainable cooking using (CSA) community supported agriculture ingredients are just a few of the topics that will be covered during this day-long event. Local products and delicious, healthy food will be available for sampling and for purchase in Hazon’s Shuk, with items ranging from locally made soap to hand-crafted garden tools.

State Senator Daylin Leach (D-PA), a Philadelphia native, will be in attendance to give the keynote address on (GMO) genetically modified organism foods and labeling in Pennsylvania.  Rabbi Mordechai Liebling of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and Rebecca Frimmer, General Manager of Greensgrow Farms will be presenting as well.

The Festival will take place Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013 at Rodeph Shalom. Doors will open at 9:30 AM and activities will begin with morning services and yoga. To register visit the Festival’s website.

List College Launches Precollege Program In Jewish Social Justice

— by Aliyah Vinikoor

This summer List College will be launching JustCity, a new precollege program in Jewish social justice. In collaboration with Avodah, Ramah and USY, JustCity will offer rising high-school juniors and seniors the opportunity to deepen their Jewish identity while working on community-building projects with organizations such as Hazon, Kids Creative, and Hurricane Sandy relief agencies. Participants will live in the JTS residence halls and engage in Jewish text study with JTS faculty in the mornings. Afternoons will be devoted to service learning in the field, and evenings and weekends will be spent further exploring New York City and developing the skills necessary to transform their passion for Jewish social justice in to action.  Please visit The JustCity website for more information.

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.

Hazon Receives Grant

Will Oversee First Formal Research on Integration of Jewish Learning with Food

— by the Hazon Staff

Recognizing the growing interest among individuals and families in experiences that integrate Jewish learning with learning about food, the environment, and the outdoors, a group of national and local funders have awarded a grant to Hazon to oversee new research in this area. Funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation, Leichtag Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, UJA-Federation of New York, and Rose Community Foundation, the research will explore how participation in immersive Jewish food, environmental, and outdoor education programs influences individuals’ Jewish growth and leads to increased Jewish involvement.

More after the jump.
Nigel Savage of Hazon, America’s largest Jewish environmental organization says

More and more people, particularly young adults, express their Jewish identity through passion for building sustainable and environmentally conscious Jewish communities. We need to learn more about this phenomenon, better understand effective strategies, and determine long-term outcomes on participants. This is an exciting first step in deeply examining this relatively new and emerging space of Jewish learning and engagement.

While organizations have invested time and resources to develop and sustain these immersive educational programs, to date there has been no formal evaluation or research conducted in this field. Nor has there been a review of existing research from outside the Jewish world to inform practitioners and funders.

Among other areas of interest, the research will examine such topics as the kinds of learning that occurs in these experiences that deepens Jewish identity; to what degree these experiences influence participants to become involved in their Jewish communities; and the relationship between local and national programs.

Al Levitt, President of the Jim Joseph Foundation, says

We are excited to partner with other funders to determine how to invest the community’s attention and resources in this area. There appears to be growing interest in Jewish food, environmental, and outdoor education programs, and this research will help us better understand the learning that is taking place and identify what is working most effectively. The findings from this study will help inform future grantmaking decisions and could ultimately lead to more Jews being engaged in meaningful Jewish experiences.

Charlene Seidle, Vice President and Executive Director of the Leichtag Foundation, says

Immersive experiences in the areas of Jewish food justice, farming and environmental advocacy help align individual values and interests with substantive Jewish principles and traditions. We look forward to learning together about the impact of these experiences in order to inform our funding and program model development.

The grant announcement comes a week after Hazon and the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center announced a merger of their organizations, both national leaders in the Jewish Food Movement and Jewish environmental movement in particular. The merged organization also will include the Teva Learning Alliance, which began in association with Isabella Freedman in the 1990s. The merger builds on the success of the existing Isabella Freedman campus – a spiritual home for many — and Hazon’s track record of re-connecting American Jews with the natural world. The new entity will have a wide range of programs, staff and volunteers in California, Colorado and elsewhere, and will be positioned to have a greater impact across the country.

“Merging the organizations certainly capitalizes on the strengths of each one and combines various separate areas of expertise into a streamlined operation,” Savage adds. “This in turn will foster a broader and more in depth study that ultimately will lead to more significant learnings for the field.”

