Changing the world, one (JOFEE) Fellow at a time…

From Nigel Savage

May 18th, 2017 | 22nd Iyar 5777 | 37th day of the omer | gevurah she’b’yesod

Changing the world, one (JOFEE) Fellow at a time…

Dear All,

16 partner organizations. 17 JOFEE Fellows. Over 500 discrete programs. And an estimated 37,000 participants in Jewish Outdoor, Food, Farming & Environmental Education (JOFEE) programs across the country.

These are some of the numbers emerging as we look back at our first JOFEE Fellowship cohort. Their closing seminar and siyum was held last week at the Pearlstone Center outside Baltimore, MD.

The JOFEE Fellowship grew from Seeds of Opportunity, the research that substantiated the extraordinary growth of this field over the last 15 years. One of the things that became clear is that we needed to create pathways into professional leadership in this world. The JOFEE Fellowship program, backed by the Jim Joseph Foundation, was one of the outcomes of the research.

Behind the program data from our first year are many thousands of people encountering – some of them for the first time – the incredible power of Jewish tradition, when you connect it with the earth, with human communities and our surrounding ecosystems, with our food, and with each other.

Our JOFEE Fellows delivered an extraordinary range of programs, connecting Jewish tradition and the physical world in both new and old ways. They built organizational capacity and spearheaded sustainability projects and initiatives – starting CSAs, developing zero waste composting systems, and building new community gardens in partnership with local food justice organizations. Read more about Cohort 1’s impact and closing reflections here.

Along the way, we’ve learned a few things:

  • that a Fellow can accomplish tremendous things in a year – and also that change can be slow and programs take time to build (and budget for). Some of our Fellows’ best work laid the foundation for future programming and expansion as they continue on in their placements;
  • that effective organizational partnerships are a tremendous catalyst for deep impact in a community;
  • and that high-quality programs and initiatives in one location can establish best practices that ripple out to other organizations and institutions around the country.

And of course much more.

Overall we’re tremendously proud of the work our Fellows have accomplished, and excited to see what they will achieve in the months, years, and decades to follow. You can view a selection of their final presentations here. You can download program curricula at our Hazon Seal Resource Bank.

I want to express my huge thanks to the trustees and staff at the Jim Joseph Foundation; to our partners at Pearlstone, Urban Adamah and Wilderness Torah; to JCC Association of North America for their support and collaboration; to all the organizations that hosted JOFEE Fellows; to our mentors, local and national; to Judith Belasco, Yoshi Silverstein and Hannah Henza, who have led this work at Hazon; and most of all to each and all of the Fellows, who have been idealistic trailblazers the whole year. I was at their final presentations last week, and they are a really outstanding group of people. Huge huge thanks.

And don’t forget to mark your calendars for our 2nd Annual JOFEE Network Gathering: September 14-17 at Pearlstone Center – registration is open! Use discount code “REVELATION100” for $100 off through June 9, 2017.

Finally: this weekend synagogues around the world will read parshat behar. It’s the portion of the Torah that begins with the injunction that we should observe the shmita year, once every seven years. (Right now we’re in year two of the seven year cycle; the next shmita year will be 2021 – ‘22.) The acronym “JOFEE”, like the phrase “Jewish Community Farming” or “Jewish Environmental Education” are a necessary shorthand, to explicate across the country to Jewish leaders something really significant that has begun to happen under the radar of Jewish life. But the power of what is happening traces back to behar, and to many parts of the Torah. Our tradition, properly understood, has much to say about how to live in relationship with each other, and with the world that sustains us. Our small, beautiful, densely populated planet needs a growing number of JOFEE educators and activists. And it needs all of us to read the Torah – and, inspired by it, to figure out how to treat each other, and the world that sustains us, as generously as we possibly can.

Shabbat shalom,

PS: Want to become a JOFEE Fellow (or host one!)? Cohort 2 is already well underway, having started in February 2017. Applications for cohort 3 host placements are open now. Applications for Fellows will open in early summer 2017 – complete our expression of interest form to stay up to date. Info on program details and eligibility are here.