Thursday, October 17, 2019 | 4th day of Sukkot,
I get older and my Jewish journey evolves, but almost the
only constant is a constantly deepening sense of
how amazing the tradition is and how the pieces fit
I say that because I felt, this year, that I understood
– and felt – Sukkot better than I
ever have before.
Partly this was
being at Isabella Freedman for the opening days. The
trees a glorious riot of changing color. Kids running
around. Davening in umpteen flavors – and then a
shared Hallel. Physical sukkot that are extraordinary
works of art, and testament to the Adamahniks, Tevaniks,
and staffers who designed and built them. Old friends and
new and good conversations and learning.
And, amidst this, Hazon’s theme quote is this line
– the Torah is a commentary on the world, and
the world is a commentary on the Torah.
Which is to say: Sukkot may nominally be the same, but we
are different and the world is different, and so we see
it subtly differently.
This year’s sukkot comes after
Hazon’s strategic planning process; after the
global climate strikes; after hearing Greta Thunberg
speak in NY.
And I came away understanding more deeply, first, that
Sukkot comes after Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because
it is the holiday of our better angels. We have done the
work, or tried to. So we are our best selves, or at least
aspiring to be our best selves. This is how we then go to
zman simchateinu, the time of our shared joy.
It’s because we’re acting from love and from
hope, not from fear or desperation, that we throw open
our tent, and expose ourselves to the elements, and live
both more porously and more communally. That’s what
the great institutional sukkot of Manhattan are, also.
People just sharing, saying hi to neighbors, adding an
“amen” to Kiddush, squeezing in, pulling up
another chair. This is a metaphor for life, for
the world itself, for the world we aspire to. Not minor
in any way. Not irrelevant. Hard, yes. But
And the holiday ends with these three great highpoints
– the great hoshanot of this Sunday; the prayer for
rain, this Monday; and then the end and the rebeginning
of the Torah cycle, ie the start of the rest of our
lives, this Tuesday. And then life goes on, and we come
back into our homes, and close our front door.
But not, we hope, quite the same as we were before this
great season began, on Rosh Chodesh Elul.
For me that first day of Rosh Chodesh was a strong clear
day itself. It was my grandma’s yahrtzeit, and the
day before my father’s birthday. I was at
JOFEE Network Gathering, in northern California. And
I gave a dvar torah, that Shabbat morning, to the staff
and leaders and staffers of JOFEE organizations from
across North America. And I said: this is not
business-as-usual. This is not “just”
education, as vitally important and ultimately
life-changing as great learning can be. This is a moment
in which we all need to raise our game. This is the year
the pieces have to start to come together more deeply.
This is the year in which we have to challenge the Jewish
community to engage in serious
“environmental teshuva” – and thus
rally the Jewish community, individually,
organizationally, and cross-communally, to take this
global climate crisis seriously.
We have to rewire and reconnect the fibers of Jewish
education, the institutions, the curricula, the programs.
We have to change the lived behaviors of Jewish
individuals and Jewish institutions. And we have to speak
up in public, building relationships with each other,
with our neighbors, with other faith communities, driving
the policy changes that are critical to building a better
world for all. We have to change rabbinical schools and
support rabbis and engage and involve teenagers and
college students and boomers, and simply take our place,
citizens of the world, aiming to do what the Jewish
community has always strived to do – to be on the
right side of the greatest of issues in human
So that was how Rosh Chodesh Elul began, for me, and for
the JOFEE movement. And it culminates this week with
Sukkot and Hoshana Rabbah and Shmini Atzeret and Simchat
And that leads me to something that I saw Greta Thunberg
say and do that I haven’t seen commented upon
anywhere, an extraordinary hinge right in the middle of
these seven weeks of teshuva.
She was speaking on September 20th in Battery Park in
NYC. More than 60,000 people. She is a remarkable and
impressive speaker. (I was thinking: the Democratic
candidates for President must be relieved she’s not
35 years old, or born in the USA…)
And in the middle of her speech she suddenly stopped. She
pointed out into the crowd, and said
“there’s an incident over there. I think
we need some medics.”