Along with reaching out to alumni and former participants of programs run by Hazon, Isabella Freedman, and Teva Learning Alliance, the study will reach out to alumni from a range of other related programs including Eden Village Camp, Urban Adamah, Wilderness Torah, Kayam Farm, and the Jewish Farm School. Their program offerings include Jewish farming programs, environmental bike rides, conferences about food and sustainability, group camping trips structured around Jewish holiday celebrations, backpacking and outdoor adventure trips, and environmental educator training fellowships.

While the exact number of participants in these programs is unknown, field leaders estimate that in 2011, as many as 2,500 individuals participated in an immersive Jewish food, environmental or outdoor education program lasting four days or more.

“Programs that integrate socially conscious living with Jewish learning are proving to be a high-potential ingredient in the mix of experiences that enable young Jews to live as global citizens in accordance with Jewish values,” said Sandy Cardin, President of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network, which includes the Schusterman Family Foundation. “We believe this research will provide a framework for understanding how such experiences can help inspire a deeper connection to Jewish life.”

The research will build upon early planning efforts being led by the Green Hevra, a network of key Jewish environmental organizations of which Hazon is a participant. The Green Hevra received a $65,000 startup grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation and Morningstar Foundation earlier this year.

Sarene Shanus, Chair of the Jewish Community Development Task Force of the Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal at UJA-Federation of New York notes, “We are pleased to embark on this research partnership, as it builds on the foundation we’ve helped to lay with the Jewish Greening Fellowship, the Jewish Farm School, and Eden Village camp as touchpoints for Jewish community and environmentalism.”

Lisa Farber Miller, Senior Program Officer of Rose Community Foundation, says

The Colorado Jewish community is seeing a sudden burgeoning of individuals and new organizations interested in being part of the Jewish Food Movement. Established Jewish institutions are realizing the importance of embracing the values of the sustainable food and environmental movements. Hazon provides pertinent educational resources, links and assists grassroots groups like the Jewish chicken coops in Denver and Boulder, and helps organizations adopt new ways of engaging their users to learn about food and the environment. The national research study, which includes a case study highlighting Denver/Boulder Hazon work, will help us better understand how we can continue to advance this movement.

For Hazon, the grant is an opportunity to further the organization’s goals of offering compelling experiences, providing thought leadership, and supporting the work of the individuals and organizations that share its vision for healthier and more sustainable independent communities in the Jewish world and beyond. The research will be conducted by an outside firm and managed by Hazon with oversight from an advisory team that includes both funders and practitioners.

“There is now a strong and expanding group of individuals and organizations that seek to create these learning opportunities,” says Savage. “The support from funders to conduct this research will ultimately help all organizations that offer Jewish food, environmental and outdoor education programs.”

The Philadelphia Tu B’Shevat Adventure


Orange Tree

— by Ronit Treatman

What do April 15th and the Shevat 15th have in common? Both are tax days! Two thousand years ago, the 15th of Shevat was when the twelve Hebrew tribes paid tithes to the Levites in Jerusalem. Tu B’Shevat, the fifteenth day of the month of Shevat, is described in the Mishnah as the New Year for Trees. During the times of the Temple, fruit tithes would be calculated beginning on Tu B’Shevat. Fruit that grew on trees after the fifteenth day of Shevat was counted for the tithes that were due the following year. These tithes supported the Levites, helped feed the poor, and paid for Tu B’Shevat festivities in Jerusalem.

Following the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans, the Jews were exiled from Israel, and tithes were no longer paid. The Jews in the Diaspora preserved the memory of Tu B’Shevat by remembering their connection to the Land of Israel. In the Jewish communities of Bukhara, Uzbekistan, and Kurdistan, Tu B’Shevat developed into the “day of eating the seven species.” The seven species are the seven fruits and grains that are listed in the Torah as special products of the Land of Israel. In the 16th century Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the famous mystic of Safed, and his students collaborated to create the Tu B’Shevat Seder. The observance of Tu B’Shevat has undergone many permutations
since that time.

