Jakir Manela

Beginning a new chapter, together


I step into the Hazon CEO role with deep gratitude for everything that has been built over the past 21 years, and with great appreciation for the amazing staff, boards, and supporters of Hazon, Isabella Freedman, and Pearlstone. Together, we have helped spark a transformative movement with powerful potential. The Jewish Environmental Movement is clearly one of the strongest, most vibrant streams in Jewish life today. We now have further reach than ever before, so as we face the global climate crisis, together we are poised to multiply our impact and catalyze social, environmental, and spiritual change across the Jewish world and beyond.

Like a havdalah candle, our movement weaves together multiple interrelated strands: JOFEE, Jewish Retreating, the Jewish Food Movement, Jewish Community Farming, Climate Activism & Advocacy, the Jewish Youth Climate Movement, Jewish Intentional Communities, and more. Each strand has had tremendous impact already, and now we have a profound opportunity to manifest our ambitious mission: to lead a transformative movement deeply weaving sustainability into the fabric of Jewish life, in order to create a healthier, more sustainable, and equitable world for all.

As we embark upon this new chapter and awesome task ahead, I want you to know how I approach this work. Fundamentally, for me, this is all about family. My deepest foundation and center of gravity is my family, starting with my amazing partner, Nets, and our four sons: Lev, Shama, Yovel, and Amani (and our puppy, Gaia). They are on my mind and in my heart every day in everything I do, because for me this is sacred work, dedicated to creating a brighter future for them, and their children, and their grandchildren.  

But they are not the only family for whom I do this work. 

My sense of family extends to our dedicated staff and board, partners, funders, and beyond. I am dedicated to building strong, resilient cultures grounded in authentic relationships, deep listening, kindness, respect, and love. Ultimately, I believe our work is to transcend and transform our experience of what family means in today’s world: we must broaden our sense of interconnectedness – with our neighbors, our communities, our sense of Jewish peoplehood, and our unity with all people, and all life, everywhere. Because it really is true: we are all One.  

This Oneness is the inspiration for our work at Hazon, Pearlstone, and across our movement, and it is the deepest message of Judaism’s central prayer, the Shema: 

Hear O Israel, the Lord our G!d, the Lord is One. 

It is also what Mother Theresa meant when she said, 

“The problem with humanity is that we draw the circle of our family too small.” 

In the weeks and months to come, I look forward to sharing more with you about our future, our task, and the path ahead. I am also excited to invite allies, partners, and other thought leaders to share their perspectives in this space as well. We will all benefit from this abundant diversity of wisdom, and I will continue to write on a monthly basis in order to weave together a coherent picture of our priorities and trajectory.  

Inspired by permaculture principles and the timely arrival of the Shmita year, we are also going to slow down in order to build a new strategy and chart a powerful new course moving forward. As we do that, I would love to hear from you! What do you think the future of Hazon, Pearlstone, and our movement should look like? Please email me your thoughts at jakir@hazon.org. We will also be inviting allies, partners, and other Hazon stakeholders to a series of conversations about the future of our organization and our movement. Our goal is to design and implement a thoughtful, inclusive process that informs a strategic vision and clear priorities for the years ahead. 

I wish you all a Shnat Shmita Tova – a Good Shmita Year! May it be filled with health and resilience, sweetness and joy, justice and sustainability for all. And may the year ahead bring us closer to balance – with each other and with the natural world – so that we may all taste the inspiration given to us by Rav Abraham Isaac Kook in Shabbat Ha’aretz

“What Shabbat achieves regarding the individual, Shmita achieves regarding the nation as a whole.”  

May this shmita year bring deep healing: rest and release, rejuvenation and reconnection, belonging and beginnings, communal inspiration and communal change. And may we all make it so, together.

Shabbat Shalom & Shnat Shmita Tova,

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Jakir Manela

Chief Executive Officer, Hazon

Baltimore, MD 

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