And she just stopped – waited – watched as
medics made their way to where they were needed –
started to help the person who needed help.
And then at that point, after 3 or 5 minutes, she picked
up her speech again. And was again brilliant and strong
And then – it happened again!
A different direction.
She stopped speaking; pointed; said that medics were
needed to help someone; waited – again, a good long
wait, till help came.
And then she just picked up her speech [which she was
giving by heart or from the heart, not from a printed
text; this as a 16 year old, speaking in her second
language, to this huge huge crowd] and carried on,
inspiringly, as before.
By the time she started speaking again after the second
break, I was really in tears.
And the reason was that it struck me very forcibly that
what we had all just seen was why we’ve heard
of Greta Thunberg in the first place. How many times
have we been in a big stadium – a band playing, a
singer singing, a politician campaigning –
and they, from the stage, see someone pass out, or see
some clear problem in the audience. And they just
carry on talking or playing or singing.
And this is a metaphor for all of us. Just sailing along.
Busy with our lives. Reading the news… and then
carrying on, pretty much as we were before.
But a year ago she was 15 years old and she saw that the
world was burning up – that we were burning up the
world – that the bad things once predicted were
starting to happen, that if we don’t change our
ways, far worse will come down the pike.
And instead of ignoring it she wrote her little banner
and sat outside the parliament building and went on
And a year later this had turned into the greatest number
and greatest attendance at simultaneous demonstrations in
And when she interrupted her own speech – twice
– because people, someone, individually, was in
need; and because she had seen that something was
happening; and because she had the power to come to that
unknown person’s help; in each case – with
not a moment’s hesitation – she interrupted
her own speech and called for help.
Is this not what Jewish tradition teaches?
Is this not what teshuva is all about?
Is this not why we have synagogues and Jewish day schools
and camps in the first place?
Because we believe that morals and ethics are not
spontaneous, they are learned, they are taught, they are
This is the whole fiber of Jewish tradition, of halacha,
of davening, of the calendar.
It is about kefiyat yetzer – focusing our
will and our behavior so that we do not walk past a
person in the street; so we give tzedakah; so we speak
truthfully and use language with respect; so we are
menschlich in our relationships with others, so
our organizations hold themselves to high standards and
act responsibly and thoughtfully.
And this is what the climate crisis requires of us, as we
end this season, and start the rest of the year. Open
wide our tents. Strengthen community. Eat and celebrate
and dance, and read our sacred book.
And, as we do: let’s not pretend that this is
business as usual.
I thank the many many rabbis who spoke on environmental
teshuva over the chagim thus far.
I thank the many people who have given a donation to
And as the chagim ends, I ask you:
Please make some further change in your own
If you’re involved in Jewish life –
strengthen your Green Team, or set one up, and be in
touch about joining the Hazon
Seal of Sustainability, a sustained pathway to
education, action, and advocacy.
And be a stakeholder in Hazon. Give a gift, or an
Speak up in public and in your community.
And be in touch if you want to volunteer time or
Moadim l’simchah, Shabbat shalom, chag sameach
– and shana tova,
We Are the Weather Discussion
Guide for Jewish Communities
“Talking about the weather” is
shorthand for meaningless, boring, shallow small
talk. But given climate change, “the
weather” is one of the most meaningful and
consequential topics we can discuss! Hazon created
a discussion guide for Jewish communities to
accompany Jonathan Safran Foer's new book, We
Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at
Breakfast, to encourage exactly that
conversation. The guide is free and available to
all. For support in organizing We Are the
Weather book clubs or other programs, contact
Becky O'Brien, Director of Food & Climate,
Learn more about the book and download the
Meditate: Silence, Awareness, and
Hazon Meditation Retreat, December 22-29
(Chanukah), Isabella Freedman
Support body, mind, heart, and spirit to create
conditions ripe for rest and discovery. With Rabbi
Jay Michaelson, Beth Resnick-Folk, Miriam
Eisenberger, Shir Yaakov Feit, and Bob Pileggi.