How can you and your family enjoy this ancient holiday in present day Philadelphia?

Some hands-on ideas to bring your families the warming spirit of Tu B’Shevat this winter follow the jump.


Seven Species

The Longwood Gardens Seven Species Scavenger Hunt

This year, Tu B’Shevat begins on February 7th, at sunset, and extends through the daylight of February 8th. This holiday presents a great opportunity to visit Longwood Gardens. The outdoor gardens will probably be covered with snow, so the half mile long hothouse will be your main destination. The conservatory, built in 1919, resembles a crystal palace. As you step inside, you will be transported to a place where spring has already arrived. The warm air will envelop you. Your family will inhale the aroma of a garden in full bloom, see the beautiful colors of the plants, and hear the rustle of leaves and dripping of water as they explore the greenhouse. It will be fun to look for some of the seven species in the gardens. As is mentioned in Deuteronomy 8:8, the Land of Israel is described as a “land of wheat and barley, of [grape] vines, figs and pomegranates, and a land of olives for oil and [date] honey.” Here is a guide to help you find them.


Olive Tree

Grape Vines

Olives: In Biblical times, olive oil was very important for cooking, as a fuel for lamps, and for preparing soap. There is an olive tree in the Silver Garden.

Grapes: The Estate Fruit House has grape vines. In ancient times in the Land of Israel, grapes were used to make wine and vinegar. The fruit was eaten fresh off the vine. The grape leaves were used in cooking.


Figs at the Vine

Pomegranate Tree

Figs: A fig tree grows in The Estate Fruit House. Figs were eaten fresh, and used in cooking in Biblical Israel. Fig honey and alcohol were made from them.

Pomegranates: A miniature pomegranate tree (with tiny red pomegranates!) may be found in the Bonsai Display. In ancient Israel, pomegranates were used to make wine. Pomegranate juice was used as a dye. They were also a popular snack fresh off the tree.



Dates

Wheat

Barley

Dates: The wild date palm grows in the Palm House. Dates were eaten fresh or dry during Biblical times. They were made into honey. It is thought that when the Land of Israel was described as a “land flowing with milk and honey,” it meant date honey, not bees’ honey.

Wheat and Barley: Wheat was used to bake bread in ancient Israel. It was the staple of the people’s diet. Barley was used to cook porridge and barley cakes. Poor people relied on barley more than on wheat, since it was more plentiful. It was also fed to the cows and goats. Wheat and barley do not grow in the greenhouses of Longwood Gardens! I suggest planning in advance and ordering a bundle of wheat and a bundle of barley from Curious Country Creations.

You can bring these plants with you, and your family may admire them during the visit to Longwood Gardens. Then, the wheat and barley may be part of your Tu B’Shevat Seder decorations!

You can inform yourself about the plants that these fruits of the seven species come from, and admire their beauty at Longwood Gardens. After learning about all these beautiful plants by seeing, smelling, and sometimes touching them, it is time to go home and taste some of them! The way to do that is with a Tu B’Shevat feast!


Tu b’Shvat Seder

The Tu B’Shevat Seder

The first Tu B’Shevat Haggadah was called Pri Etz Hadar” or “Fruit of the Goodly Tree” in Hebrew. It was published in 1753. This Tu B’Shevat Seder was modeled on the Passover Seder. This Seder consisted of a festive meal that celebrated the Kabalistic diagram of the Tree of Life. The original purpose of the Seder was to restore G-d’s blessing by repairing and strengthening the Tree of Life. The traditional concluding blessing of the Tu B’Shevat Seder is “May all the sparks scattered by our hands, or by the hands of our ancestors, or by the sin of the first human against the fruit of the tree, be returned and included in the majestic might of the Tree of Life.” Fruits grown in Israel were served at the Seder and were related to the Four Worlds or “planes of existence” in the Kabbalah. These are Emanation, Creation, Formation, and Action, which are like the roots, trunk, branches, and leaves of a tree. Four cups of wine, symbolizing the four seasons, were also served. Participants read Biblical passages that discussed trees, sang songs about trees and nature, and danced dances inspired by trees. Almonds were important to this Seder because almond trees are the first to blossom in the springtime in Israel. The Kabbalists called this Seder the “Feast of Fruits. Turkish Jews called it “Frutikas Seder,” and referred to Tu B’Shevat as “Frutikas.”  You can follow the first published Tu B’Shevat Seder in your own home.


