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…]

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.”

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.