Sitting and walking meditation, soulful musical
prayer (davvenen’), supportive group
sessions, and optional yoga.
Learn more and register now.
Welcome to Teva's 25th Year!
The Fall Teva season (our 25th year!) is underway!
We had four schools with 60 students total for our
first week of the Shomrei Adamah (Guardians of the
Earth) Teva program, weaving Jewish tradition,
ecology lessons, nature, personal transformation,
musical fun, and learning-filled outdoor
adventures. Last week we welcomed another 130
students from Fieldston for a three-day Teva
rotational program. We are very excited for our
Fall season, where we will have many more students
and schools at Isabella Freedman for the Shomrei
Adamah program. Visit
hazon.org/teva and our
Facebook page for more information.
Celebrate Farm to School Month with
October is Farm to School Month. Join sustainable
agriculture and child nutrition advocates in urging
Congress to support farm to school in the Child
Nutrition Act Reauthorization of 2019.
2020 Israel Ride Registration Opens
October 27-November 3, 2020
Mark your calendars: registration for the 2020
Israel Ride opens on Tuesday, November 5, 2019!
Sign up quickly to lock in the lowest prices all
year ($500) and secure your spot in next year's
10Q Partnership with Reboot
In preparation for the High Holiday season, Hazon
Detroit paired up with Reboot, the national Jewish
cultural non-profit, to develop a new take on
Reboot's annual 10Q program – an Elul 10Q
nature and mindfulness walk. Taking 10Q off of the
computer screen and into nature, Hazon Detroit and
Reboot crafted a meditative and introspective
program aimed at helping participants get outdoors
to go inwards. The program ran at a synagogue, an
interfaith justice partner, and a Hebrew school and
was a huge success in all three settings. We're
already looking forward to what an expanded
partnership could look like next year!
28th Annual Jewish Men's Retreat –
October 25-27, Isabella Freedman
Imagine being at Isabella Freedman with 80 Jewish
men celebrating life by singing, conversing, and
davening together. Pick up a drum or join in
chanting lively niggunim. Take a forest hike during
peak fall foliage. Relax by the campfire listening
to tales of Jewish wisdom. Discover new insights on
relationships, work, eco-spirituality, creativity,
Learn more and register.
Hazon in the News
5780: The Year of Environmental Teshuva
By Nigel Savage, The Jerusalem
Post, October 2, 2019
Acting with Urgency: Returning to Our Best
By Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein, UJA
Federation, October 2019
Hazon Calls for ‘Environmental
Teshuvah’ in the New Year 5780
By Shawn Rodgers, Jewish Journal,
September 25, 2019
Tradition Compels Us to Respond
By Arianna Skibell, Jewish
Currents, September 25, 2019
How my Omaha roots will help me chair
By Richard Slutzky, Omaha Jewish
Press, September 20, 2019
The Kosher Cut™ – Shechita Training
October 27-Spring 2020, Cherry Hill, NJ and
Interested in kosher slaughter? Want to connect to your
food and tradition? Join our course for all this and more.
With a focus on sharpening and shechita, the program begins
with a 3-day intensive that’s followed by 20 online
NESAWG It Takes a Region Conference
November 7-9, NJCU School Of Business, Jersey
The annual conference is widely regarded as the conference
for anyone doing food system change work in any Northeast
state. Hundreds of practitioners convene not only for
workshops, plenaries, and networking, but also to roll up
their sleeves and do the real work needed to create a just
and fair regional food system in several work group
2019 Global Day of Jewish Learning
Sunday, November 17, Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan
Hazon is proud to be a co-sponsor for the 2019 Global Day
of Jewish Learning presented by Limmud NY at the Marlene
Meyerson JCC Manhattan. This event brings the Jewish
people together once a year to celebrate our shared Jewish
text through community-based learning. Our very own
rabbi-in-residence Isaiah Rothstein will be presenting on
"Keeping Climate Contracts Since Noah".
Register to join us.