Almond Tree Blossoms

The Tu B’Shevat Seder was first embraced by the Sephardic Jews, and then by the Ashkenazi Jews. The Ashkenazi Jews developed the custom of eating fifteen different fruits in honor of the “Tu” (15 in Hebrew) in “Tu B’Shevat.” It became a tradition to serve carob, a hardy fruit that could travel well from Israel to Europe. Eating etrog (citron) from Sukkot that was either candied or preserved was another custom that developed. In the late 19th century the Zionist pioneers arrived to cultivate the land of Israel. Israel’s ecology had been harmed by many years of war, extirpation of trees, and desertification. In 1890, Rabbi Zeev Yavetz and his students planted trees in Zichron Yaakov in honor of Tu B’Shevat. The Jewish National Fund adopted this custom to help with the reforestation of Israel. Most recently, Tu B’Shevat has become the Jewish Earth Day. Nature, ecology, and environmentalism are celebrated.

In honor of the Tu B’Shevat Seder, your family may have fun making your home look and feel festive, with a tablecloth, some flowers, and the bunches of wheat and barley on the table. Red and white grape juice should be available. The juice should be served as indicated by the Tu B’Shevat Seder Hagaddah of your choice. Several links to free Hagaddas are provided below.


All of the Tu B’Shevat Hagaddot require the following cups of juice:

  • The First Cup: White grape juice, to symbolize winter.
  • The Second Cup: 2/3 cup white grape juice and 1/3 cup red grape juice, to symbolize a progression to spring.
  • The Third Cup: 1/3 cup white grape juice and 2/3 cup red grape juice, to symbolize spring.
  • The Fourth Cup: Red grape juice, to symbolize summer.

Fifteen types of fruit should be arranged on the table:


Almonds

Autumn Red Peaches
  • Fruit that is hard on the outside and soft on the inside:
    • Pecans
    • Almonds
    • Coconuts
    • Walnuts
       
  • Soft fruit with a pit in the middle:
    • Olives
    • Peaches
    • Cherries
    • Plums
    • Dates
       

    Ripe Carobs

    Fragaria Stawberry
  • Fruits with and inner pit and a tough skin:
    • Avocado
    • Carob
    • Pomegranate
    • Mango
    • Orange
  • Fruit is that which is soft on the inside and outside, and is entirely edible:
    • Grape
    • Fig
    • Strawberry
    • Raisin

You may display a picture of an almond tree in full bloom to learn about the first blossoms of spring in Israel. It is customary to serve a dinner which incorporates fruits and nuts in all of its courses.  Here is a sephardic recipe which includes all seven species.

Sephardic Seven Species Pilaf

  • 1 cup cooked barley
  • 1 cup cooked wheat berries
  • 1/2  cup cut up dried figs
  • 1/2 cup cut up dried dates
  • 1/2 cup sliced grapes
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Some very good recipes are available at Aish. There are many other recipes that may be found on the Internet. Following are links to some free Tu B’Shevat Seder Haggadahs that are available online. Many more may be found.

Plant A Tree

Following a visit to Longwood Gardens, and a Tu B’Shevat Seder feast, there is an opportunity to plant a seed and nurture a plant. It is too cold in January to plant a tree in Philadelphia. Your family can plant a tree in Israel with the Jewish National Fund. There is a delightful new tradition that you may adopt. You may plant parsley seeds in a pot. Then water ther seeds, give them plant food, and make sure that they are exposed to enough sunlight. If all goes well, in April, you will have a parsley plant that may be used for Karpas (green spring vegetable) in the Passover Seder.

From Seder to Seder, may it be a fruitful year of joyful celebrations!

Hazon’s Culinary Celebration Of Tu B’Shvat In Philadelphia

— by Ronit Treatman

Hazon, the United States’ largest Jewish environmental group, is hosting its first Tu B’Shvat dinner in Philadelphia.  The Philadelphia community is invited to “a culinary adventure benefiting the Jewish sustainable movement.”

On February 7, 2012, at 5:45 PM, the National Museum of American Jewish History will be transformed into a springtime celebration of rebirth and renewal.  James Beard Award winning Chef Michael Solomonov, of Zahav Restaurant, and Jon Weinrott of Peachtree Kosher Catering are donating their skills to create a meal featuring organically grown produce and dishes integrating such Tu B’Shvat staples as almonds, figs, dates, carobs, and raisins.  

Nigel Savage, executive director of Hazon, will teach the customs and meaning of Tu B’Shvat throughout the evening.  Some of the most creative new music being produced in the Jewish community will be showcased.

This event is honoring Mark and Judy Dornstreich, owners of Branch Creek Farm in Perkasie, PA.  Mark and Judy are pioneering urban, Jewish organic farmers.  They paved the way for the current generation of young Jewish urban farmers.  Judy has taught yoga at Hazon’s gathering at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. The Dornstreichs hosted Hazon’s Harvest Supper in a sukkah at Branch Creek Farm last year.  When I asked Judy why she is involved with Hazon, she responded, “I feel like a Havdalah candle when I am with Hazon.  The three strands of my life are woven together: Judaism, organic farming, and yoga.”  

Mark Aronchick, of Hangley, Aronchik, Segal, Pudlin & Schiller is being honored as well.  “I am no organic farmer,” he told me.  “I became involved in Hazon to participate in their incredible bike ride from Jerusalem to Eilat.”  He loved this strenuous ride so much, that he has participated in it for the past five years.  “But I am an environmentalist,” he continued.  “I am thrilled that Hazon is involved with the Arava Institute in Israel, and that they introduced me to it.”  Mark feels that Hazon has a unique and exciting mission that has captured the attention of the younger generation of the Jewish community.  “They are health conscious, and they are searching spiritually,” he told me.  “Hazon is a catalyst that brings wonderful people together, and creates a community.”    

Hazon collaborates with four Community Supported Agriculture sites in the Philadelphia area.   These CSAs provide nearly 500 homes with fresh, seasonal produce from local farms.  Nigel Savage hopes that Hazon will expand its programming within Philadelphia’s Jewish community.  For tickets to this event please register online.

How Green is Your Campus?

— by Hannah Lee

I returned home from a sojourn in California, engaged with sustainability issues, to receive the new issue of Sierra, the bimonthly publication of the Sierra Club.  The article that caught my eye was Dig In, its annual ranking of the environmental standing of  U.S. universities.  This year, they reached beyond the classrooms to assess “what lessons are learned when the classroom walls fall away.”  

The top of the class this year is

  1. The University of Washington, Seattle, Washington. Its score on the Sierra survey was 81.2.

Every building [at the University of Washington] completed since 2006 has earned a Gold accreditation from the  Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building certification system.  All of its appliances are Energy-Star rated and the hydro-powered campus runs three farms, an extensive recycling program, and the “conservation-research hotbed Pack Forest.”

UW’s Paccar Hall (see picture) achieved LEED certification for energy use, lighting, water and material use as well as incorporating a variety of other sustainable strategies. By using less energy and water, LEED certified building save money for families, businesses and taxpayers; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.

More after the jump.
The other top schools are, in order:

  1. Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont (score, 81.1);
  2. University of California, San Diego (score, 80.6);
  3. Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina (score, 76.8);
  4. Stanford University in Palo Alto, California (score, 76.6);
  5. University of California, Irvine (score, 74.8);
  6. University of California, Santa Cruz (score, 74.3);
  7. University of California, Davis (score, 73.2);
  8. Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington (score, 72);
  9. Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont (score, 71.8).

    My alma mater, Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, came in at number 33 (score, 64.1).

Accompanying articles focused on:

Also described are the non-conformist programs that are “miles from the mainstream” at:

  • Maharishi University of Management (built by the “giggling guru” in Fairfield, Iowa in which the curriculum balances “modern clean technology and 5.000-year-old Vedic philosophy based on Sanskrit texts”);
  • Deep Springs College, close by Yosemite, California (where students have mandatory farm labor requirements and the hydroelectric generator provides 80% of the school’s energy);
  • Gaia University with no real campus (“students earn degrees by documenting a project that involves any envy-inducing combination of world travel and social activism”); and
  • Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado (a curriculum grounded in Buddhism and which promotes compassion, including with the environmental movement).

Parents with younger children may be interested in the article on The Green School in Bali, Indonesia, a K-12 school that incorporates green philosophy from its open-air classrooms (like an inverted sukkah, with roofs but no walls) to its electives that include Global Perspectives, Environmental Management, and 21st Century Science.  I first heard of The Green School when my friend told me her daughter’s family was taking off to Bali for several months this past spring and I avidly followed their adventures on their blog (now taken down, since they’ve returned home).  This is a school where the children (and parents!) enthusiastically welcome the assignments, from a themed unit on water for the fifth-graders (as it relates to math, literature, and science), an aquaculture farm to raise tilapia; and the sixth-grade project to calculate the school’s annual carbon footprint, “then plant enough bamboo to offset it.”  The Green School has yet to graduate its first class (due in 2013), but if one can afford the $10,000 tuition, it’s an adventure worth blogging about.


Finally, the issue included profiles of the staffers deemed most committed to sustainability as a social movement:

  • Howard Davis of the University of the District of Columbia;
  • Megan Zanella-Litke of the University of Richmond (Virginia);
  • Sid England of the University of California, Davis; and
  • Jeremy Friedman of New York University.  As Manager of Sustainability Initiatives for a student body of 40,000 (more than four times the number of people who live in my hometown),

Friedman views his mandate thus:

“The values that underlie my work are the same values that underlie my whole life.  It’s a holistic worldview, and for me the challenge of transforming our world is a very personal and political project.  I see my job as creating the capacity for real change and then allowing countless individuals who care to lend their sweat and knowledge to the enormous task of transforming the world around us.  We need to imbed sustainability across all levels of society more quickly than any social movement in history has ever done before.  It’s a time when some of the most important efforts aren’t the most glamorous ones.”

Among the reasons I went to California was to attend the Hazon Food Conference, held for the first time at the University of California, Davis campus.  What a thrill it was for me to celebrate Shabbat with 300 other people who were passionate about a sustainable future.  The marvel was how many young folks were in attendance and how many had stories of their own works-in-progress.  I feel so positive that my daughters’ generation would — no, will — undertake the task of managing our resources to ensure a renewable future.

Hazon Goes to the White House: Food Justice and the Farm Bill

Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama, addresses the group.

— by Liz Kohn

Last week 12 excited Hazon representatives and 160 other Jewish participants gathered in Washington D.C. as part of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable (JSJRT), a collection of 21 nonprofits supporting social justice as an essential component of Jewish life. The two-day affair began on Thursday, July 28th with congressional meetings and culminated the following day with the White House Community Leaders Briefing Series, a unique summer-long opportunity for grassroots leaders to engage White House officials and voice issues close to our hearts.

Jon Carson, deputy assistant to the President and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, succinctly articulated the purpose of the series: “I’m not here to talk,” he said. “I’m here to listen about what you’re seeing across the country.” For many in Hazon’s cohort and millions of American Jews, this issue is food justice.

Early Friday, after a lively opening session at the National Press Club, the large group split four ways for agency briefings about housing, healthcare, education and food justice. I joined the food justice cohort for an overview of food accessibility, policy and budgeting by three key members of the White House staff.

More after the jump.
American Jewish World Service Director of Advocacy, Timi Gerson, first introduced JSJRT and the session’s storytellers: Rabbi Andy Kastner, American Jewish World Service Neta Fellow and campus rabbi at Washington University and David Napell, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger Board Member, shared short, telling stories of food injustice and insecurities, setting the stage for the briefing from agency staff. USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Acting Deputy Director Julie Curti was the first staff member to share her insights.

It was a pleasure hearing Curti mention the USDA’s first Food and Justice Passover Seder and stress the importance of nonprofit partnerships in actually executing the communal work. She painted a troubling landscape of hunger and food access in America, revealing that 50.2 million Americans were food insecure at some point in 2009. She said a recent study also found that 23.5 million Americans live in low income areas that are more than 1 mile from a food store, a trouble with food access on the retail side often described as “food deserts” or “food swamps.” The third theme she discussed was obesity, saying it has become clear that simply “too few fruits and vegetables consumed, sometimes by choice, but many times not. ” She then detailed various ways the government is combating these issues; from their 18 different agencies addressing producer and consumer components of accessibility and 15 partnerships around nutrition assistance programs.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the most important with approximately 44 million Americans enrolled, up from 28 million in 2008. This number, Curti added, still only reaches 68% of eligible participants, which she called “an issue of reach, not funding.” She highlighted several programs, such as the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which gives food to nonprofits to distribute to kids. Others such as the Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program relate to urban farms and gardens and address the supply side of food access. There is also the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) which helps to increase the availability of nutritious food in grocery stores, small retailers, corner stores, and farmers markets.

Curti finished her presentation by praising who in the bigger picture is the greatest champion of healthy food access: the First Lady, Michelle Obama. Her Let’s Move! initiative to build healthier communities has recently received commitments from private retailers like Wal Mart and Walgreens as well as public support from a variety of individuals and venues. Curti acknowledged the government’s many food justice oriented Jewish nonprofit partners (including Hazon!) and thanked us for our presence and dedication to the cause.

Brandon Willis, Senior Adviser to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke next, and Jennifer Yezak, the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the USDA chimed in during the question and answer session. Willis overviewed the Farm Bill and said that while it is difficult to know its timing or breakdown, funding cuts are inevitable. The Farm Bill is incredibly complex, with approximately 70% of its funding going to nutrition programs, followed by conservation and commodity programs. This complexity leads to health, economic, and environmental issues and as with any complex and broad legislation, straightforward answers were difficult to come by.

Yezak shared that recent discussions about regulatory reform provided the Administration with some ideas that need to, and will, get on the table: “there are efforts and discussions about this in the USDA. Rural Development State Directors are looking at ways to make their loans and grant programs more accessible and easier to apply for.” She encouraged us to continue our involvement as these conversations progress and said she will be on hand as a resource and source of support.

Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service echoed this sentiment: “We must not underestimate the power of letting our government know that global food justice, equitable healthcare, education reform, and affordable housing are authentic expressions of Jewish values. They are issues that Jewish leaders care about deeply and will work on intensively.” This collective commitment to advance social justice in the food realm has the potential to drive change in a big and powerful way. Moments like last week’s symbolize that we are doing so across communities and around the country, in the Jewish community and beyond.

Liz Kohn, originally from Evergreen, Colorado, is a Masters in Social Work 2012 candidate in the University of Michigan’s Jewish Communal Leadership Program and is Hazon’s Social Work Intern. Her professional and volunteer work and travels have deepened her desire to develop skills in meeting both individual needs and communal challenges related to accessibility and affordability of fresh, healthy food.

Reprinted courtesy of The Jew and the Carrot.

Michael Solomonov and A Sustainable Lag B’Omer on the “Beach”

By Hannah Lee

Medford, New Jersey is the home of the largest Jewish day camp in North America (according to the Wikipedia) and that was the venue for Hazon‘s “Beach, Beer and BBQ” celebration of the holiday of Lag B’Omer on Sunday, May 22nd.  Lag B’Omer is the 33rd day — lag being the gematria for (numeric equivalent) of 33 — of the counting of the barley offerings (the quantity being an omer, about two quarts)  in the ancient Temple, commencing with the second day of Pesach (Passover) and culminating with the giving of the Torah on Shavuot.  Traditionally, it is celebrated in Israel with bonfires.  As observed by the Chassidim, the bonfires commemorate

“the immense light that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai introduced into the world via his mystical teachings. This was especially true on the day of his passing, Lag B’Omer, when he revealed to his disciples secrets of the Torah whose profundity and intensity the world had yet to experience. The Zohar relates that the house was filled with fire and intense light, to the point that the assembled could not approach or even look at Rabbi Shimon.”

For everyone else, it is a joy simply to be outdoors.  For Hazon, it was an opportunity to link a ancient holiday to a celebration of the trendy– and important!-goals of a sustainable future.
I was eager to attend because Michael Solomonov, the chef and owner of the Philly restaurant Zahav was scheduled to serve as chef for the event.  Earlier this month, he’d won the prestigious James Beard Award as Best Chef of the Mid-Atlantic region (and one of three Jewish chefs to be so honored this year).  Last Wednesday, the Inquirer food critic Craig LaBan invited Michael to his Live Chat feature.

LaBan chatted with Michael Solomonov  and I got to post my comments to him: “I’m looking forward to the Hazon event that you’ll be “cheffing” for this Sunday.  One reason is that your restaurant, Zahav, is not kosher!  I want to be able to eat your food too!  Was your nuclear family (parents, siblings) ever kosher?”  Michael wrote back: “I grew up in a kosher-esque household so we didn’t eat pork or shellfish in the house.  We did, however, turn into bacon zombies the moment we stepped OUT of the house.  Seriously, if “kashruting” our restaurant wasn’t such a “balagan” in the States, we might have considered it more.  But my mission is to expose and celebrate Israeli food, in its entirety, and we would seriously limit our reach if we were kosher.  We don’t serve shellfish or pork or mix dairy and meat on any plate, so we call it “kosher style”.”  My 22-year-old daughter who is usually critical of “kosher-style” catering later commended Michael for his response.  Upon meeting the Chef that evening and identifying myself, he said that I was much nicer than some of the other posters who did not pass censure or decency for their comments.  So, I was all agog to go and I’d signed up my husband as driver and our teen daughter.

The JCC Camp in Medford has plenty of sand for the “Beach” as advertised.  It occupies 120 acres in Burlington County in southern New Jersey and it boasts of a lake too.  A small fair of vendors offering organic and sustainably sourced products kept us engaged until supper time.  I greeted Toni Price, whom I’d seen earlier in the day at Headhouse Square, the largest farmers’ market in Philadelphia.  Toni is a retired English teacher whose husband, Steve, is the chief beekeeper for their Busy Bee Farm located in the nearby Pine Barrens in Tabernacle, N.J.  Last year, their farm was awarded a Pollinator Habitat Grant from the New Jersey National Resource Conservation Service and the USDA.  As a Master Gardener of Burlington County, Toni handles the care and use of the farm’s lavender and other herbs, as well as her flock of free-range pet chickens.   She invited my family to visit on lavender harvesting days.

Negev Nectars was also on hand to offer taste tests of their gourmet products from small-scale Israeli farmers.   Their olive oil comes from trees nourished from an underground aquifer of brackish (salty) water- sparing the scarce “sweet” water from Lake Kinneret for human consumption.  I bought several jars of their kosher confitures, spreads, and honey for use as hostess gifts, in particular the items from Kibbutz Neot Smadar, since my husband’s sister is named Smadar.

Jack Treatman, Coffee Buyer and Vice President of Old City Coffee was on hand to explain how their coffee was harvested and culled by hand, with colorful photographs to illustrate his point.  The coffee beans, really the seeds of the plants’ “cherries”, are then raked into fields that resemble sand for drying.  The kosher certification comes at the point of roasting and Jack says that the only reason Old City Coffee is not certified is that its store in the Reading Terminal Market is open on Saturdays.

So, the BBQ dinner!  Michael’s food was a celebration of the flavors of Israel, executed with a modern flair and a gourmet spin.  I loved everything, especially the roasted cauliflower (even my non-crucifer-loving hubby enjoyed it!) and the grilled eggplant.  I cannot report on the meat– chicken shislik and chicken cooked al ha’esh from Grow and Behold Foods — which I didn’t eat because I’m a vegan-wannabe.   Dessert was s’mores made with marshmallows toasted on sticks over a real honest-to-goodness bonfire and chocolate from Holy Cacao,  which is made in small batches by observant Jews on the hills of Hebron “at the edge of the Judean Desert” in Israel.  Electric Simcha’s http://www.facebook.com/Electr… Hasidic rock music and Israeli dancing added to the ruach (lively atmosphere).  I was so inspired by the whole celebration that I volunteered to work on the next Hazon event in Philly, especially if it involved Michael Solomonov.  And I’m happily married!